Faster than light. In nothingness…

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Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

It has long been known that charged particles, such as electrons and protons, produce the electromagnetic equivalent of a sonic boom when their speeds exceed that of photons in the surrounding medium. This effect, known as Cherenkov emission, is responsible for the characteristic blue glow from water in a nuclear reactor, and is used to detect particles at the CERN Large Hadron Collider.

According to Einstein, nothing can travel faster than light in vacuum. Because of this, it is usually assumed that the Cherenkov emission cannot occur in vacuum. But according to quantum theory, the vacuum itself is packed full of “virtual particles,” which move momentarily in and out of existence.

These ghostly particles are usually not observable but, in the presence of extremely strong electric and magnetic fields, they can turn the vacuum into an optical medium where the speed of light is slowed down so that high velocity charged particles can emit Cherenkov gamma rays. This is totally unexpected in a vacuum.

A group of Physics researchers at Strathclyde have found that in extreme conditions, such as found at the focus of the world’s most powerful lasers, and the huge magnetic fields around neutron stars, this ‘polarised’ vacuum can slow down gamma rays just enough for Cherenkov emission to occur. (1)

In the cosmos of phenomena, even nothing is not real.

And in the void of existence, something will always be.

In a universe ruled by light, things still travel faster than it.

Defying the rules. For the only rule is that there are no rules.

In a cosmos of being, everything can and will exist.

Only to show that being is defining the definitions.

Watch that particle travel faster than light.

It is not traveling at all, you know.

You are…

Ask it and it will tell you. It is standing still.

Watching you traveling faster than light…

And yet, it makes the same mistake as you did.

It never asked you whether you feel running…

The third eye… Light… Darkness…

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Just like land plants, algae use sunlight as an energy source. Many green algae actively move in the water; they can approach the light or move away from it. For this they use special sensors (photoreceptors) with which they perceive light.

The decades-long search for these light sensors led to a first success in 2002: Georg Nagel, at the time at Max-Planck-Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt/M, and collaborators discovered and characterized two so-called channelrhodopsins in algae. These ion channels absorb light, then open up and transport ions. They were named after the visual pigments of humans and animals, the rhodopsins.

Now a third “eye” in algae is known: Researchers discovered a new light sensor with unexpected properties. The new photoreceptor is not activated by light but inhibited. It is a guanylyl cyclase which is an enzyme that synthesizes the important messenger cGMP. When exposed to light, cGMP production is severely reduced, leading to a reduced cGMP concentration – and that’s exactly what happens in the human eye as soon as the rhodopsins there absorb light. (1)

See too much light.

And your eyes will close.

It is darkness you seek.

So that your eyes open.

For only in the dead of the night, can you detect brightness…

Only there, standing alone in the complete absence of any source of light, can you realize that the only thing emitting light in this cosmos is you… And this knowledge will be the darkest knowledge you will ever have.

Cherish that knowledge.

And never seek light outside you.

If you do, you will find it.

And the whole cosmos will instantly fall into darkness…

From electrons to photons. From photons to electrons…

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The quantum computer of the future will be able to carry out computations far beyond the capacity of today’s computers. Quantum superpositions and entanglement of quantum bits (qubits) make it possible to perform parallel computations.

Making useful computations requires large numbers of qubits and it is this upscaling to large numbers that is providing a challenge worldwide. “To use a lot of qubits at the same time, they need to be connected to each other; there needs to be good communication”, explains researcher Nodar Samkharadze. At present the electrons that are captured as qubits in silicon can only make direct contact with their immediate neighbors. That makes it tricky to scale up to large numbers of qubits.

Some quantum systems use photons for long-distance interactions. Delft scientists have shown that a single electron spin and a single photon can be coupled on a silicon chip. This coupling makes it possible in principle to transfer quantum information between a spin and a photon. This is important to connect distant quantum bits on a silicon chip, thereby paving the way to upscaling quantum bits on silicon chips. (1)

Once the cosmos just was. In the beginning there was darkness.

And then came light. Making things visible. Splitting the cosmos into multiple pieces. A cosmos seemingly full of antinomies. And yet still solid and consistent as that first dark night…

Now we transfer the cosmos back into the light. A light which will interfere with itself. Only to show that the zillions of possibilities exist at the same time.

Some time ago, the cosmos was born into light.

But the light will fade away.

One electron at a time…

The pieces are going to disappear.

One interaction at a time…

The universe is going to die.

And only then, will we see that it was never born…

Light speed. Less than 1000 m/s.

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Researchers at TU Wien were the first to successfully detect Weyl particles in strongly correlated electron systems – that is, materials where the electrons have a strong interaction with each other. In materials like this, the Weyl particles move extremely slowly, despite having no mass.

“The strong interactions in such materials usually lead, via the so-called Kondo effect, to particles behaving as if they had an extremely large mass”, explains Sami Dzsaber. “So it was astonishing for us to detect Weyl fermions with a mass of zero in this particular type of material”. According to the laws of relativity, free massless particles must always spread at light speed. This is, however, not the case in solid states: “Even though our Weyl fermions have no mass, their speed is extremely low,” says Bühler-Paschen. The solid state lends them its own fixed ‘light speed’ to a certain extent. This is lower than 1000 m/s, i.e. only around three millionth of the speed of light in a vacuum. “As such, they are even slower than phonons, the analogue to the water wave in the solid state, and this makes them detectable in our experiment”. (1)

Low speeds. High speeds.

What is the difference?

The light is fast. But not for light.

Weyl particles are slow. But not for Weyl particles.

The limits you imagine are not there.

Imagine a Weyl particle.

Fast as 10 m/s…

Massless particles. Heavy particles.

High speed particles. Low speed particles.

Depending on the environmental interactions.

Remove them and see.

Everything is fast. Everything is slow…

Imagine a Weyl particle. Fast as light…

In the beginning everything was still and fast as light at the same time. Until we came. And started observing… The cosmos was once still and, thus, fast like lightning. Then the cosmos started moving. And everything came to a halt.

Note: Weyl particles are not particles which can move on their own (like electrons or protons), they only exist as ‘quasiparticles’ within a solid material. “Quasiparticles are not particles in the conventional sense, but rather excitations of a system consisting of many interacting particles”, explains Prof. Silke Bühler-Paschen from the Institute of Solid State Physics at TU Wien. In some sense, they are similar to a wave in water. The wave is not a water molecule, rather it is based on the movement of many molecules. When the wave moves forward, this does not mean that the particles in the water are moving at that speed. It is not the water molecules themselves, but their excitation in wave form that spreads. After physician Paul Dirac had arrived at his Dirac equation in 1928, which can be used to describe the behavior of relativistic electrons, Hermann Weyl found a particular solution for this equation – namely for particles with zero mass, or ‘Weyl fermions’. The neutrino was originally thought to be such a massless Weyl particle, until it was discovered that it does indeed have mass. The mysterious Weyl fermions were, in fact, detected for the first time in 2015.