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History of the Light-Speed Debate


from the February 12, 2013 eNews issue
http://www.khouse.org (visit our website for a FREE subscription)

[Last week we began an overview on the possibility that the speed of light has been slowing down since the beginning of the universe. This is a continuation of that article.]

Since 1987, when V. S. Troitskii argued that light speed had originally been about 1010 times faster than now, a multitude of papers on cosmology and the speed of light have shown up in journals and on the web. The theories abound as to what is changing, and in relation to what, and what the possible effects are.

As the storm around the 1987 report settled down, Barry Setterfield got back to work, investigating the data rather than playing around with pure theory. Meanwhile, halfway around the world from Australia, in Arizona, a respected astronomer named William Tifft was finding something strange going on with the redshift measurements of light from distant galaxies. It had been presumed that the shift toward the red end of the spectrum of light from these distant galaxies was due to a currently expanding universe, and the measurements should be seen as gradually but smoothly increasing as one went through space. That wasn’t what Tifft was finding. The measurements weren’t smooth. They jumped from one plateau to another. They were quantized, or came in quantities with distinct breaks in between them.

When Tifft published his findings, astronomers were incredulous and dismissive. In the early 1990s in Scotland, two other astronomers decided to prove him wrong once and for all. Guthrie and Napier collected their own data and studied it. They ended up deciding Tifft was right [T. Beardsley, Scientific American 267:6 (1992), p. 19;. J. Gribbin, New Scientist 9 July (1994), 17; R. Matthews, Science 271 (1996), 759]. What was going on? Barry Setterfield read the material and studied the data. The universe could not be expanding if the red shift measurements were quantized. Expansion would not occur in fits and starts. So what did the red shift mean? While most others were simply denying the Tifft findings, Barry took a closer look. And it all started to make sense. While many articles continued to be published regarding theoretical cosmologies with little regard for much of the data available, Barry was more interested in the data.

Yet, his work is not referenced by any of the others. The Stanford paper is just about forgotten, if it was ever known, by the folks in mainstream physics and astronomy. However, not only are the measurements still there, but the red shift data has added much more information, making it possible to calculate the speed of light back to the first moment of creation. So Barry wrote another paper and submitted it to a standard physics journal in 1999. They did not send it to peer review but returned it immediately, saying it was not a timely subject, was of no current interest, and was not substantial enough. (It was over fifty pages long with about a hundred and fifty references to standard physics papers and texts.) So Barry resubmitted it to an astronomy journal. They sent it out to peer review and the report came back that the paper was really interesting but that it really belonged in a physics journal. So, in 2000, he sent it off to another physics journal. They refused it because they did not like one of the references Barry used: a university text on physics.

There is a reason that Barry’s work is not being referenced by mainstream scientists – or even looked at by most. If Barry is right about what the data are indicating, we are living in a very young universe. This inevitable conclusion will never be accepted by standard science. Evolution requires billions of years.

And there is a reason why the major creation organizations are holding his work at an arm’s length as well: they are sinking great amounts of money into trying to prove that radiometric dating procedures are fatally flawed. According to what Barry is seeing, however, they are not basically flawed at all: there is a very good reason why such old dates keep appearing in the test results. The rate of decay of radioactive elements is directly related to the speed of light. When the speed of light was higher, decay rates were faster, and the long ages would be expected to show up. As the speed of light slowed down, so the radioactive decay rates slowed down.

By assuming today’s rate of decay has been uniform, the earth and universe look extremely old. Thus, the evolutionists are happy with the time that gives for evolution and the creationists are looking for flaws in the methods used for testing for dates. But if the rates of decay for the different elements have not been the same through time, then that throws both groups off! Here was an "atomic clock" which ran according to atomic processes and, possibly, a different "dynamical" clock, the one we use everyday, which is governed by gravity – the rotation and revolution rates of the earth and moon. Could it be that these two "clocks" were not measuring time the same way? A data analysis suggested this was indeed happening. Tom Van Flandern, with a Ph.D. from Yale in astronomy, specializing in celestial mechanics, and for twenty years (1963-1983) Research Astronomer and Chief of the Celestial Mechanics Branch at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., released the results of some tests showing that the rate of ticking of the atomic clock was measurably slowing down when compared with the "dynamical clock." (Tom Van Flandern was terminated from his work with that institution shortly thereafter, although his work carries a 1984 publication date.)

In recognizing this verified difference between the two different "clocks," it is important to realize that the entire dating system recognized by geology and science in general, saying that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and the universe somewhere around ten billion years older than that, might be thrown into total disarray. The standard science models cannot deal with that. The standard creation models cannot, at this point, deal with the fact that radiometric dating may be, for the most part, telling the truth on the atomic clock. And, meanwhile, the Hubble spacecraft keeps sending back data which keep slipping into Barry Setterfield’s model as though they actually belonged there.

[The majority of this article was excerpted from "History of the Light-Speed Debate" by Helen Setterfield, originally published in the July 2002 Personal Update NewsJournal]

Related Links:

History of the Light-Speed Debate – Koinonia House
Speed of Light Slowing Down? – WorldNetDaily
Physical Constants and Evolution of the Universe – Astrophysics and Space Science
The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time – Setterfield.org

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