The Speed of Light


W107

Wednesdays

3:30pm – 5:00pm

Williams College

Thompson Physics Building, Room 205

Williamstown

4/17, 4/24, 5/1, 5/8, 5/15, 5/22

Six Sessions

The speed of light is not just the speed of light. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, it

is the ultimate speed limit for all material objects. But does this mean that it is also the ultimate speed limit for information? After a historical review, we show how Einstein’s theory implies that if we could send information faster than light, we could also send information backward in time.  The course ends with a discussion of “entanglement,” a phenomenon in which quantum particles seem not to care about breaking any information speed limit,a  long as they are not caught in the act.


Suggested Reading: (Optional) Chad Orzel, How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog (Basic

Books, 2012).

Bill Wootters is a retired professor of physics at Williams College, with a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. He primarily researched quantum information theory, and has recently co-taught a course at Williams on the philosophical implications of modern physics.


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