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The path to faster than light space travel...

I've noticed of late a stepping up of efforts to find habitable planets among the stars. But even if we found one in the nearest neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri, then that's still over four light years away. Best case, with ion drive propulsion, we'd be looking at around 80,000 years to make the trip. If only we could travel faster than light. Unfortunately, nothing can. Or can it? Consider the following. Light from Alpha Centauri reaches my eye in a little over four years, but if I imagine myself at Alpha Centauri, how long does it take for my thoughts to arrive? In short, might the speed of thought be faster than the speed of light, and if so how might we go about testing it?

I propose to build on the well-known fact that identical twins can feel each other's pain. Well, perhaps 'fact' is a bit strong, so let's call it widely reported anecdotal evidence of the phenomenon. I have devised a test which I've called the Pin Twin Test (PT2) - although probably it would benefit from being properly harmonised as an EN standard. All we have to do is stick a pin in one twin, and see how long it takes for the partner twin, located half way around the world, to say "Ow". Light travels half way around the world in 67ms. If the twins both say "Ow" within, say, 60ms of each other, then we have conclusive proof that the speed of thought is faster than the speed of light. Even if we don't achieve positive results, that doesn't necessarily disprove the theory; it might just mean we need a bigger pin. On the other hand, if we achieve a positive result, and if we can then identify the medium through which thought travels and perhaps understand the mechanism, then surely we have the basis for faster than light travel.

At this stage, you could not call this a theory. It's barely even a hypothesis. Quite possibly all of the above is complete nonsense - although I have subsequently stumbled upon the research of Dr Cleve Backster who discovered that, having taken a tissue sample from a subject and then exposing the subject to various visual stimulations, the same physiological response was detected both in the subject and in the isolated tissue sample, reportedly in zero time, even when the subject and sample were separated by 350 miles.

Arguably his methods were more humane than mine, although I should stress at this point that my own research is purely speculative - no twins were harmed in the writing of this column. But none of that is my real point. What struck me is that any good design, any genuine innovation, has to start with someone daring to imagine what might be possible. Only by daring to imagine can we create products, technologies, and solutions that extend beyond the me-too mundane to redefine the state-of-the-art. So what do you dare to imagine?

Mark Simms, 3 April 2011

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