Apologetics at the Speed of Light
In Defense of the Faith
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
By Wendy Wippel
You know in comic strips when the little light bulb appears on top of a character’s head? Meaning they just had a Eureka moment? I had mine this morning. And as someone for whom apologetics is like crack, all I can say is that I should have caught this earlier. Because it changes everything.
We all know that God made the world (and everything and everybody in it) in six days and called it good.
No problem there.
And we all sat through the laws of thermodynamics in grade school:
First law of thermodynamics – Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms.
Second law of thermodynamics – Entropy (meaning disorder) increases over time.
Third law of thermodynamics – As temperature approaches absolute zero, the entropy of a system approaches a constant minimum.
The God who created energy in the beginning is outside this closed system we live in, so rule #1 stands. We’re stuck with the total energy the universe has now, but it can be changed into another form.
Rule #3 is a hypothetical situation, as we cannot achieve absolute zero even in laboratory conditions, so lets ignore that.
Which leaves the Rule behind door #2. Entropy (disorder, chaos) always increases. The universe we live in is slowly but steadily wearing out.
Homer Simson once observed that “In this house, we obey the second law of thermodynamics”. Yep, in my house too. Left alone, things wear out. Decay. Because in this universe we obey the second law of thermodynamics.
The implication there; my “Eureka!” moment this morning. If God made everything and said it was good, what happened? Why is entropy increasing?
The Fall. And since the laws of thermodynamics were deduced by scientists Clasius and Kelvin about 1850 (which was obviously after the fall), their rules describe the fallen world, not the one God originally gave us.
Dunno why that took so long for that synapse to fire.
Romans 8:20 kind of says that:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Romans 8:20-21
Decay is the product of the fall, not part of God’s original design, and that explains all the changes in creation since the God said it was good.
Which include, apparently includes the speed of light.
We were all taught in grade school that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. To put it mildly, is pretty dang fast.
For perspective, 186,000 miles per second means that light moves at about a foot per nanosecond. And a nanosecond, for those of you who might not sit around reading astrophysics journals for fun, is a billionth of a second.
We have trouble wrapping our minds around these kind of numbers. Computer Scientist and Rear Admiral of the Navy Grace Hopper thought up this way to explain to her bosses why even at the speed of light, messages to space took a while. She acquired, as a visual aid, a piece of wire that represented how far light could travel in a nanosecond. (Just under one foot.)
Then she acquired a length of wire that represented how far light could travel in a microsecond. 984 feet. So how far could light travel in a second?
She didn’t have to do that experiment, we all learned it. 186,000 miles. But that would be one giant piece of wire. It would wrap around the earth about nine times.
That’s how fast light is.
Early Greek experiments seemed to show, in fact, that the speed of light was infinite. A Danish Astronomist, Olaf Roemer, reported his findings to the Paris Academe Des Sciences in 1676, reporting that the unexpected eclipse cycles of a moon of Jupiter named, Io, would make sense if the speed of light was infinite, apparently confirming the conclusions of the Greek experiments. The first first official scientific paper (shortly after scientific papers were invented) was published in 1729 by James Bradley, whose work also seemed to confirm that the speed of light was infinite.
Scientists, primarily in England, however, continued to try to measure the speed of light, and a funny thing happened. When someone looked at all the results over the centuries, the speeds measured went steadily down. Just fractions of seconds at a time, but consistently slower. All told, the speed of light had been measured about 300 times. And, over time, the measured speeds consistently dropped.
The skeptics say that over that many centuries, with multiple investigators and multiple methods, those results don’t really hold much weight. But sometimes one person, using the same instruments, measured the speed of light more than once. And still saw a consistent drop in speed at later time points.
Tiny, tiny, drops. But consistent enough that by the 1920’s some scientists started to think about how to really prove whether or not the speed of light was constant. An idea that was pondered by mainstream physicists for several decades with results that led Ramond Bilge, Chairman of the Berkley physics Department, to recommend several small decreases in the official speed of light through the 20s and 30s.
Bilge, however, had a strange change of mind in 1940, when he published a curious scientific paper Entitled The General physical Constants as of August 1940 with Details on the Velocity of Light Only.
This is what he said:
“This paper is being written on request… at this time, on request,……A belief in any significant variability in the constants of nature is fatal to the spirit of science, as science is now understood.”
Somebody, somebody unknown, apparently feared that questioning the constants would throw physics into intellectual turmoil. So…essentially, a referendum was issued.
The constancy of constants must not be questioned.
And as every research scientist knows (hey, I was one of them) if you want to fund your research, you tow the party line. Bottom line? Research on the speed of light stopped.
Which is why we were all taught that the speed of light was a constant– that light was that speed at the beginning. And we were taught that it is still that speed, and that it will always be that speed. In fact, the speed of light, notated for short as “ C “ is considered the King of constants, one that a lot of other constants are based on.
Which is why all of us, many years after grade school, can confidently tell anyone who may ask that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Still.
The speed of light has always been the one thing we could count on never changing.
Brace yourself. It would seem that we’ve been just a little misled.
It all started with a guy named Barry Setterfield, an Australian astronomer who was given a book of anomalies in astronomy. And in that book it mentioned the ambiguity that still existed regarding the speed of light.
Barry was stupefied that there was any uncertainty (Australian schools apparently being just like ours), and intrigued, and spent some thereafter reading up on everything that had been put in print about scientific efforts to nail the speed of light down. And then he started writing up what he had learned.
His fellow scientists weren’t impressed. Mostly because Barry was a Christian, and much of his work up till then was carried by Creationist ministries.
Then he recruited Trevor Norman, also an Australian physicist, and wrote up a scientific paper relating his evidence that it did seem, to show, in fact, that the speed of light was slowing.
And the article was published. That is, until was rescinded by the two Universities who had promoted it after being informed that both authors were (Horrors !!), creationists.
(And that meant, of course, despite their IQs and his education and accomplishments up to the minute they got interested in this didn’t matter. They were a creationists, meaning idiots by definition.
A second paper providing more detailed evidence was just unanimously rejected.
And that was the end of that. Setterfield and Norman to this day speak at conferences and answer questions put to them from scientists and the general population about their evidence, but they’ve been ridiculed in the scientific community.
And maybe worse, ignored. But the evidence that the speed of light may, in fact, not have been constant since the first photon was formed has continued to accumulate, and other scientists are now theorizing what Setterfield had proposed way before. That the speed of light may not, actually be eternally constant.
Particularly Joao Magueijo, a Portugese Theoretical physicist, at imperial London College. He has become a superstar off of his theory, Variable speed of light theory, with multiple books on the market and a papers published regarding the inconstancy of the speed of light.
The work of Magueijo, and his colleague, Dr. Andereas Albrecht at Cal-Davis, seems to provide answers for issues heretofore unresolved, for example, why the still expanding universe is essentially all the same temperature. (Answer: because the universe, kind of led by the speed of light, expanded so fast at the beginning that all of the universe that we can measure essentially came into existence at the same time. So it has all cooled to the same temperature.)
In fact, according to the calculations of Andreas and Magueijo, at the beginning of the expansion of the universe light was traveling at no less than 1860000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 miles per second.
Which would mean that when Solomon reigned over Israel, light was twice as fast as it is now. And that it was four times as fast when Abraham was in the wilderness.
An interesting piece of Bible trivia, but not something the physicists would really care about. But they do have a reason to care about whether or not these theories about light being much faster at the beginning of creation are actually true. A big one. And’s it’s called Atomic time. There are two ways that time has been officially measured in our liftetimes: the the current (since 1967) is Atomic time, which uses as the basic unit the speed at which a cesium electron completes one orbit of the atomic nucleus. It is based on electromagnet data.
The former method, used before 1967, was called dynamic time, and was based on units obtained by dividing the period of time that it takes the earth to make one complete orbit around the sun. This method uses gravitational data.
The atomic clock is more accurate, but only by like a billionth of a second.
The funny thing is that scientists now know that these two types of measurements give very different values for the age of the universe.
Why would that be?
The Atomic method’s calculations are tied to the speed of light. The higher the speed of light used in the calculations, the longer the time frame determined.
The smaller the speed of light used, the shorter the time span.
Remember that estimated speed at the beginning? 186,000 with 70 zeros/second? If the new theories are correct, the speed of light has dropped tremendously since the beginning.
And new calculations need to be made. And when they make them, the scientists will be horrified.
Not enough time for evolution. In fact, the data seems to say that the universe is less than 10,000 years old.
Anyone here surprised?
I’m going to have to paraphrase Sir Francis Bacon one more time, “a lot of science always brings you back” to God.
I just can’t help myself. Every time.