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"Light Traveled Faster in the Early Universe" -- The Varying Speed of Light Theory (Today's Most Popular)


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The physicist João Magueijo has proposed a heretical question: What if the speed of light—now accepted as one of the unchanging foundations of modern physics—were not constant?  Magueijo, a 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.

The image above provides such a view of very edge of the visible universe. For 10 days, the Hubble Space Telescope gathered light from a speck-sized spot in the sky to reveal this astonishing array of galaxies. Besides classical spiral- and elliptical-shaped galaxies, the "Hubble Deep Field" includes a bewildering variety of other shapes. Some are so distant that scientists believe they may have formed shortly after the creation of the universe.

"A number of surprising observations made at the threshold of the 21st century have left cosmologists confused and other physicists in doubt over the reliability of cosmology," Magueijo says. "For instance it has been found that the cosmological expansion appears to be accelerating. This is contrary to common sense, as it implies that on large scales gravity is repulsive.

"Another upheaval resulted from the high redshift mapping of the fine structure constant. Evidence was found for a time dependence of this supposed constant of Nature. Yet another puzzle was the observation of rare very high energy cosmic rays. Standard kinematic calculations, based on special relativity, predict a cut off well below the observed energies, so this may perhaps represent the first experimental mishap of special relativity."

"These three surprises are not alone and prompt several questions. Is the Universe trying to tell us something radical about the foundations of physics?" he continues. "Or are astronomers merely trying to irritate the conservative physicist? It could well be that the strange observations emerging from the new cosmology are correct, and that they provide a unique window into dramatically novel physics. Is the Universe trying to give us a physics lesson?"

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 first 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.

Joao Magueijo concludes: "One dramatic possibility is that the speed of light is a dynamic variable. If so we may indeed expect the above phenomena to be true. In addition, it could be that near black holes the speed of light congeals to zero, preventing observers from approaching the ``singularity'' and invalidating most current black hole theories. It might also be true that in the vicinity of cosmic strings the speed of light is much higher, allowing for high-speed travel without the annoyances associated with time dilation effects. Yet another possibility is that time variations in c cause the energy stored in the cosmological constant to be converted into normal matter. This process might even account for the creation of the Universe. Or perhaps something even more unpalatable to the unimaginative physicist is behind our existence.

"The amazing possibility remains that these radically new phenomena may also manifest themselves here and now, not just in the very early Universe. Maybe we have only recently started to look hard enough. Crazy as all of these ideas might be, some may already make contact with observations, unlike more conventional approaches to unification and quantization of gravity. For this reason I will argue that these off-the-mainstream "cosmic lessons" may provide the much sought after observational inspiration for such long standing unsolved problems as the quantization of gravity."

The Daily Galaxy via


If the speed of light (which, by the way, is a LOT more than 3×106 [318] meters per second) is variable, it could have huge implications for the future of interplanetary communication, and possibly even interstellar travel.

Imagine another universe physically parallel to our own, less than a millimeter away. That universe's physical laws have a speed of light ten thousand times what we contend with. If we can find a way to transmit photons into that universe as radio waves, then we could communicate with a rover, manned mission, or colony on Mars, Europa, or anywhere else in the Solar System in what amounts to real time.

To work properly, I think the other universe's physical laws would have to be such that organized matter is unstable, which would prevent any life. But that's just an assumption. What if the speed of light was the only difference between that universe and this one? (I doubt that's possible, but I'm just speculating from imagination here.) Then it might be possible to travel at a speed faster than light in our universe, by transferring to the other one, going where we need to go, and then transferring back. I doubt that this would actually be possible, but it's fun to think about.

I do, however, think that the communication scenario may (I say, *may*) one day be possible.

If you're interested in this subject, google "GM=tc^3" for Louise Riofrio's earlier postings and papers on the subject of the slowing speed of light. Her observations on anomalies in Laser rangefinding results between the Earth and the Moon provide a good "case study" of how the slowing of light is observable right now.

Like "String Theory", this should be called "The Varying Speed of Light Hypothesis". Editor's Note: True! It's "not even wrong."

This is an excellent hypothesis. Although if space inside a black hole expands faster than light, then light never escapes. Just as anyone could see that light varied in speed, a simple geometric transform could just as easily imply it was space that was smaller. Both views represent isomorphic points of view. The question then becomes which one has the best linear mapping. That is to say, which one needs the fewest attachments to explain any non-linear effects, or deviations from the simplest of calculations?

Dear Author in Portugal, i agree with your conjecture but for different reason.The start of the Universe was a great anomaly and it should affect the early universe when the so-called physical constants we now identify may show inconstancy of magnitudes. The velocity of light starts higher while the Planck's constant start lower than its current magnitude. Similarly, the unit of charge,e may have a different value. If you provide me your Internet Id, i will be happy to send you my mss's in this regard as attachments for further interaction between us.

This seems to be where we are going to right now and it is a treacherous route to take, but there is hardly any alternative. The variability of physical "constants" is coming up ....

There is also the variable speed of time. Time is slowing down and will eventually stop 20 billion years from now. That changes the whole equation.

I still have trouble believing that gravity from a black hole can hold light but no other gravity can affect its speed.

Does anyone know why the Hubble telescope isn't used to gather light from a speck-sized spot in the sky for 20, or 30, or 100 (or more) days? Why only 10 days? I would think that scientists would want to see what's WAY out there.

At last some imaginative humans are beginning to undo the untold damage done to physics by einstein. not only did einstein probably steal most of his 'original ideas' from previous papaers (remember he worked as a PATENT clerk), but he wasn't intelligent enough to properly understand the ideas he was stealing.

the fundamental reason why einstein was wrong is because he was still hung up on the existence of time. there is no such thing as time. time is merely the 'change of qualities'. e.g. for an ISOLATED particle, until it changes (e.g. its spin, or position) time doesn't exist. time is thus measured by the 'speed of change'. this idea needs to be expressed mathematically then substituted into other equations. Thus you get E=mV2 rather than mC2. G (gravity) thus becomes itself a variable dependent on velocity (or more accurately, acceleration).

This dude is also correct in saying that this way of thinking can lead to an understanding of creation of mass (overcoming the big bang error). the only 'thing' that can come from nothing is not 'something' but 'possibility'. thus a single particle travelling at infinite velocity creates infinite spatial positions, the interactions between those vertices creates fundamental forces, in particular gravity (the attraction to itself, because there is only one). thus taking time out of the equation overcomes the LINEAR requirement for creation of mass. thinking in linear terms is the obstacle, and einstein made it bigger, more difficult to overcome.

best of luck understanding and exploring all this! xx

Last year I sent Joao Magueijo a copy of my paper which I copyrighted last year. In my paper I explain that magnetism can travel faster than light. For those who question that because they believe that light is an electromagnetic wave and therefor cannot travel faster than itself, consider this. Water and glass do not affect magnetism and yet water and glass affect light. They bend it and retard it. If light was a magnetic wave of any type, that would not happen. As with any nuclear explosion there is a magnetic pulse, and there must have been a huge magnetic pulse with the Big Bang. All matter travelling with that pulse would be able to travel faster than the speed of light. For the same reason, we receive neutrinos from a supernova before we receive the light photons. That is possible because the magnetic pulse eminating from the supernova allows the neutrinos to travel faster than the light from the same event. This is what Einstein should have produced:
E=MC^2(AeR) and E≠MC^2(AeV). "Ae" is the effective area of a magnetic field and of course V is velocity, "R" is resistance. If matter is moving with the effective area of a magnetic field, then the electrons relate to the magnetic field the same way that a fly relates to the environment in a car. A fly cannot fly at 100 KPH but if it is in a car moving at 100 Kph, then the fly can fly faster than 100Kph when it flies from the back of the car to the front of the car. Anyone wishing to read my paper can email me at jeffpluim at

@Smartypants: Good point.

I'm just rambling but thinking about gravitational lensing, if light is curved around an object, doesn't it take longer to reach us than what it would have taken if the object in between wasn't there? Does that mean that the objective speed of light is 'constant' but it could take longer to reach us. So isn't the speed of light path-dependent? Unless we know the path (not the displacement) the photons have taken, we cannot be sure how long it has travelled. Maybe for small distances it doesn't matter but what about mega-cosmic distances?

as a lunch room theorist (who sits by himself by the way) i posit that...wha, wha, wait a minute the jocks are throwing french fries at me.

This is just crackpot physics. There is not a shred of proof that velocity of light varies in a vacuum. General relativity is correct, experimentally verified to mind-blowing precision, and it has stood the test of time for 100 years. The biggest problem with it however, is the incompatibility with quantum theory. Quantum theory predicts the very fabric of space-time down to planck lengths is 'rough' due to quantum fluctuations. GR assumes space-time is a smooth continuum. This is where there is conflict.

Captain ! There seems to be a rift in the Space Time Continu....

-- James Ph. Kotsybar

If you travel at near the speed of light,
the Universe before you seems to shrink,
but as you slow down, then what you see might
appear to expand, so that’s what you’d think.

And if that actually is the case –
the Universe is truly expanding –
as we view its rate from sluggish Earth base,
it appears much faster notwithstanding.

We judge this to be acceleration,
as relative to our much-decreased speed
as well as our Earth’s own gravitation.
Such equivalency one must concede.

The farther we focus into the rift,
the more the light seems to stretch and red shift.

To Mark, who posted on August 29th. If Einstein was correct, and if you believe in the Big Bang theory, then how is it possible that, with the universe being only 13.7 billion years old, that the universe is 150 billion light years across. According to Einstein that is not possible, and yet it is so. If you believe Einstein, the universe should only be 27.4 billion light years across (13.7 billion light years in all directions from the Big Bang). Therefore, Einstein was WRONG. How difficult is it to use some simple logic to see the obvious. People/physicists who continue to spout the dogma of Einstein, are stuck in a rut because unless you espouse the dogma of Einstein you cannot receive your PhD. It's a catch 22 situation. Einstein was only right if you are moving through a static magnetic field. I have been saying this for years and finally people are starting to think about it in proper terms.
I will send my paper to anyone requesting it at
The paper was copyrighted in 2011 with the equations right in the title of the paper so that "Johnny come latelys" like Professor Joao Magueijo cannot take credit for ideas that I have been pushing for years. And yet here in this online magazine, they are giving him credit for something that I sent to him a year before he "came up with the idea".

SR/GR can not be correct. If a thing is moving at a constant velocity relative to an observer, then measurement over time will integrate to give a very accurate position prediction and also a very accurate velocity prediction, and would violate uncertainty. Therefore it is not possible to travel in an inertial frame of rest. Travelling in an average inertial frame of rest may however be possible. But this would imply oscillation about the inertial velocity and a harmonic mean.

The idea that observers are inertially at rest is a fantasy of the mind and abstraction, as the observer also has to oscillate about it's average velocity, and this is where some forces come from. Seeing the observed oscillating, from an oscillating observation position, particle to particle. The eye average being static is an illusion.

As for QM, the bulk statistic of prediction, is not a motion model. Things move. Even if they appear/disappear, They still have transit, and hence motional limits or bound paths. If there is no path binding, then how is the potential field created? And should not it be wobbly too?

Your all nuts!

To Jeff P, how does this play out if Einstein is correct but the big bang theory is wrong? What if the universe had billions of galaxies in it but only a big bunch of them collapsed in on each other and later exploded out leading us to think a big all creating bang happened? Please excuse me if this isn't really plausible as I am not a cosmologist or anything of the sort.

So, Jeff... I'm guessing you don't believe in string theory, m-theory, and other "higher-dimensional" hypotheses?

To Bob Greenwade, I don't see any conflict between my magnetic pulse theory and string theory or other dimensional theories. Not familiar with m-theory.

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.

if the speed of light varies, slowing down further away from the point of origan. then our perception of galaxies increasingly moving away faster. could be just an optical illusion, when galaxies are further away from point of origan, light should move slower and therefor not moving faster away as we think.

What if you're both wrong and the universe is traveling back in time. That would make the Big Bang back into the previously dis credited Big Crunch and speed would be negative?

I quite like this theory.
OK I'm not educated in theoretical physics, but to my simple mind it explains why the universe has not beginning or end.
Having recently watched Brian Cox's series on the universe, he stated that in the "end" the universe will only be filled with photons at absolute zero.
Now energy cannot be created or destroyed.
So if I have a photon with a single unit of energy and using Einstein's equation E=mC2.
then m=E/C2.
Now if C decreases over time then m should increase, in turn increasing gravitational pull on any surrounding photos, eventually the universe will collapse on itself creating a new big bang.

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