Proposed FTL signalling experiment

QM may yet prevail over Einstein's speed limit

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Abstract

Electrical induction can be used to transmit power without wires. If we arrange to stretch the distance across which power can be transmitted that way, then when we throw the power switch at the “induced” end of this system, how quickly does the power-supplying end “know” that power is being drawn or not-drawn?

Even if this works it may be impractical to actually use across very long distances, because of the amount of infrastructure required.

Some background information, first the electrical stuff:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_circuit
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_induction
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductive_coupling
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2007-06-08-mit-wireless-power_N.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission
http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=9291
and now some Quantum Mechanics stuff:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evanescent_wave
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_particle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavefunction_collapse

The key point is that if power is not being inductively drawn from some source, then that source is not radiating significant power any other way.  That is, only if some external induction circuit is activated will any real power be transmitted across the distance between the power line and the induction circuit.  Only then would someone monitoring the power line for losses notice that some extra power has escaped the line.  Therefore we could describe a power line as being surrounded by and radiating “virtual power waves” (actually virtual photons of very low frequency).  They don’t carry ordinary real energy until the external induction circuit is activated, but they do traverse lots of Space for long distances surrounding the power line.

Once upon a time I had wild idea regarding how to detect distant advanced alien civilizations.  Just search for the “power hum” of Alternating Current transmission lines; our own civilization has theoretically been radiating energy from our 60-Hertz and 50-Hertz electric grids for more than a century.  However from Earth very little if any of it leaks to Space through the ionosphere; likely the same will be true of other inhabited worlds, making them not detectable by this method after all, alas.  If we were to install a power grid on the the Moon, which has no atmosphere and thus no ionosphere, then perhaps that could eventually be detected from many light-years away – except if we do one day build a power grid on the Moon it will likely be superconducting Direct Current, instead of Alternating Current, and therefore it won’t be detectably radiating, after all.  So other civilizations advanced enough to build power grids on airless worlds could be expected to do the same, alas.

There is no doubt that AC power lines radiate radio waves of very low frequency, but because real radio-wave photons carry real energy, all the time, power lines are deliberately designed to radiate radio waves as inefficiently as possible, specifically to reduce the total losses of power that we want to transport from Point A to Point B.  Inductive coupling, however, is not about catching those radio-wave photons and extracting power from them; it is about interacting with the magnetic field (and possibly also the electric field) that surrounds a power-carrying wire.  And any Quantum Physicist can tell you that both magnetic and electric fields are made up of virtual photons, not ordinary real photons.  That’s why no real power is lost to a nearby inductive circuit unless and until such a circuit is “complete” (it is switched “on”).

It happens that virtual photons and ordinary photons have a number of things in common, such as travelling at the speed of light and obeying the Inverse Square Law.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverse-square_law
And both can be carried inside special conduits called “wave guides”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_guide
Sometimes a wave guide is used specifically to allow a weak signal to reach a particular destination; it is a way to defeat the Inverse Square Law.

A wave guide designed to carry virtual power waves will be quite large (because of their low frequency).  It may be difficult to perform this experiment on Earth because of that.  On the other hand, a fairly large-holed metal net will suffice to reflect such waves, so the total amount of materiel needed to construct this experiment (and the mass needing support) can perhaps be managed.

First we need to construct a kind of box surrounding part of an ordinary power line.  Then we extend from one side of the box our wave guide, for such a distance that we will be able to accurately and reliably measure the time light takes to traverse its length (perhaps ten kilometers).

At the far end of the wave guide we construct our induction circuit, with an ordinary on/off switch.  We assume the power line is energized continuously, and has been energized continuously, for at least the period of time it takes light to traverse the wave guide.  (That means if we build a wave guide one light-year long, the power lines need to have been energized continuously for a year.)

The purpose of the Experiment is answer the Question, “What happens when we flip the power switch of the induction circuit?”

Will it instantly have power and start working, or will there be a delay as some sort of signal is transmitted back to the power line, making demands of it?  I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that the induction circuit will have power immediately.  This is because of one of the key differences between virtual photons and ordinary real photons:  Virtual photons are always “entangled” with their sources.  That means the “signal” transmitted from the switched-on induction circuit to the power line will be instantaneous, Faster Than Light.  The virtual power wave photons have already travelled the distance, their absorption by the “on” induction circuit makes them have carried real power, per quantum entanglement and via wave function collapse.

Therefore it logically follows that someone monitoring the power load on the power line will instantly notice that the distant switch has been flipped.  And of course if the switch is flipped On and Off in Morse Code patterns, then messages can be sent Faster Than Light.

One way, that is.  To send a message the other way, we need another power line and another waveguide and another induction circuit.

Now imagine building pairs of wave guides across interplanetary or interstellar distances, for FTL communications.  Possible, maybe.  Impractical, certainly!


Since posting this it has been pointed out to me that modern measuring equipment does not need such a large gap between the power line and the induction circuit, to be able to measure the time delay, should the speed of light apply. 100 meters of separation may be quite feasible.


(Several days later…)
And now comes the part dreaded by anyone enamored of a bright idea: The Flaw. No matter how much one knows it is always possible to either overlook a key detail or to simply be ignorant of a key detail. In this particular case The Flaw is in the description of the electromagnetic field that surrounds the power line. Despite being made of virtual photons, its existence is In Standard Theory associated with real energy. So, at the induction circuit, real energy is present when the switch is thrown, and it has power immediately. The act of drawing upon the available electromagnetic energy creates another electromagnetic wave that propagates at light-speed back to the power line, and affects it to cause more power to flow through it. There can be additional delay related to the distance along the power line to the power plant, and it seems likely that during this second delay the available power at the induction circuit will drop (and other things being powered by the line would also experience a temporary power drop). No Faster-Than-Light here, therefore. Still, this is an odd experiment and even Standard Theory can benefit from additional experimental verification. This knol can yet serve a purpose or two, so it need not be deleted at this time.