In Response to Talk Origins

Barry was asked if he had seen a Talk Origins article (section A6) and what was his response to it. His response follows. Much of the material can also be found in his response to creationist organizations who declare his work invalid.

The Talk Origins material basically discusses two matters with relation to the speed of light. The first of these is the observed effects in the explosion of Supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The second is the effects which the Talk Origins author, Dave Matson, expects should be seen in pulsars. He indirectly concedes that our approach to the supernova problem may have an answer. However, this answer elicits an interesting intervening paragraph, following which he discusses the situation with regard to pulsars. However, Matson uses the lack of what they expected should occur in pulsars, if light-speed was declining, to justify their position that the supernova shows that no change in light-speed has occurred. We will examine both the situation with regard to supernovas and pulsars separately, as they are two entirely different problems: one cannot be used to confirm or deny the truth of changing light-speed by the other. The interesting intervening paragraph between their supernova and pulsar discussion is then addressed at the end.

Supernovas and the speed of light

When a giant star explodes, its light curve 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 Cobalt 57. Because the timing of the decay curve in SN1987A followed the radioactive decay pattern of the two Cobalt isotopes on earth today exactly, it was claimed that there was no slowing of the speed of light. If the speed of light had slowed in transit, it was correctly claimed that we would have see any such decay in slow motion. In that case, the observed decline in light intensity would have taken place over a much longer period.

The reason that it did not behave this way is that the radioactive decay process of Cobalt 56 & 57 was also faster when the speed of light was higher. The two can be shown to be children of the same parent cause, namely the changing properties of the vacuum due to space expansion. Therefore, we are indeed seeing the decay process of the cobalt isotopes in slow motion since their half-lives were proportionally shorter than now 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.

The second feature was the enlarging rings of light from the explosion that illuminated the sheets of gas and dust some distance from the supernova. 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. The critics have stated that it might be expected that if c was (for example) 10c now at the supernova, the light should have illuminated the sheets and formed the rings in only 1/10th of the time at today's speed. 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 try and prove that the speed of light was or was not faster back then than now, as the slow-motion effect will always counteract the faster speed.


The matter of pulsars has been discussed several times on our website in the astronomical discussion section among other places. It has also been updated considerably in Appendix D on pulsars in our Monograph Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy published in 2013. Some of the more recent answers to questions on pulsars can be found in the Discussion section of our website. 

The particular problem that is given in the Talk Origins article is common to all pulsar data interpretation; it depends entirely on the model that you accept for the generation of the pulses. If that is different from the standard model being considered, then the conclusions are invalid. In response, one might ask what is wrong with the standard model, and what does the data indicate is a viable alternative for pulse generation?

Let us go back to some basic concepts. On the standard model we have a rapidly rotating, small and extremely dense neutron star which sends out a flash or pulse 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. Those two facts alone present some of the many difficulties for astronomers holding to the standard model. Yet despite these difficulties, the model is persisted with and patched up as new data comes in. Let me explain.

The first difficulty is one noted by a number of university professionals regarding 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. Also, when atomic nuclei come to contain too many neutrons, they can explosively disrupt .Thus the statement has been made that "there can be no such entity as a neutron star. It is a fiction that flies in the face of all we know about elements and their atomic nuclei." [D.E. Scott, Professor & Director of Undergraduate Program & Assistant Dept. Head & Director of Instructional Program, University of Massachusetts/Amherst]. He, and a number of other physicists and engineers, remains unconvinced by the quantum/relativistic approach that has theoretically proposed the existence of neutronium. They point out that it is incorrect procedure to state that neutronium must exist because of the pulsars behavior; that is circular reasoning. So the existence of neutronium itself is the first problem for the model.

Second, there is the problem with the rapid rate of rotation. For example, X-ray pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658 flashes every 2.5 thousanths of a second or about 24,000 revs per minute. But that is exceeded by pulsar PSR J1748-224ad which sends out 42,960 pulses per minute. These pulsars have caused problems as they both go way beyond what is possible even for a neutron star. Both of them also have companion stars accompanying them, a point that will be picked up later.

In order for the ‘lighthouse model’ to be correct, the fastest of these pulsars must have matter packed even more densely than neutrons in order to hold together. So the concept of "strange matter" was proposed. Like neutronium, strange matter has never been actually observed, so at this stage it is a non-falsifiable proposition. So in essence, the evidence from the data itself suggests that we have the model wrong. If the model is changed, we do not need to introduce either the improbability of neutronium or the even worse scenario of strange matter.

Third, on 27th October, 2010, in Astronomy News, a report from NRAO in Socorro, New Mexico was entitled "Astronomers discover most massive neutron star yet known." This object is pulsar PSR J1614-2230. It "spins" some 317 times per second and, like many pulsars, has a proven companion object, in this case, a white dwarf. This white dwarf orbits in just under 9 days. The orbital characteristics and data associated with this companion shows that the neutron star is twice as massive as our sun. And therein lies the next problem.

Paul Demorest from NRAO in Tucson stated: "This neutron star is twice as massive as our Sun. This is surprising, and that much mass means that several theoretical models for the internal composition of neutron stars are now ruled out. This mass measurement also has implications for our understanding of all matter at extremely high densities and many details of nuclear physics." In other words, here is further proof that the currently accepted model is not in accord with reality. Rather than retain the lighthouse pulsar model which now requires a rethink of all of nuclear physics, it would be far better to retain what we know for certain about nuclear physics and rethink what is happening with pulsars.

In re-thinking the issue, it should be noted that many pulsars have been proven to be part of a two-body system, like the illustrations given above. Indeed, observation has proven that over 80% of all millisecond pulsars have orbital companions. This leads us to a possible alternate model for the generation of pulses in the pulsars. But first we must examine some facts and characteristics about the pulses themselves. (1) The duty cycle is typically 5% so that the pulsar flashes like a strobe light. The duration of each pulse is only 5% of the length of time between pulses. (2) Some individual pulses vary considerably in intensity. In other words, there is not a consistent signal strength. (3) The pulse polarization indicates that it has come from a strong magnetic field.

These are some important facts. Item (2) alone indicates that the pulsar model likened to a lighthouse flashing is unrealistic. If it was a neutron star with a fixed magnetic field, the signal intensity of each pulse should be the same. This variation indicates that other options must be considered for pulse generation. 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. This way suggests a different, and probably more viable model. Here is how D.E. Scott describes it:

A relaxation oscillator can consist of two capacitors (stars) and a non-linear resistor (plasma) between them. One capacitor charges up relatively slowly and, when its voltage becomes sufficiently high, discharges rapidly to the other capacitor (star). The process then begins again. The rate of this charge/discharge phenomenon  depends on the strength of the input (Birkeland) current, the capacitances (surface areas of the stars) and the breakdown voltage of the (plasma) connection. It in no way depends on the mass or density of the stars.

In the plasma that surrounds a star (or planet) there are conducting paths whose sizes and shapes are controlled by the magnetic field structure of the body. Those conducting paths are giant electric transmission lines and can be analyzed as such. Depending on the electrical properties of what is connected to the ends of the electrical transmission lines, it is possible for pulses of current and voltage (and therefore power) to oscillate back and forth from one end of the line to the other. The ends of such cosmic transmission lines can both be on the same object (as occurs on earth) or one end might be on one member of a closely spaced binary pairs of stars and the other end on the other member of the pair similar to the "flux tube" connecting Jupiter to its moon Io.

In 1995, an analysis was performed on a transmission line system having the properties believed to be those of a pulsar atmosphere. Seventeen different observed properties of pulsar emissions were produced in these experiments. This seminal work by Peratt and Healy strongly supports the electrical transmission line explanation of pulsar behavior.

The paper outlining these proposals was entitled "Radiation Properties of Pulsar Magnetospheres: Observation, Theory and Experiment" and appeared in Astrophysics and Space Science 227(1995):229-253. Another paper outlining a similar proposal using a white dwarf star and a nearby planet instead of a double star system was published by Li, Ferrario and Wickramasinghe. It was entitled "Planets Around White Dwarfs" and appeared in the Astrophysical Journal 503:L151-L154 (20 August 1998). Another paper by Bhardwaj and Michael, entitled the "Io-Jupiter System: A Unique Case of Moon-Planet Interaction" has a section devoted to exploring this effect in the case of Binary stars and Extra-Solar Systems. An additional study by Bhardwaj et al also appeared in Advances in Space Research vol 27:11 (2001) pp. 1915-1922. The whole community of plasma physicists and electrical engineers in the IEEE now accept these models or something similar for pulsars rather than the standard neutron star explanation.

What is the relevance of this to the Talk Origins article? The question involved the slow-down in the speed of light in the context of pulsars and their "rotation rate." If pulsars are not rotating neutron stars at all, but rather involve a systematic electrical discharge in a double star or star and planet system with a strong electric currents and magnetic fields in a plasma or dusty disk, then the whole argument against variable light-speed breaks down. In fact if the electric discharge model is followed, then my 2011 paper "A Plasma Universe with Changing Zero Point Energy" is extremely 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 and magnetic field 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 cancels out the initial faster rate of discharge in the pulsar system when currents were higher and magnetic field strengths greater.

On this basis, plasma astronomy gives a different, but viable, model for pulsars that is more in keeping with the known physical data. At the same time it demonstrates that there is no conflict with light-speed variation when data lead to the model rather than a model being considered inviolate and all manner of imaginary things are invented to explain the data and uphold that model.

The Intervening Paragraph

The Talk Origins author makes the following statement in the paragraph bridging the comments on supernovas and pulsars.

To this [response for supernovas] one might say, ‘Get an education!’ Relativity is central to modern science and the speed of light is a fundamental constant. Light can't go faster than about 186,000 miles a second and that's that. One could then recite volumes of laboratory studies, experiments, and observations to impress the reader with the power and reliability of special relativity. However, that approach might seem rather dogmatic to someone lacking an education in the sciences. Thus, I will pretend that light once traveled much faster in the past (as might be imagined in Newtonian physics) and work out some of the consequences [with pulsars].

In response, it is certainly true that Relativity has been considered by many to be central to modern science. It is also true that one of its two basic postulates is that the speed of light is an absolute constant throughout the universe. The writer then goes on to talk about “laboratory studies, experiments and observations” which support some of the predictions of Relativity. However, I would like to point out the 300 years of “laboratory studies, experiments and observation” which indicate the speed of light has been dropping with time. Furthermore, this drop is supported by the synchronous variation of 11 other atomic quantities so that, in all, there are 638 measurements by 41 different methods which indicate that this basic postulate of Relativity is incorrect. And it is not just earth-bound data, since astronomical data to the frontiers of the universe also attest to the validity of this as shown in the Monograph Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy .

However, we can go further. The other basic postulate for special relativity is that there is no absolute reference frame for anything anywhere in the universe. Indeed, everything is meant to be relative, which is why it is called the theory of Relativity. Yet even this fundamental postulate of Relativity has been proven false by modern observation. There exists something called the “echo of the Big Bang,” whose correct scientific description is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, or CMBR. The CMBR provides an absolute reference frame for the whole universe. The motion of our solar system has been measured in relation to the CMBR. So, too, has the motion of our Milky Way Galaxy in our Local Group of galaxies. In addition, the motion of our Local Group of galaxies towards the Virgo cluster of galaxies has also been measured in relation to the CMBR. If there were ever any doubt that this was a huge stumbling block for Relativity, then the comments by astrophysicist Martin Harwit in “Astrophysical Concepts,” page 178 (Springer Verlag, 1988) should make the position clear. He states: "...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 the absolute rest-frame of the CMBR shows that relativity is only valid for atomic phenomena, not macroscopic phenomena. As a result of these developments, both of Einstein’s basic postulates have now been shown to be false by experimental data. This means that the very basis of his theory is also false. This is what education and science is all about: discovering what is true and what is false, not just trying to maintain a good theory when discrepant data come in. Science can make its most rapid progress towards the truth of a proposition by examining those areas where data and theory disagree. Towards the end of his life, in 1962, that great physicist, Louis de Broglie put it this way in his book “New Perspectives in Physics,” page 31: Thus, with every advance in our scientific knowledge, new elements come up, often forcing us to recast our entire picture of physical reality. No doubt, theorists would much prefer to perfect and amend their theories rather than be obliged to scrap them continually. But this obligation is the condition and the price of all scientific progress.”

It is with that attitude in mind that analysis of the situation with Relativity shows that all the major predictions of that theory can be reproduced by a very simple approach and high school math. This approach, using the vacuum Zero Point Energy (ZPE), predicts the correct magnitudes of atomic mass increases with velocity, the slowing and bending of light in gravitational fields, 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. This has been done, for example, in my 2012 paper “Zero Point Energy and Relativity” published and reviewed as part of a secular science Conference presentation. It is also a major chapter in Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy, which was peer-reviewed and published by the Natural Philosophy Alliance in July 2013 as part of their Conference proceedings. In conclusion, I personally believe that the sort of education which depends on research is far more desirable than unthinking acquiescence to a theoretical concept, no matter how widely it is supported.

Barry Setterfield, 12th August, 2015.