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Was the Speed of Light Faster in the Early Universe?

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0115710efef4970c-500wi A brilliant young physicist João Magueijo  asks the heretical question: What if the speed of light—now accepted as one of the unchanging foundations of modern physics—were not constant?

Magueijo, a 40-year old native of Portugal, puts forth the heretical idea that in the very early days of the universe light traveled faster—an idea that if proven could dethrone Einstein and forever change our understanding of the universe. He is a pioneer of the varying speed of light (VSL) theory of cosmology -an alternative to the more mainstream theory of cosmic inflation- which proposes that the speed of light in the early universe was of 60 orders of magnitude faster than its present value.

Vsl Solving the most intractable problems of cosmology in one brilliant leap, Magueijo’s varying-speed-of-light theory (VSL) would have stunning implications for space travel, black holes, time dilation, and string theory—and could help uncover the grand unified theory that ultimately eluded Einstein.

Joao Magueijo's radical ideas intend to turn that Einsteinian dogma on its head. Marueijo is trying to pick apart one of Einstein’s most impenetrable tenets, the constancy of the speed of light. This idea of a constant speed (about 3×106 meters/second) -is known as the universal speed limit. Nothing can, has, or ever will travel faster than light.

Magueijo -who received his doctorate from Cambridge, has been a faculty member at Princeton and Cambridge, and is currently a professor at Imperial College, London- says: not so. His VSL theory presupposes a speed of light that can be energy or time-space dependent.

In his fist book, Faster than the Speed of Light, Magueijo leads laymen readers into the abstract realm of theoretical physics, based on several well known, as well as obscure, thinkers. The VSL model was first proposed by John Moffat, a Canadian scientist, in 1992. Magueijo carefully builds the foundations for a discussion of Big Bang cosmology, and then segues into the second half of the book, which is devoted to VSL theory.

Like most radical, potentially seminal thinkers,  Magueijo shakes the foundations of the physics community, while irritating off many of his fellow scientists. VSL purposes to solve the problems at which all cosmologists are forever scratching: those inscrutable conceptual puzzles that surround the Big Bang. Currently many of these problems have no widely accepted solutions.

Could Einstein be wrong and Magueijo right? Is he a gadfly or a true, seminal genius? Time will tell.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

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Maybe I've missed something obvious but hasn't scientists known that the speed of light isn't constant for years now? That's how refraction occurs and it's been recorded at going 37mph through sodium.


They mean the absolute speed of light in a vacuum (3e8m/s if my memory serves me right). That is not the same as the local speed of light through a medium, which is lower than that.

Interestingly enough, if you go faster than the local speed of light, you emit Cherenkov Radiation. It's beautiful, check it out...

I've always wondered why we think the speed is constant when the direction and wavelength are so easily manipulated. But I can't prove it, so I'll shut up now.

Wow. How do you test this theory when the universe was dime-sized compared to today?

But if the universe is expanding faster today than yesterday, perhaps in the beginning when two giant branes bump together, though the first touch could be the smallest point, a singularity, it might then be rapidly followed by large sheets of adjacent brane colliding, creating an immediately bigger university having identical information than a singularity could accomplish.

the speed of light is 3.14159 mph beamed thru the bureau of motor vehicles.

The commentator did post his comments when this item was initially posted sometime back. The same are missing again to his dismay! Any way there is experimental observation made using very large aperture radio telescopes in Australia. It looked at a distant galaxy and discovered that the speeed of light from it was indeed higher than the stipulated value. It is wrong to say that the velocity of light has to remain constant for all times/ages of the Universe. If there are space /time inhomegeneities, the velocity can change. Only in perfectly homogenious space that it needs to be constant. In fact, a technique is currently being developed that will permit space to get expanded behind and contracted ahead of a space ship, enabling it to move faster than c, in order to explore distant objects in space! In fact, other so-called constants in Physics may also have changed magnitude in the same way. It has been confirmed for the e/m ratio for the electron experimentally. In fact the farther the object in space is , closer to Big bang, the expectation for larger change in these values are expected to emerge. It does not and will not affect the existing theories in Physics, including Einstein's.

This article explains one of the mysteries in the Bible: how did Old Testament figures like Noah live to be hundreds of years old? If light traveled faster back then, it means that time moved slower, which allowed them to live longer. Just a layman guess here.

IF light is affected by a gravity well or distortion in space-time then why, if the early universe was smaller and denser nearer the big bang, couldn't light be pulled or attracted into a faster or even a slower speed by the effect of gravity?

The structure of space-time is undoubtedly influenced by the distribution of matter around it. In the early universe, that distribution was radically different.

Since the speed of light is clearly a result of how the structure of space-time interacts with EM energy, I'd have to say: Go for it, dude. Everyone has been scratching their head.

If the speed of light has been variable over the eons of time, then how would one be able to verify any constant for light over any one (1) period of time at any location in space, especially if the density of space may differ by geopgraphy, time, proximity to other large phenomen like black holes, supernovas, etc.?

It makes my head ache to think of how wiggly/squirmy-like this VSL theory can be to someone like me who likes a constant to STAY a constant, forever. I can understand the idea/theory of a variable speed of light, just like I can theoretically accept a variable constant for gravity, etc. but how to pin such a thing down, and then how to plot or graph such changes over time/space, blows what little brain circuits I can spare for this concept. WD

Teoría Conectada: The best physics theory since 1687

The new Copernican revolution

I read Lee Smolin's book ‘Las dudas de la física en el siglo XXI’, 2007, Ed. Crítica. Wonderful. I have seen that Lee Smolin are looking for a new big idea, the fundamental simply idea for the progress and unification of physics. Seems that Smolin got the conviction that both quantum mechanics and GR theorys don’t understand the deep nature of time (page 355). It is right for GR unless.

Here is what i say:
No more Lorentz’s Transformations. The new alternatives transformations (’relational transformations’) are deduced on ‘LA PARADOJA DE LOS GEMELOS DE LA TEORÍA DE LA RELATIVIDAD ESPECIAL DE EINSTEIN’, f.i., equations (22) and (23) with “C” and “D” given by (42) and (43) , pages (33) to (36). From them arises the ‘teoría relacional’, an alternative to special relativity.
The generalitation of this ‘teoría relacional’, the unique possible classic alternative to GR, appears on ‘EXTRACTO DE LA TEORÍA CONECTADA'. 3 are the fundamental equations. (84), (171) and (172), pages (146) and (182). This 3=24 equations are necessary in order to eliminate the Newton-Einstein’s absolute space. There are not absolutes accelerations (neither absolutes velocities, of course).

The Dark Matter problem is solved in ‘Apéncice C’, page 205 (Exponential factor gets important at large distance from the center).

What about a “quantum teoría conectada”? I believe that you can say something important about it.

Xavier Terri
Terrassa 2009 august 6

P.D.: Smolin IS completely certain when he tell that the great historic mistake comes from Descartes-Galileo ('Las dudas de la física en el s.XXI', pages 355-356). This great historic error is the Principle of Inertia (movement is a relational concept. It is completely false that the movement of ALL free bodies is a straight line. Some of them move, respect the SAME reference system, in a curved way. Spacetime metric defines a specific relationship betwen bodies and reference system.Pure evidence beyond the reason: at night, see the stars). Also, Principle of Inertia leads us to the inertial-non inertial dichotomy. Where is INVARIANCE of physical laws? (pages 45 on 'Paradoja' and 141, eq. (77), on 'Teoría Conectada').

Dr. João Magueijo:

Não sou muito dada a idolatrar excelentes cantores (nacionais e/ou estrangeiros)e confesso que ainda não li nenhum livro da sua autoria mas já estou cativada pelo seu olhar e pela sua postura! Embora não seja sobredotada e como "a esperança é a última a morrer", ainda acredito que poderei ter a oportunidade de vir a conhecer as suas teorias!!!
O nosso "jardim à beira mar plantado" pode ser muito pequenino mas o certo é que continua a produzir mentes extraordinárias!
- Seria possível enviar-me textos acerca das últimas novidades científicas? Se tiver um minutinho, ficar-lhe-ia muito agradecida!

Beijinhos da sua fã


Because Lorentz Contraction, Dr. Joao Magueijo said in FASTER THEN THE SPEED OF LIGHT that quantum mechanics and Lorentz Transformation are not compatible.
It seems to me that Dr. Joao Magueijo would like my new "Lorentz transformation". It's called 'transformaciones relacionales' and can be found on open e-prints, Relativity and Cosmology (34, 63, 64, ...)

P.D.: "New Lorentz's transformations" are not the same that old Lorentz Transformation. We never will return to Newton absolute space.What do you think about 'teoría conectada'?

Would VSL not explain quantum leaps in evolution?

Without mass what is the speed of light. In another universe wonder if light speed is very slow or faster than all others. What is the ultimate mesurement of light speed's distance understanding the closed & opened universe theories.

Without mass what is the speed of light. In another universe wonder if light speed is very slow or faster than all others. What is the ultimate mesurement of light speed's distance understanding the closed & opened universe theories.

I have no background or education in physics, but like to think about this stuff all the time for fun.

If speed is distance over time, then the speed of light doesn't need to change, only one of the two factors needs to change relative to the other.

I've wondered for a long time why we always think of time as a constant. If time is the mechanism by which information is transmitted across a distance, and you assume time decays by the square root of itself, what happens from the moment of the big bang going forward?

Following these concepts, was the universe actually smaller at the time of the big bang, or could it have been exactly the same size as it is today, only taking more time for events to communicate across the distance? Should we be calling it "The Big Slowdown" instead of "The Big Bang"?

Fun stuff to think about!

I have long agreed with the concept that the speed of light is falling. I have some data posted on a site to show this:

I also have linked to this page with the data from João Magueijo

The relationship of time and space is based on the speed of light. The interval of one second is quite arbitrary, but once it is selected, to an observer within the system the distance he will measure between two points that light travels in that interval of time is 299,792,458 metres. It is quite possible that a clock and a meter scale manufactured 13.7 billions years ago would keep time and display length quite differently from what we have today, but using them we would have still got the speed of light as 299,792,458 metres/ second, just because that is how they are related. Variable Speed of Light actually defaults to variable scales of time and distance, which funnily enough varies in the same proportion, such that speed of light is pretty much constant. Einstein was a tough nut ;-)

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