Q: Can you poke something that’s far away with a stick faster than it would take light to get there?

Q: Can you poke something that’s far away with a stick faster than it would take light to get there?

The original question was: If I had a really long (about 500,000 km) and really stiff stick would I be able to send information faster than light by moving it quickly by 1 cm and poking someone on the other side or pushing a button? If you had an infinitely rigid stick, then you could definitely send poking information faster than light. However, in any real material the “push” information travels from atom to atom at the speed of light or slower. That is, there are electromagnetic forces holding the pole’s atoms together, and the fastest that changes in those forces can be felt is the speed of light (this is true for any force). Every time anything gets pushed the “push information” has to travel through the object, generally at a rate much slower than light speed, but still pretty fast.

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