Scientists in Scotland announced today that they had made light go slower than its supposed absolute speed, in space, of roughly 186,000 miles per second.
They did it by passing a photon through a special mask intending to slow the photon down, which it did, unremarkably, as it has been known for some time that photons can be slowed down by substances like water or glass through which they pass. The mask was a software controlled liquid crystal device, but no matter, it did its job and slowed the photon down by reconfiguring its pattern.
Then a spooky thing happened. After passing through the mask, it didn’t speed back up as would normally be the case. It kept at its slightly slower pace, losing a race with a control photon which was released at the instant the test photon emerged from the mask. Light, and well, presumably time, and the evolution of the universe, and the composition of black holes, and the properties of dark matter and energy of which 96% of the universe is purportedly made, and the capacity of interpreting gravitational lensing; indeed, the very foundations of the scientific materialist catechism were ineluctably altered. If the speed of light is not absolute, if it is not the same for all observers, no matter their frame of reference, then General and Special Relativity, Einstein’s empirically compromised theories of how the universe is put together, must be abandoned.
Here’s what the great man himself said about the speed of light:
“… light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity [speed] c which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.”
[From his paper that first proposed Special Relativity, “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper”, Annalen der Physik 17: 891; English translation On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies by George Barker Jeffery and Wilfrid Perrett (1923)]
Unless light has a definite speed, none of the rest of Special Relativity, and its extension that accounted for gravity, General Relativity, has any validity in logic. It may have practical validity, i.e., it may be useful for predicting the behavior of physical bodies in some contexts, but it hasn’t any logical validity. Because Special Relativity resolutely depends on the speed of light being fixed, the same for all observers, no matter their state of motion. It is a foundational postulate of the theory. And General Relativity builds its predictive model on the framework of Special Relativity.
The notion that the speed of light must be always the same no matter the speed of the observer is a logical quagmire that drove at least one sailor in a round-the-world solo yachting trip to madness. Speed is a relative thing. It can only be a relative thing. The notion of speed is the exercise of measuring the velocity of one object relative to some other object that is stationary relative to the first object. When an Olympic sprinter races down the track, his speed is measured on a stopwatch relative to the stationary earth over which he runs. The earth itself is moving at all times, spinning on its axis and moving around the sun and wobbling a bit here and there, but none of that is accounted for when measuring the sprinter’s speed relative to the flat patch of earth comprising the track where he runs. The earth, which is stationary relative to the sprinter, is the yardstick of measurement. In fact, for ordinary human affairs, the earth is generally always used as the yardstick for measuring speed, because for our purposes, though as Galileo whispered, “It moves”, it does so in a manner imperceptible to the humans living upon it (except perhaps during earthquakes, which is part of why they can be so psychologically disorienting).
Now, imagine that we would like to find some stable frame of reference for measuring speed in the entire universe in a manner similar to how we measure speed relative to the earth’s surface here on our home planet. To do so, there has to be something stationary to measure everything against. Physicists believed for a good while that there must be some aether through which matter and energy passed, but that was itself stationary, so was capable of providing a yardstick. Einstein, and others, didn’t like the notion of an aether, so cast about looking for a different absolute, and found it, in the speed of light. If the speed of light is the same for every observer, no matter whether they are moving toward or away from its source, then light is essentially stationary for the purposes of measuring speed.
How a thing can be said to be moving relative to an observer, but whose velocity is not perceptibly different if the observer is moving, constitutes the logical conundrum that drove the sailor mad. And for good reason. There is no logical way to resolve the quandary. It simply must be accepted. Something of how the resurrection of Christ must be accepted if one is to believe in the divinity of Jesus.
In any event, if the premise fails, the theory fails. And today it was announced that the premise fails; that light does not always “…propagate in empty space with a definite velocity.”
Undoubtedly, there will be no abandonment of the theories of Special and General Relativity with this latest chink in its logical armor. Theoretical physicists of the cosmos these days are more mystical than Medieval Catholic priests. Newton is their Abrahamic patriarch and Einstein their Davidian extoller of the beauty and virtue of imagining creation into existence, although Newton was as much concerned with alchemy as he was gravity, and Einstein could never reconcile his mind or his majestic General Theory with the notion of probabilistic determination at the quantum level. By now, Einstein’s contributions are sanctified, even as the very aether he was trying to eliminate with the Special Theory has reappeared as Dark Matter and Energy in an attempt to reconcile the observed behavior of the universe with his General Theory. 96% of the universe is said to be comprised of Dark Matter and Energy, which does not interact in any way with the observable universe except to provide the missing gravity that Einstein’s equations need in order for the theory to fit the observations. It sounds a lot like aether.
I’m no physicist, but am something of an armchair philosopher. If even I can detect the mystical nature of theoretical cosmology these days, and its vanity in trying ensure that its founder’s theories don’t flounder, surely a few in the physicist community can see what’s up.
The most troubling aspect of the catechism developed around scientific materialism and its origin mythologies is that people are as gullible about science and as subject to the biases of scientists as they were to those priests in the Middle Ages, yet the theology is just as mystical as was Catholic scholasticism. The Big Bang Theory seems more plausibly true than the scribblings of a band of Semitic sheepherders passed down through the ages about the world being created in six days. But the Big Bang Theory is still a myth. It can’t be proved any more than the origin myths of the Hebrews can be proved. It carries the patina of science, but really, it is speculation parading around naked, thinking it is covered in a magnificently-woven scientific overcoat.
And lest there be any doubt as to whether scientists are afflicted with the same human foibles as the rest of humanity no matter their claim to rationality and objectivity, consider the Doomsday Clock, which was moved forward yesterday. It was originally started by nuclear bomb scientists shortly after World War Two to highlight how dangerous they imagined the world had become because of their discoveries. In other words, it appears to have started as a means for the scientists to assuage their guilt. It has now taken on a more overtly political tenor. With the move forward, humanity now sits at three minutes till Doomsday, where the day before we had a whole five. The shortened period until doomsday was mainly attributed to still-existing nuclear weaponry, and that other of science-created religions, anthropogenic global warming. I wonder, were an asteroid expected to crash into earth in a few days and devastate the life-carrying capacity of earth, would the Doomsday Clock actually be used to catalog our last hours? Or, would it sit as it has now for over sixty years, always a few ticks away from doom?
The speed of light is not absolute. For those vested in believing the myths generated of Einstein’s Relativity, the revelation will be ignored, as it will mainly be ignored by those vested in believing myths generated by a band of Semitic shepherds thousands of years ago, except perhaps as proof their mythology is true when all it really proves is that Relativity mythology might be false (there is always the chance it is accidentally true). It is only skeptics of both Relativity and Judeo Christianity, like me, for whom the revelation really matters. We don’t anymore know how we came to be than we know why we’re here, which comes as no surprise to me. None of the other animals are privy to such knowledge. Why should we be? The human mind innately craves order and purpose and reason. It is quite challenging to subvert instinct and live without belief where the evidence of order, purpose and reason are lacking. But the rewards include the possibility of seeing things as they are. I think it’s worth it.