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Faster Than Light: Here and Now by R. J. Michie brings the world of Einstein’s relativity together with Quantum Mechanics in an astounding theory of information being the foundation of reality. Michie sets out to prove that both theories can be explained through FIT or Fundamental Information Theory which not only provides answers to the flaws in each, but also proves that superluminal travel is theoretically possible. Modern physics, based on the theory of relativity, looks at reality as being separate from the observer. Quantum mechanics postulates that reality is a state of multiple possibilities until observed or interacted with. FIT is based on the concept that everything has a memory; i.e. matter can differentiate between past and present state.
The idea of information as the basis of reality necessitates that matter not only has memory, but also can process the information. The larger the mass of an object, the more information it would have and as a smaller object approached, the smaller object would require more time to process this additional information. Since the memory would be finite, information would be lost and this yields an element of randomness for how matter would react. Furthermore, although modern physics follows Einstein’s theory of time dilation, the idea that time actually moves at different speeds, FIT sees it as a slowdown in the processing of information that causes a loss of data, not an actual ripple in time.
The beginning of the book was taken up with explaining what the book was setting out to prove or disprove. I felt the author did a great job of explaining the foundations of his theory, I really only had a few minor complaints. The first was the use of parentheses, lots of them. To me this causes a break in the flow of the thought. (“We will talk more in this book about why such transposition of reasoning (from our own reality to that of fundamental physical entities) is justified.”) I found myself re-reading a number of sections, because this style of writing was at times confusing. My second issue was the repetition. There were a number of times in which the author discussed a concept and then stated he would explain more in a later chapter. When the reader arrives at that chapter, the author would note that he had already explained the basis of this in a previous chapter and recap before continuing with the topic. Small issues, I know, but for such a scholarly effort, it felt unnecessary.
The second half of the book is a much more detailed and complex presentation of Fundamental Information Theory. It is presented as a scientific paper and includes some complex mathematical formulas and accompanying explanations. The math was not critical to understanding the theory however and the author makes it accessible to the “layperson”.
Michie states from the outset of the book that he is hoping to cause a paradigm shift in the way we look at how things work and why. I really think he has achieved that goal. The presentation is clear and methodical and provides an exceptional bridge between experimental results and how they differ from our expectations based on current theory. Man can only perform experiments on Earth, therefore our results, by default would be dependent on constraints that based on FIT are unique to our planet. It would be fascinating to see where experimentation with FIT would take us. The author suggests sending a clock into deep space to determine if moving away from our large mass would allow for an increase in speed above the speed of light observed on Earth.
Overall, I found the book extremely intriguing and would give the book 4 out of 4 stars. As an outsider to the world of physics, I love how accessible Michie is able to make such complex theoretical concepts. I would recommend Faster Than Light: Here and Now to anyone with an interest in physics, scientific theory, interstellar travel or just a curiosity for why things work the way they work. There is so much we don’t know, but Michie’s theories are a great foundation for further exploration.
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