What would happen if humans could travel at the speed of light?

Light speed travel has been a staple of popular culture for years. I first became aware of the idea of light speed from watching Star Wars as a kid. But would we ever be able to actually travel at the speed of light? What would happen if we were able to achieve light speed travel?

First of all, traveling at the speed of light is most likely impossible. Because of Einstein’s famous equation E=mc^2, we know that energy and mass can be converted into each other. As the energy of an item increases because of its speed, its mass will also increase. Because of this, as an item gets closer to the speed of light, the item’s mass will approach infinity. Since its mass approaches infinity, the energy required to move it will also approach infinity, making it impossible to travel at the speed of light.

What would happen if we could get close to the speed of light? One thing that would change is our perception of time. If someone could travel at 90% of the speed of light, time for that person would be halved compared to someone observing from Earth. Another noticeable change would be your field of view. Someone traveling at close to the speed of light would experience serious tunnel vision due to a phenomenon known as Aberration. You would experience Aberration because the photons would appear to be coming from in front of you. You would also experience the Doppler Effect, where light waves crowd together, creating the blue color seen in a number of science fiction movies.

Even though the light speed travel from science fiction is impossible, traveling close to the speed of light would be a mind bending experience. For more in depth reading on the speed of light, check out this article on How Stuff Works.

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