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# Tachyonic antitelephone

A tachyonic antitelephone is a hypothetical device in by:
theoretical physics that could be used to send signals into
one’s own past. Albert Einstein in 1907[1][2] presented a
thought experiment of how faster-than-light signals can B−A
∆t = t1 − t0 = .
Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld in 1910 as a means “to
Here, the event at A is the cause of the event at B. How-
telegraph into the past”.[3] The same thought experiment
ever, in the inertial frame moving with relative velocity v,
was described by Richard Chace Tolman in 1917;[4] thus,
the time of arrival at B is given according to the Lorentz
it is also known as Tolman’s paradox.
transformation:
A device capable of “telegraphing into the past” was
later also called a “tachyonic antitelephone” by Gregory
Benford et al. According to the current understanding ′ ′ ′ t1 − vB/c2 t0 − vA/c2
of physics, no such faster-than-light transfer of informa- ∆t = t 1 − t 0 = √ − √
1 − v 2 /c2 1 − v 2 /c2
tion is actually possible. For instance, the hypothetical
tachyon particles which give the device its name do not 1 − av/c2
=√ ∆t.
exist even theoretically in the standard model of particle 1 − v 2 /c2
physics, due to tachyon condensation, and there is no ex-
It can be easily shown that if a > c, then certain values of
perimental evidence that suggests that they might exist.
v can make Δt' negative. In other words, the eﬀect arises
The problem of detecting tachyons via causal contradic-
[5] before the cause in this frame. Einstein (and similarly
tions was treated scientiﬁcally.
Tolman) concluded that this result contains in their view
the totality of our experience so that the impossibility of
1 One-way example a > c seems to be suﬃciently proven.[1]

2 Two-way example
A more common variation of this thought experiment is
to send back the signal to the sender (a similar one was
given by David Bohm[7] ). Suppose Alice (A) is on a
spacecraft moving away from the Earth in the positive
x-direction with a speed v , and she wants to commu-
nicate with Bob (B) back home. Assume both of them
have a device that is capable of transmitting and receiv-
ing faster-than-light signals at a speed of a c with a > 1
. Alice uses this device to send a message to Bob, who
sends a reply back. Let us choose the origin of the co-
ordinates of Bob’s reference frame, S , to coincide with
This was illustrated in 1911 by Paul Ehrenfest using a Minkowski
the reception of Alice’s message to him. If Bob immedi-
diagram. Signals are sent in frame B1 into the opposite directions ately sends a message back to Alice, then in his rest frame
OP and ON with a velocity approaching inﬁnity. Here, event the coordinates of the reply signal (in natural units so that
O happens before N. However, in another frame B2, event N c=1) are given by:
happens before O.[6]

Tolman used the following variation of Einstein’s thought (t, x) = (t, at)
experiment:[1][4] Imagine a distance with endpoints A and
B . Let a signal be sent from A propagating with velocity To ﬁnd out when the reply is received by Alice, we per-
a towards B. All of this is measured in an inertial frame form a Lorentz transformation to Alice’s frame S ′ moving
where the endpoints are at rest. The arrival at B is given in the positive x-direction with velocity v with respect to

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