You know Einstein, right? The brilliant (and popular) physicist from last century? The E=mc2 guy?

Albert Einstein in 1949 at Princeton, USA (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Albert Einstein in 1949 at Princeton, USA (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Yeah, him.

This formula (E=mc2) means that mass and energy are, on some level, interchangeable. One of the interesting consequences is that nothing with mass can be made to go faster than light because the faster something goes the more massive it is; this makes it harder (takes more effort) to make it go faster still. You have to put in more and more energy to make it go faster by smaller and smaller amounts. Eventually even applying all the energy in the universe wouldn’t be enough to make something go faster than light.

So E=mc2 means that nothing that’s moving less than the speed of light can be made to go faster than the speed of light. Interestingly, the laws of physics do allow objects with mass to travel faster than light but they don’t mean that they can’t be accelerated past the speed of light. This leaves open the possibility that there are types of particles in the universe which could travel faster than light.

Weird? You bet, but nature is what it is and it’s amazing we’re able to understand how any of this works at all.

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