Are Light Speed Critiques Valid?
How Can We See Distant Stars in a Young Universe?
Creation Ministries International (formerly Answers in Genesis in Australia, or AiG) and others to claim the speed of light and related research has been discredited. A good example of their criticisms can be found in this article out of Creation Ministries International. The chapter linked glosses over some subtleties and has some inaccuracies. It also, as is common, ignores the large body of research published since the 1987 article. Articles published since then deny some of their contentions and negate the reasons for their rejection of the lightspeed research.
From that point, in December1979 to August 1987, I collected all the data I could find on the speed of light and other atomic constants. This took some work as there was no internet in those days. These data indicated that the measured speed of light had been dropping over a period of about 300 years. A number of physicists did not like what they were seeing, but they had to admit it was there. This is detailed in History of the Speed of Light Experiments. Data also indicated that Planck’s constant had been increasing with time; that atomic masses had been increasing with time; and that atomic clocks in a variety of forms (including radiometric decay) had been slowing with time. By 1987, analyses of these and other data also indicated that energy was being conserved in whatever process was occurring to produce these results.
In early 1987, I received an invitation from SRI International to publish a white paper on the data I was researching. Flinders University in South Austalia also expressed interest in the project. Trevor Norman from the Math department at Flinders assisted in the statistical work involved. The professor of Statistics at Flinders indicated that the results from the data had formal statistical significance, and proposed a seminar for the whole department once the project was complete. The result was the production of a 90 page document, “Atomic Constants, Light and Time,” that became known as the Report of August 1987. It was jointly issued by SRI and Flinders and contained 638 measurements of 12 atomic quantities by 41 different methods.
Shortly after publication, the department head at SRI was replaced with 48 hours notice because of alcohol related problems. Very soon after, a creationist who was working for Institute of Creation Research (Gerald Aardsma at ICR) telephoned both Flinders University and SRI International and asked them if they knew I was a creationist. The result of those phone calls was that I was banned from the Math department and the library at Flinders, and Trevor Norman eventually had to resign. As a result, the promised seminar was never given and the 1990 reprint of the Report had to be published privately as contact with both institutions had been lost.
It is very important to note that I had been pressured by AiG in Australia to publish some of my findings before the 1987 report. They were extremely supportive of my work at that point. I was somewhat uncomfortable publishing at that time and it must be emphasized that all results which received publicity prior to August 1987 were merely progress reports and the conclusions reached were entirely interim at best, or speculative at worst. It is interesting that, despite their interim nature, many criticisms of all my work have been based entirely on these early, incomplete results. The 1987 Report was basically a data paper. However, we included speculation on the possible behavior of radiation intensities, the redshift, the Doppler formula, missing mass, gravity and superluminal jets. It is important to realize that, at this stage, the actual cause of the change in all the measured atomic quantities was still open to question. Therefore, the speculated behavior of all these other items could only remain speculation, and thereby that paper could only suggest answers to the problems later raised by critics.
Several likely curves were proposed which gave a good statistical fit to the 300 years of data, but they were not in any way a final conclusion; that could come only once we had data back to the origin of the cosmos and an effective cause had been established. All that could be stated in the 1987 Report was that 300 years of data gave results that were of formal statistical significance for the speed of light and other atomic quantities that were varying synchronously with it. Despite the fact that several independent statistical authorities agreed with this conclusion, as well as the fact that an entirely separate analysis by statistical experts produced similar results, which were published in a science journal, some felt obliged to question that statistical evidence. The data used is still available on Lambert Dolphin's website. Several challenges and my responses may be found in our Discussion Section under Setterfield Light Speed Research and The Data.
The Intervening Years
About the year 2000, when I married my wife Penny (Helen), I began to see the reason for the delay in the research effort. In that intervening period of time two separate branches of physics had more fully developed. That resulted in published papers that allowed me to examine a different line of evidence to the one I had been initially considering. One of these developments occurred in plasma astronomy, impelled by Anthony Peratt’s book A Plasma Universe published in 1992 by Springer-Verlag. The other area was the developmenht of Stochastic Electrodynamics, or SED physics, which readily explains quantum phenomena in terms of classical physics plus the action of a real Zero Point Energy (ZPE) that pervades the vacuum. While standard quantum physics (QED physics) considers the Zero Point Energy to be simply a mathematical abstract which is to be used in equations, data indicate that the ZPE is a real physical entity, not just a virtual construct.
The Zero Point Energy is energy which exists throughout space even when all physical particles and subatomic particles are missing and even when the temperature is brought down to absolute zero. It is made up of all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, with a concentration of waves in the shorter wavelengths. The ZPE was the result of the initial expansion of the universe; as the universe expanded, the ZPE built up. Both QED and SED physics explain quantum phenomena. But QED physics does this on the basis of properties inherent in matter and quantum laws, while SED does this on the basis of the action of the impacting electromagnetic waves of the ZPE on subatomic particles.
The approaches adopted in plasma astronomy and SED physics fit in with comments made earlier by John Gribbin in New Scientist when he said that the redshift may be due to the behavior of atomic emitters within the distant galaxies. By 2000, SED physics had developed to an extent which allowed an explanation of that proposition in a way which was consistent with all the atomic data. Meanwhile, plasma astronomy had progressed to such an extent that the results of lab experiments could now be applied to a range of physical phenomena we see out in space. As a result of these developments, it was found that the redshift can actually be used to supply data on atomic behavior, and so also the speed of light, right back to the origin of the cosmos. In addition, data from earth-bound atomic clocks were found to delineate atomic clock behavior for the last 4500 years. These results effectively defined how the synchronously changing data had behaved from the inception of the cosmos up to the present time.
Continued analysis revealed consistent answers to previous problems, as well as indicating an absolute cause for the data behavior, namely the physical properties of the vacuum. The data indicated that these properties were altering with time. It is now good science to accept that the properties of the vacuum are controlled by the energy intrinsic to the vacuum, the Zero Point Energy (ZPE). Therefore, the increase of the ZPE with time, due to initial universal expansion, supplied an answer to the dilemma. It was due to studying these results that I wrote a number of papers which were published in peer-reviewed secular science journals. In turn, those papers led up to the final analysis of the situation in the 463 page Monograph entitled Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy. It underwent peer review and was published by the Natural Philosophy Alliance (NPA) as part of their Conference in July 2013. In that volume, all the basic questions are resolved in a completely consistent way. Creationist criticisms generally have not taken note of the results published in this Monograph. This is not the place to summarize these results, but there are summaries available in the Monograph and here on our website.
Response to Criticisms
Alpha, The Fine Structure Constant
Since Alpha is made up of two sets of invariant combinations of constants, the final result is that Alpha will never register any change, no matter how the speed of light or the other three quantities vary. Any variance in c, for instance, is offset by an opposite, or inverse, variance in h. When e2 increases, so does P, so that the end result is exactly the same as the beginning. Even secular scientists are currently making the mistake of not recognizing that. Indeed, it was because of the lack of any observed change in Alpha at great cosmological distances, that the change in the speed of light suggested by Magueijo and Albrecht has been side-lined. They had not accepted any possible synchronous variation of other constants involved in Alpha. When I suggested this to Albrecht some years ago, he commented that they had looked at this “but we could not achieve all that we wanted with the theory if we did”. It seems that they preferred to go theory first rather than follow the data. All this is explained in more detail in the Discussion section dealing with the Fine Structure Constant, as well as in published scientific papers such as “A Plasma Universe with Changing Zero Point Energy” published in 2011.
The situation with regard to radiant energy emission from the nuclear burning of stars and radioactive decay is a little more complex. The basic equations indicate that both radioactive decay rates and the processes powering stars were faster when the speed of light was faster. What critics have not taken into account is that, when the ZPE was different, the properties of the vacuum were also different, and this had a profound effect. Let’s see if it can be somewhat simply explained in the following way.
The properties of the vacuum alter the characteristics of a photon of light as the ZPE changes. Light of a given wavelength, W, has an energy, E, given by E = hc/W. Experimentally, we have shown that the wavelength of any given photon remains unchanged regardless of changes in the properties of the vacuum of space. So what is it about light that changes when the ZPE changes? It's not their length, but their height, or amplitude. The length of a wave determines its color, the amplitude determines its brightness, or luminosity.
In the above illustration, all the waveLENGTHS are the same, however the amplitudes, or heights of the waves are different. The large amplitude waves at the bottom would be the brightest light or color, and the lower amplitudes at the top would be the fainter, or 'gentler' color. Although it is really hard to show brightness vs. dullness on a page, the idea is something like this:
So while the photon energy is fixed, the brightness of the photon depends on the amplitude of the wave -- photons whose amplitudes are low are faint while photons whose amplitudes are great are bright. The properties of the vacuum control the amplitudes. The equations show that when the ZPE strength was low, and light was traveling much faster than now, the amplitudes of the waves were all lower than now. The result was that, although there were more photons being emitted in a given time, their lower amplitudes meant that the actual brightness or luminosity of the received light was no different than now. Total luminosity has remained constant throughout time. Therefore, our Sun would have had the same brightness as now, even though it was emitting more photons per second, because the properties of the vacuum were different. The same applies to radioactive decay processes. The radiation intensity of the greater rate of decay with a lower ZPE in the early days was no more damaging than at today’s reduced rate.
This has additional consequences. First, as light in transit went through the vacuum, quickly at first, then slowing down as the ZPE strength increased, the amplitudes of the light photons progressively increased. Therefore, when we received that light, it would have the same luminosity as it would have if it was emitted today. The physics and math behind these comments can be found in Appendix B of the Monograph, and also Appendix 2 of "Behavior of the Zero Point Energy and Atomic Constants". The basic formula which applies in such cases states that for any given wave, the square of the wave amplitude (or height) multiplied by the wave velocity is a constant.
An analogy might be helpful. Tsunami waves can travel at speeds exceeding 600 miles per hour in the deep ocean. But this incredible speed only is apparent in a wave a few feet high. As the wave approaches the shore, however, the ocean depth changes. The wave slows down, but builds in height. The energy in the wave remains the same, but the energy that was expressed in the forward motion in the deep ocean has now been transferred to the height of the wave. In a similar way, light traveling at high speed has a low amplitude, or wave height, but as the changing conditions of the vacuum in space cause the observed speed to slow, the height of the waves -- the amplitude -- increases.
A second consequence has to do with the gigantism we see in the fossil record. Here again let's use a picture. Many showers have variable shower heads that can either shoot out needle sharp sprays or gentle showers. The amount of water being delivered is the same, however. The earlier light that reached the earth was more like the gentle shower. The same amout of luminosity was being delivered, but it was much more useable by plant life. Today's light, with the high amplitude waves is more like the needle sharp shower. It can still be used by plants, but not as easily. The early time favored the more rapid growth of a variety of flora due to increased photon reception rates under conditions of constant luminosity. This may account for the gigantism seen in the fossil record of flora. In the case of fauna, nerve impulses (electrical signals) would also have traveled faster,allowing for fauna gigantism. These options are explored in Chapter 10 of the Monograph as well as in our article on gigantism in the fossil record.
Supernovas and Jets
When a giant star explodes, its light curve (its degree of brightness) quickly reaches a maximum, and then declines in a predictable fashion over a specific time range. This light intensity curve is powered by the production and decay of the radioactive isotopes Cobalt 56 and 57. Because the timing of the decay curve in SN1987A exactly followed the radioactive decay pattern of Cobalt 56 and 57 on earth today, it was claimed that the speed of light could not have changed. If the speed of light had slowed in transit, it was claimed that we would have seen that decay in slow motion, and so the decline in light intensity would have taken place over a much longer period.
If decay processes had remained the same through time, that criticism would be correct. But the data indicate that all radioactive decay processes, including those of Cobalt 56 and 57, were also faster when the speed of light was higher. That is because both can be shown to be children of the same ZPE parent. Any changes in the properties of space, as caused by changes in the Zero Point Energy, will affect both radio decay processes as well as the speed of light. So what is happening when we see SN1987A and other supermova is that we are indeed seeing the process in slow motion, since the half-life of Cobalt isotopes was proportionally shorter when the explosion occurred. In a word, the slowing of light exactly counteracts the faster decay rate, so we see it from earth in the same elapsed time as would normally occur.
Supernova 1987A also exhibits enlarging rings of light from the explosion that illuminated the sheets of gas and dust some distance from the supernova itself. We know the approximate distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (about 165,000 to 170,000 light years), and we know the angular distance of the ring from the supernova. It is a simple calculation to find how far the gas and dust sheets are from the supernova. It is assumed that these sheets of gas and dust were thrown off from the star, or at least in place, at some earlier stage. It is generally agreed that the explosion from the star lit them up. That involves light travel time. At the distance of the lit areas from the supernova itself, light traveling at today's speed would have required a certain amount of time to light the gas and dust. Critics have stated that if the speed of light was then ten times what it is now, the light should have illuminated the sheets and formed the rings in only 1/10 of the time we see it happening now. However, what has been ignored in that criticism is that the light is being received at only 1/10th of the rate the original events occurred. So we see events which nonetheless are in accord with a value for c equal to c now. It is therefore impossible to deal with the speed of light issue in this fashion, as the slow-motion effect will always match the faster speed.
On the opposite side of the question of a changing speed of light, there are those who want to use the speed of the material in the axial jets of quasars as proof the speed of light was faster in the past. But this argument is also wrong. What has been observed is that the jets of material in some quasars seem to be significantly faster than the speed of light today. However, these superluminal jets do not indicate a higher speed of light at those locations. The reason is that the slowing of light in transit will also slow down the rate at which the information is received about speed of activities in the jet. As a consequence, the more complicated standard explanation for the apparent faster than c velocities of material in these jets is accepted here. Essentially what may be happening is because of the angle at which we are viewing these jets, they only appear to be moving faster than light.
The particular example used in the article suffers from the problems common to all pulsar data interpretation; it depends entirely on the model that you accept for the generation of the pulses. Are pulsars rapidly rotating neutron stars or are the pulses the result of electromagnetic discharges? What they are makes all the difference in the conclusions drawn. If the chosen model is wrong, then the conclusions are invalid. The main points can be summarized as follows:
On the standard model a pulsar is a rapidly rotating, small and extremely dense neutron star which sends out a flash like a lighthouse every time it rotates. Rotation times are extremely fast on this model. In fact, the star is only dense enough to hold together under the rapid rotation if it is made up of neutrons. There are problems with this model. First a number of university professionals have difficulty with the concept of a star made entirely of neutrons, or neutronium. In the lab, neutrons decay into a proton and electron in something under 14 minutes. Atom-like collections of two or more neutrons disrupt almost instantaneously. As a result of these and a number of other difficulties, these professionals point out that it was an incorrect procedure to state that neutronium must exist because of the pulsars behavior, and then try to justify it theoretically; that is circular reasoning. So the existence of neutronium itself is the first problem for the model.
The second problem is the rotation rate. There is one pulsar labeled as PSR J1748-224ad which sends out 42,960 pulses per minute. These pulsars, and similar pulsars, have caused problems as their rotation rates go way beyond what is possible even for a neutron star -- it would simply fly apart. In order for the model to hold, this star must have matter even more densely packed than neutrons, so "strange matter" has been proposed. Like neutronium, strange matter has never been actually observed, so at this stage it is a non-falsifiable proposition.
So the evidence from the data itself suggests that we have the model wrong. If the model is wrong, then the conclusions about the speed of light based on that model are invalid. However, if we allow data to dictate model, we do not need to introduce either the improbability of neutronium or the even worse scenario of strange matter.
Let's look at the data: Like pulsar J1748-224ad, many pulsars are seen to be part of a two body system -- two stars or a star and another body rotating around each other. That is one clue. Another clue is in the pulses themselves. Of the time from one pulse to another, only 5% of that time is taken by the pulse itself. This is similar to a strobe light. A third clue is that the pulses are not consistent in their strength. If the pulsar were a rotating star, flashing in our direction like a lighthouse light at regular intervals, why would the intensity vary? If it were a neutron star with a fixed magnetic field, the signal intensity should be constant. A fourth clue is that the pulse polarization indicates that it has come from a strong magnetic field.
Taken together, all these characteristics are typical of an electric arc (lightning) discharge between two closely spaced objects. In fact electrical engineers have known for many years that all these characteristics are typical of relaxation oscillators. In other words, in the lab we can produce these precise characteristics in an entirely different way. Professor D.E. Scott (electrical engineering) explains it this way:
This model of pulsars has received wide support from the plasma physics community and a number of important papers examining a variety of astronomical systems using this approach have been published. If the electric discharge model is followed, then my 2011 paper "A Plasma Universe with Changing Zero Point Energy" is relevant. The reason for this relevance is that an increasing ZPE not only slows the speed of light, but also reduces voltages and electric current strengths. When that is factored into the plasma model for pulsars, the rate of discharge seen from earth will remain constant, as the slow-down of light in transit cancels out the initial faster rate of discharge in the pulsar system when currents were higher. Therefore pulsar characteristics are not a problem to the ZPE approach. Pulsar data fit the ZPE approach exactly whereas the idea of a spinning neutron star goes against much of the physics we are aware of.
The Zero Point Energy and Relativity
Astrophysicist Martin Harwit commented on this problem in his book Astrophysical Concepts, page 178 (Springer-Verlag 1988). The motion of the Sun around our galaxy, and the motion of our galaxy in the Local Group of galaxies, and the motion of our Local Group towards the Virgo cluster of galaxies have all been separately measured against the cosmic reference frame of the CMBR. Harwit stated that, "...the establishment of an absolute rest frame would emphasize the fact that special relativity is really only able to deal with small-scale phenomena and that phenomena on larger scales allow us to determine a preferred frame of reference in which cosmic processes look isotropic.” So basically what Harwit is saying is that relativity is only valid for atomic phenomena, not larger phenomena. Indeed, even in 1987, at the time of the writing of the Report, it was noted that, because atomic clock rates kept pace with the speed of light, then c was constant in the atomic frame of reference, but not macroscopically.
As a result of these developments, experimental data have shown that both of Einstein’s postulates are false. This means that the very basis of the theory of relativity is also false. Interestingly, however, analysis shows that all the major predictions of relativity can be reproduced simply using the ZPE and high school math. I did this in my 2012 paper “Zero Point Energy and Relativity” published and reviewed as part of an NPA Conference. The Abstract of that paper reads in part:
Relativity theory predicts an atomic mass will increase with its velocity. "Zero Point Energy and Relativity" shows that the behavior of the ZPE predicts changes of exactly the same magnitude. Relativity predicts the slowing and bending of light in gravitational fields; the ZPE approach predicts exactly the same thing. Relativity predicts the slowing of atomic clocks in gravitational fields, gravitational lensing, so-called frame-dragging, and the behavior of the perihelion of the orbit of the planet Mercury. In each of these cases, "Zero Point Energy and Relativity" shows that the ZPE model predicts exactly the same effects. Previously, these had been considered triumphs for the theory of Relativity. The paper concludes by saying:
This and similar papers show that the action of a real ZPE and SED physics produce all the main predictions of relativity without the necessity for any of the restrictive postulates forced upon the theory by Einstein. The effort to unify Relativity and Quantum Physics has been going on since the time of Einstein. That has not been possible as the two approaches come at the data from entirely different directions. However, using the ZPE approach, both quantum phenomena and the predictions made by Relativity are explained and unified under one concept. The speed of light is no longer required to be a constant. Rather it can vary with time in inverse proportion to the ZPE strength, but in such a way that its speed at any instant is the same throughout the entire universe.
The problem with this is that a number of astronomers, starting with William Tifft in 1976, noted that the redshift appears to be progressing in jumps instead of being a smooth increase. Even astronomers who were seeking to disprove Tifft's observations ended up agreeing with him when using their own observations. Closer analysis revealed that some of these jumps were occurring within galaxies. If the redshift was due to either universal expansion or galaxy recession, neither would be expected to be occurring in jumps, nor would a change be possible in the middle of a galaxy. If such jumps were occurring within the confines of a galaxy, that galaxy would be disrupted, and there is no evidence of that happening. So the redshift must be due to some cause other than space expansion or galaxy recession. Our 1987 Report dealt briefly with the redshift problem, and, looking back, not satisfactorily. Those who have been intent on using only that paper in critiques of my work have severely limited themselves.
It was into the midst of this astronomical controversy that John Gribbin made his comment that the redshift might be due to atomic emitters of light within the galaxies themselves. The emergence of SED physics and its concept that the ZPE supported atomic orbits across the universe, opened a way for a resolution of the difficulty based on Gribbin’s suggestion. Simply described, it works in the following fashion.
It has been observed that in order for any object to accelerate, energy must be expended. "Acceleration" does not just mean going faster. It can mean that, but it also means deviating from a straight line. So an electron circling its nucleus is expending energy. However, since that electron is expending energy as it goes, why does it not spiral into the nucleus and disappear? That is simple, classical physics. But that does not happen. In contrast to observed behavior, quantum physics states that electrons do not expend energy as they circle their nuclei. No reason is given for this.
According to the SED approach, classical physics is valid when it says the orbiting electron radiates energy. When this is coupled with the effects of the ZPE “bath” in which the electrons are immersed, it becomes evident that the electrons are also receiving energy from the Zero Point Energy itself. The energy that electrons radiate as they orbit their nuclei can be calculated. The energy that these electrons absorb from the all-pervasive ZPE can also be calculated. Quantitative work has been done by SED physicists, and their results can be summarized by stating that, for a stable orbit, the energy lost by the radiating electron is equal to the energy gained from the background ZPE. In some ways it is like a child being given resonant pushes on a swing to keep it going. In 1987, SED physicist Hal Putoff concluded by stating that the ZPE acts to sustain all atomic orbits throughout the universe. Without the ZPE, every atom in the universe would undergo instantaneous collapse.
The ZPE has been shown to originate with the initial stretching of space or the expansion of the cosmos. As the expansion continued, the ZPE built up with time. As it did so it supplied more energy to stable atomic orbits. Atoms emit light when an electron drops down from an outer orbit to an inner orbit. The energy of the light the atoms emit is the energy difference between the two orbits. As these orbits became more energetic, this process will emit more energetic photons of light. The more energetic a photon of light is, the shorter will be its wavelength and so the bluer will be its emitted light. Thus, as time moved forward, atoms were emitting bluer and bluer light. Therefore, as we look back in time by looking progressively farther out into space, light became redder. This redshift changes in jumps because atomic orbit energies are “quantized” or can only change in jumps as the ZPE strength increases.
The redshift is therefore an artifact of the changing ZPE. It can be demonstrated that the curve of the increasing redshift is inversely related to ZPE strength in exactly the same way that the speed of light and the rate of ticking of atomic clocks are inversely related to the ZPE. The proportionality factor linking them can be found from atomic physics as shown in Chapter 5 of the Monograph. The redshift therefore supplies data showing how these quantities behaved right back to the origin of the cosmos.
A much more complete discussion of this can be found in Chapter 5 of "Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy."
Barry Setterfield, 10th August, 2015.