They can blame Albert Einstein for that -- his theory of special relativity introduced the idea that time and length are not constant, but exist differently for objects (or people) moving at different speeds. Essentially, according to Einstein, speed shrinks time and space. But Cornell Plant Biologist Randy Wayne may have some good news for those twins: according to his theory the twins will be the same age when twin 2 gets home. Well, maybe not the greatest news -- they'll both be 71.
Wayne's theory states that the Doppler Effect explains why simultaneity appears relative, and explains why objects can not travel faster than the speed of light. Essentially, particles (of light itself) smacking against the front of a moving electron (blue shift) provide more resistance than those hitting the back of the electron (red shift). Thus the electron either goes slower or needs more power to go at the same speed. In other words, time and space are constant. It is something entirely different that slows traveling particles.
In a very basic way it's the difference between traveling through nothing with no resistance, and traveling through something. When you ride your bicycle into the wind you go slower than when you ride it on a clear day.
"Imagine you take a force off of a moving electron," Wayne says. "According to Newton and Einstein's special theory of relativity, that electron will still move at the same speed forever and ever. But if it's going through a soup it will slow down little by little."
The faster the electron goes, the more blue shifted the light in the front is, the more red shifted the light in the back is, and the more it experiences a counter force, pushing it back. The faster the electron goes it doesn't accelerate as fast as you expect it to because the light pushes it back more and more as it goes faster and faster. So light itself prevents the electron from going faster than the speed of light.
"We know that blue light has more energy and momentum than red light," Wayne says. "The blue shifted, from visible light, is ultra violet, x-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays. The red shifted are infra-red, microwaves, radio waves, things that we don't worry about. People that ride bikes quickly experience the same thing when they go faster and the air in front of them compresses more than the air behind them. They can feel that great viscosity increase, or counter-force, which makes them require more force to go faster, or it causes them to go slower with the same force."
Wayne came to Cornell in the late '80s. He is a cell biologist who was working on how plant cells sense light and gravity. As the focus of biology shifted from experimentation on physiology to mapping gene sequences he became less interested in that work
"It's enormously labor intensive," he says. "You have to hire a lot of people to sequence those genes, and those people won't get jobs as biologists. I don't think it's something a university should do. I think it's something industry should do. The other thing is that I have ethical problems with genetically engineering food or embryos. For instance, in order to ensure you have the gene of interest in a plant they also put an antibiotic-resistant gene. So all the genetically modified food that we eat has antibiotic-resistant genes in it, and you wonder just how much of this can you eat before the bacteria in your gut becomes antibiotic-resistant. Since the food is unlabeled and nobody is testing this nobody knows and nobody cares. I didn't want to be a part of that."
But he was still fascinated with light. Initially he worked with Israeli colleague Benz Ginzburg on the second law of thermodynamics. This work led to hypotheses on the nature of light itself, and eventually to the idea that special relativity might be wrong. Ginzburg dropped out to focus on his work on the structure of water and cells, but Wayne was intrigued enough to pursue it. Their work along these lines had been rejected by scientific journals.
Wayne says that it is nearly impossible for physicists to refute Einstein's theories that have become the foundation of physics. If those foundations are faulty, replacing them would topple assumptions that have been built on them over the years. That made it difficult to find anyone who would publish Wayne's work because, he says, scientists, and physicists in particular, just won't go against Einstein.
"This was rejected, and rejected, and rejected," he says. "Annalen der Physik, where Einstein first published this special theory of relativity... the editor wrote back and said 'we can't find anything wrong with your derivation, but we prefer not to publish it'. He said, 'you should know by now that there is no doubt that special relativity is right'. I wrote back to him and said, 'Don't you think the greatest value of science is the freedom to doubt?' That was the end of our conversation!"
But it may be relatively simple to prove which theory is right using data from particle accelerators such as the one at CERN. He says the data from past experiments may be able to be reanalyzed in a best case scenario, or that an experiment could be devised to prove or disprove his theory.
"The best way to test my theory is, as the temperature increases in the space through which the electron is moving, the concentration of photons increases, so the amount of counter force increases," he says. "If you looked at the electric bill in an accelerator and compared it to the temperature of the cavity through which the electrons are being accelerated, Einstein would say there is no relationship between the amount of energy you need to accelerate those electrons. I would say you need more energy to accelerate the electrons in a higher temperature."
Wayne finally found editors of scientific journals who both saw the merit in his theory and agreed to publish it. Two papers are being published. The first on relativity and simultaneity was published by the African Physical Review about two weeks ago, and another on on the Doppler effect causing resistance on a moving electron will be published in Acta Physica Polanica B 41, 2297 (2010) in November.
"I think the reviewers and the editors of the two journals that accepted this had to be very courageous," Wayne says. "And have a little bit of charity."
Wayne says that theories at this level may not have direct practical value, but may inform real world projects. He says that the level to which it would affect, say, the electric company would be in the realm of minor adjustments to whatever it takes to move electrons through the electrical system, would be in the realm of minor adjustments to the system to, as Wayne says, 'account for reality'.
The actual experiment will have to be done by physicists who have access to a particle collider, or at least the data from past collider experiments.
"I'm hoping that when this comes out, and with the help of publicity, that somebody that works at either Jefferson Labs, or somebody at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center will compare their notes or specifically run an experiment to see the effect of temperature on how much force it takes to reach a given velocity in a given amount of time."
At least, for the twins the good news is that they live the same lifespan, even if half their lives are apart. Perhaps by the time this happens intersteller Internet, Facebook, and texting will make it possible for them to keep in touch.
"My advice to them:" Wayne says, "Use the time you've got wisely...it is the only time you got!"
That is something he is doing himself as he pursues this theory and its possible impact on science. In first grade we all learned that scientists ask questions about our world and beyond, form hypotheses, and test them. That pure approach to scientific enquiry leads to conclusions that can be built on as more scientists ask the next questions. Will this be the next question? The good news for Wayne will be that someone will check the data and find out.
How Wayne Differs From Einstein:
Editor's Note: During our interview Dr. Wayne went into some detail about the science behind his theory. Wayne takes a historical approach as well as a scientific one, and he places the various theories that have been refuted or come to be accepted in historical context. While he did not go into the math and scientific nitty gritty that is outlined in his two papers in our interview, he did provide a more in-depth picture of what he thinks happens to an electron as it moves forward. Here, in his own workds, is what he had to say:
Einstein's paper was 'The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies'. He was interested in electrons, and not astronauts going into space. That's what everybody talks about, but I really want to bring it back to where it all came from.----
An electron is negatively charged. If you put it between two plates it will move from the negative plate to the positive plate. The greater the voltage you put across those plates, the faster it will move.
J.J. Thompson, who discovered the electron, did these experiments and saw that as he turned the voltage up higher and higher, it didn't get faster linearly, but accelerated slowly and seemed to asymptote at the speed of light. There was a speed limit there that prevented the electron from going faster than the speed of light.
Einstein did this in 1905. Just before this they invented telegraphs and mass trains. Each town had its own local time, so 12 o'clock was when the sun was the highest. In order to have the telegraph person go to the office and get a distant message from across the sea at the right time they had to figure out how to make a standard time.
So there was the idea of standard times and local times, and the same thing for catching a train. So Einstein said, 'What if the electron has its own local time, and the experimenter who is turning on the electric field has his or her own local time? And there is no such thing as absolute time?' Then the person turning on the electric field thinks he turned it on for an eight hour work day, but the electron's idea of how long the field is on gets shorter and shorter, the faster it goes. So as it goes really, really fast it thinks the field is barely on, so it doesn't accelerate. That really is Einstein's special field of relativity.
Picture that electron going between the negative and positive plate. Einstein would say that electron's moving through space-time, and space-time varies with the speed of the electron. As a cell biologist I'm saying that whatever that electron is moving through, as it's moving it experiences the Doppler Effect. The waves that hit the front of the electron are blue shifted. The ones that hit the back of the electron are red shifted. Just like the siren on an ambulance, as it comes toward you the frequency gets higher (it gets blue-shifted). As it's going away from you the pitch gets lower.
You can look at the pitch of a wave as how many times that wave -- that photon -- is hitting the electron in a given amount of time. So as the light hits the electron from the front it hits a lot of times per second, pushing it back. The ones that hit the back hit a few times per second, pushing it forward. The faster the electron goes, the more blue shifted the light in the front is, the more red shifted the light in the back is, and the more it experiences a counter force, pushing it back.
We know that blue light has more energy and momentum than red light. The blue shifted, from visible light, being ultra violet, x-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays. The red shifted are infra-red, microwaves, radio waves, things that we don't worry about.
The faster the electron goes it doesn't accelerate as fast as you expect it to because the light pushes it back more and more as it goes faster and faster. So light itself prevents the electron from going faster than the speed of light.
People that ride bikes quickly experience the same thing when they go faster and the air in front of them compresses more than the air behind them. They can feel that great viscosity increase, or counter-force, which makes them require more force to go faster, or it causes them to go slower with the same force.
According to Plonk at any temperature above absolute zero that electron is moving through super photons or a sea of electrodynamic waves as it goes from the negative plate to the positive plate.
If something were totally uncharged it wouldn't couple with these photons and it could go faster than the speed of light. But we know that all elementary particles are made out of quarks that have partial charges. So probably nothing can go faster than the speed of light.
This was tested in 1938 by Ives and Stillwell. They had hydrogen ions moving through very quickly. They measured the Doppler shift, the blue shift of the light coming from the front and the red shift coming from the back. They took the average of the red shift and the blue shift -- one is at zero degrees and one is at 180 degrees. They got what would be the 90 degree equivalent. Ives actually never believed in special relativity.
If you average the two effects the special relativity theory and my theory have the exact same results. I built a model that explains that data: it's very difficult to measure at ninety degrees, but I predict that you don't get any change when you measure at ninety degrees. Einstein predicts that you do get a shift. You could test the two theories by measuring the doppler effect at exactly ninety degrees, and not averaging.