Jason Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper, More

This won’t be a very long post. The last time we wrote about this subject was Jason Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper, Again. As you know, Jason Lisle, Ph.D. is the creationist astrophysicist employed by Answers in Genesis (AIG).

Jason has another post on his “instant starlight” theory, which you can read here: Asking about ASC, Part 1. “ASC” is his abbreviation for Anisotropic Synchrony Convention. Jason’s post today is his first regarding feedback he received on his theory. There should be at least one more.

We’re not going to summarize what Jason says, because our readers discussed the identical points — e.g., the Michelson-Morley experiment and Maxwell’s equations — in almost 100 comments to our last thread. Although there’s nothing new for us in Jason’s post today, we’re bringing it to your attention because this is an interesting subject, and until Jason’s theory becomes a farce — which hasn’t happened yet — we’ll stay with it.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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67 responses to “Jason Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper, More

  1. Ole Jason looks like a Bible Thumper. If I saw him in public that would be my first thought.
    Gotta give the boy credit though. Speed of light is the ’round trip’ speed? Is he trying to say the speed one way is not measureable? Which leg is he referring to?

  2. NDaBoonies says:

    Is he trying to say the speed one way is not measurable?

    That’s what he’s saying. It was a surprise to me, but it’s been covered rather extensively in the comments to our last thread on this. I’m not convinced, but it’s a fun subject.

  3. I owe you thanks btw. I took your advise to stop arguing with Creatinists.
    Now my heart rate and blood pressure are down. I don’t obssess over what argument to make to ‘win’ those debates. Life is good.

    Another question for you. What do you think the Discoveroids would do should they ever realize their goal of replacing Evolution with Creationism in the grade schools?

  4. until Jason’s theory becomes a farce

    What do you mean, “until?”

  5. NDaBoonies says:

    What do you think the Discoveroids would do should they ever realize their goal of replacing Evolution with Creationism in the grade schools?

    Next target: geology. Then astronomy. Eventually, blasphemy trials and witch burnings.

  6. What do you think the Discoveroids would do should they ever realize their goal of replacing Evolution with Creationism in the grade schools?

    That’s only the first part of the Wedge. Young creationists going off to college will get smacked in the face by reality. The next step would be to replace college science departments with creationists, otherwise the plan is spoiled.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    He shouldn’t say “model” or “rebuttal”. ASC is a convention. like measuring length in feet or time in seconds, and thus it can’t be right, wrong, or rebutted–just useful or not useful.

    Where Lisle is a liar is that he is presenting a convention, which he didn’t invent, as a scientific theory like Newton’s Laws. Nobody so far has found anything wrong with the convention.

    Lisle’s convention only helps the creationist cause in that you can regard events in the universe that we see “now” as actually happening “now” as opposed to “however long ago it took light to get here”. He still has to cope with a five-billion-year-old soalr system.

  8. I still say that his particular version of ASC should have discernible effects in what we see happening in the galaxies around us.

    When gravity can affect things in the earthward direction instantly, but gravity can only affect things in the opposite direction at 0.5c, that seems like something we should be able to see.

    A recent paper by Chakrabarti has looked at evidence for dwarf galaxies orbiting our galaxy and others. The study looks solid to me, and the evidence for such dwarf galaxies around other galaxies is a slam dunk.

    I realize that isn’t meant to be evidence against Lisle’s version of ASC, but it works quite well – by looking at cold H around galaxies and the “wakes” in the gas caused by the dwarf galaxies moving through, she’s found evidence of dwarf galaxies that are too dim to be seen.

    I can’t help but assume the wakes seen would be very differently shaped if the gravity of the dwarf galaxy was affecting gas for hundreds of light years on the earthward side instantly, while not affecting the gas on the far side for 2x years.

    While we (probably) can’t determine whether or not c is synchronous or asynchronous, it is pretty straight-forward to disprove Lisle’s version of it.

    I love how he claims victory because no one has written in his pet journal. I think he has been invited to write in a real science journal, but unsurprisingly has declined. The guy ain’t stupid, just blind.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    @WebMonk:

    No, because your definition of “what happens at the same time” has to change with the speed of light, and as long as that happens , there’s no observable effect.

    While we (probably) can’t determine whether or not c is synchronous or asynchronous, it is pretty straight-forward to disprove Lisle’s version of it.

    I don’t know what you mean by “c is synchronous or asynchronous”–c is a speed and synchronicity is about how we determine what happens when, but if it’s so goddamned obvious to refute then write it up for all the physics journals, since so far no one has been able to do it and every attempt has failed.

    Forgive my crabbiness, but you haven’t put in the work. We don’t allow creationists to post here because it is so tedious to try to work through their arguments when they don’t very much about the science. Verb. sap.

  10. Here’s a link to some info on an experiment that alleges to show that the speed of light is directionally independent with relative accuracy no worse than 5·10-8.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1999BRASP..63..652R

    An excerpt from the above:
    An experiment proving, to a high accuracy, the directional independence of speed of light is reported. Its idea is to measure the time of light propagation over an asymmetric path at different orientations of the experimental setup. A part of the circuit is filled by a condensed matter to form the path asymmetry and hence; to ensure dependence of the measured time on isotropy of the speed of light. Under laboratory conditions, the phase velocity of light is found to be directionally independent with relative accuracy no worse than 5·10-8.

    I’d be willing to bet that the people who came up with the idea of ring laser gyroscopes assumed that the speed of light was uniform in all directions.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_laser_gyroscope
    Would they even work if the speed of light varied with direction? I haven’t worked this out to my own satisfaction yet. Maybe it will become clear after another beer or three 🙂

  11. It is unquestionable that Lisle advocates his convention to support his belief that the personal christian god created the universe 6,000 years ago as described in the bible, solely for a relatively unknown and unimportant middle eastern tribe. Lisle has not come up with any sort of scientific rationale for why his convention should be preferred – his only stated reason is that it supports the biblical account. A statement that cannot be disproved is insufficient argument for one’s position, particularly when per other commenters on this blog have pointed out that no specific convention can be shown to be true by any known experiment to date.

    Theologically, however, the very idea that the universe was created not only “mature”, but expanding in all directions as though it originated in a specific event 13.75 billion years ago, poses difficulties. It clearly indicates that god is deceptive. Even Lisle’s convention of instantaneous light travel from the universe to us would be a trick on god’s part to make it look like the universe was there for billions of years instead of just being created. Most of the other creationists in the AiG alternate universe simply state that due to weird effects of the flood, for example, fossils were buried the way they are found – they do not assert that it was a deliberate trick by god. They assert that scientists have made mistakes in dating methods, etc. Postulating a tricky, deceitful god seems to me to be out-of-step with Lisle’s colleagues.

  12. @Realist1948: That paper came out in 1999. That type of experiment has already been debunked. It doesn’t overthrow the conventionality thesis.

    @Ed: It doesn’t matter WHY Lisle wants to use his convention. It’s either valid or not, and that’s a question that’s answered by evidence, not by motives. By continually harping on the wrong thing you damage our cause and promote his–because the science is on his side and not on yours. His convention doesn’t help creationism, because it’s of no physical significance, but ignorant attacks on it do by accurately potraying the attackers as close-minded, ill-informed, and willing to sacrifice other scientific theories on the altar of Darwin.

    Legitimate mainstream physicists, who are not creationist, are completely comfortable with the conventionality thesis. Lisle is playing you like a fish.

  13. @Gabe: I wasn’t attacking his science, although I do not believe his apparent assertion that the inability to disprove something equates to proving it. That’s a logical fallacy found also in some intelligent design arguments. I think proof requires some sort of positive argument, but he has none.

    My intent was to argue that he is undermining his own theology by his assertions. The implication of his argument is that god created a universe in such a way that it appears billions of years old when it actually isn’t. In that way he is stating that god is deceptive. I don’t think that is good theology, and it is normally avoided by creationists. Perhaps because he knows enough to be bothered by the fact that the universe appears immense and old, he finds himself in the dilemma of having to reconcile that reality to his belief in the small, recent universe of Genesis, and he decided to accept a deceptive god as an inevitable consequence. I can’t wait to hear how he explains the cosmic microwave background.

    I’ll be silent in the future on this subject. I certainly don’t want to be inaccurately perceived as close-minded, ill-informed, and willing to sacrifice scientific theories on the alter of Darwin. Not that I think many creationists have a clue as to what he’s talking about anyway.

  14. , although I do not believe his apparent assertion that the inability to disprove something equates to proving it.

    What he’s saying is more complicated, and ambiguous, than that, which is why it’s hard to deal with.

    I’ll be silent in the future on this subject.

    DON’T BE. But be INFORMED. Just because Lisle’s a creationist, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t smart, or doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or that it will be easy to refute him. You can’t underestimate an opponent like Lisle. Have you ever had the experience of tying up a fundamentalist Christian in knots by quoting Scripture that he’s not familiar with? This is what Lisle is doing to you with physics. The solution is to learn more, not to shut up.

    Wikipedia has a decent article on this and in my copious free time I hope to write up on RationalWiki what I’ve learned from the literature.

    . The implication of his argument is that god created a universe in such a way that it appears billions of years old when it actually isn’t.

    Actually, he’s saying that his argument implies the OPPOSITE of this. Lisle would say that science, applied naively, would give you the impression that light from 6000 light years away is showing events that happened 6000 years ago, but that science PROPERLY understood shows that isn’t necessarily the case but depends on the synchronicity convention.

    I can’t wait to hear how he explains the cosmic microwave background.

    Write him and ask; but I’m sure he’d say that cosmic microwave background was created 6000 years ago with everything else.

  15. Gabe, it’s not the synchronicity convention which I can disprove or not – it’s Jason’s particular theory, and the things we see. For example, regardless of whether or not c is asynch or synch, we see galaxies tugging and deforming each other.

    He claims that suddenly things popped into existence at the same time, and that “same time” is not a part of any convention – that is a truly “at the same time” when looked at by his convention. There was no existence of time before those things suddenly appeared.

    That is where it diverges from the synch/asynch conventions. That break is where his particular theory falls apart – not in trying to determine whether c truly is constant in all directions or not, but in the things we see in the sky that couldn’t have happened in only 6000 years of gravitational effects.

    And as to submitting a paper to a real journal like A&A or JA&A – I’d get laughed out of the building if I ever submitted a paper on such a bizarre topic.

    I’ve considered submitting one to ARJ, but some of his other statements make it sound to me like he would brush off the counter-proof because he has already stated that the effects of gravity which we see (galaxies tugging and pulling at each other) are things God made in-place looking like that. So, it doesn’t disprove his theory because he has already said God just made it look like that.

    Gabe, I might go ahead with the paper after all, though. I won’t really be able to start it seriously until April or May. We’ll see if I still feel motivated then.

  16. I just want to say thank you to everybody that posts here. While I couldn’t possibly contribute to the scientific discussion, I do love reading the posts and doing a little net research to look up terms I’m unfamiliar with.

    I have a daughter that will be school age later this year and sadly, we live in the Bible belt. It is scary to think that in a few years it might be legal to teach her that a god created the universe, in a public school!

    Thank you again for keeping up the fight and working to help inform the rest of us.

  17. @Gabe

    Ok, here goes then. I believe the traditional creationist view of the origin of the universe is that it was created mature exactly as we see it. It would be akin to taking an epic movie, cutting the film somewhere in the last reel, loading that remaining bit in the projector, and turning it on. From the viewer’s perspective, all the characters, their relationships and mutual histories, all the physical surroundings, etc. would just spring into being. The characters on the screen would continue in their ongoing story without apparently being aware of their missing history. Someone who walked in late, unaware that the movie had just begun, would assume they had missed an hour or two of earlier action.

    Applied to the universe, that’s hard to dispute. Sure, it looks old, but that’s just because god created it that way; in mid-story, so to speak. The standard creationist rejoinder to the light-travel problem is that god created light traveling through the universe, just like he created gravity already in force at great distances. That is, light coming from objects millions of light years away was created and began arriving immediately, and then continuously thereafter, as though it had travelled for those millions of years. We are like that viewer walking late into the theater, we assume there was an earlier story, but there wasn’t.

    What Lisle apparently argues is that god created the universe mid-story, but on the one detail of light, rather than create it en-route (like gravity), he designed it to be anisotropic. This seems unnecessary and inconsistent, it adds nothing to the basic “universe-created-mature” argument, and it seems to me that it makes god deliberately deceptive.

  18. @Ed:

    What Lisle apparently argues is that god created the universe mid-story, but on the one detail of light, rather than create it en-route (like gravity),

    I agree that he’s saying that.

    he designed it to be anisotropic.

    This isn’t quite right, but the point is subtle and we can leave it alone for now.

    This seems unnecessary and inconsistent, it adds nothing to the basic “universe-created-mature” argument,

    I agree here.

    and it seems to me that it makes god deliberately deceptive.

    I disagree. I forget who I stole this analogy from but you know who you are. Jesus makes wine from water. The wine is a mature, because wine is a product of fermentation which implies that time passed, but Jesus made it miraculously on the spot in front of your eyes, and that’s why you know it’s a miracle. Is he deceiving you in this case? We know wine cannot be made instantly–he didn’t create juice with yeast, he created mature wine.

    So if you agree that in this case Jesus is not deceptive, let’s take another case. Suppose that instead of creating it from water, Jesus creates a wine seller, miraculously makes a check in his hand signed by you that pays for the wine, cart wheel tracks leading from the wedding back to a miraculously created wine seller’s shop, receipts in the wine shop for wine from a miraculously created vinyard, and memories in your mind of having ordered wine which has just now been delivered and you paid for it. In short, Jesus creates mature wine with a history identical to that of non-miraculous wine. In this case, Jesus is being deceptive. The miracle wine cannot be told from nonmiraculous wine by any empirical test, but Jesus demands that you accept it as a miracle anyway.

    The universe we live in is the second one. The ASC promoted by Lisle is somewhat like saying that the evidence which seemingly points to nonmiraculous wine is actually evidence of a different sort–the cart tracks from the wine shop to the wedding might have been made on another occasion and so the evidence is consistent with the wine having been teleported to the wedding, which is miraculous. Thus the miracle might not be quite what we thought originally but there is room for it in the evidence. Which is unimpressive, but Lisle plans to make it impressive by being vague and continually moving the goalposts.

    I think he is saying that if everything is understood properly there is no reason to think is God is deceptive.

  19. @WebMonk:

    regardless of whether or not c is asynch or synch,

    You’ve got to stop saying that–it’s like 50 mph takes a long time. It’s nonsensical.

    He claims that suddenly things popped into existence at the same time, and that “same time” is not a part of any convention – that is a truly “at the same time” when looked at by his convention.

    I can’t make head or tail out of that. Each allowed convention has a different notion of what “at the same time” means and Lisle’s is only special because of Genesis, but he says it has no physical consequences and so far I haven’t found any, so scientifically it’s as valid as any other.

    but in the things we see in the sky that couldn’t have happened in only 6000 years of gravitational effects.

    That’s not true at all. Let’s say you are on the street and you look six feet above you and see a penny that was dropped from a tall building. It’s already reached terminal speed, so it could have come from any number of floors, you can’t run it back and say that it must necessarily have come from one place at one time. Likewise with the Earth’s orbit, or any other stable orbit, you can’t say by looking at it how long it’s been there or how it got there.

  20. Okay, Gabe, I’m temporarily persuaded that one-way lightspeed hasn’t yet been tested. I’m not convinced that it can’t be tested (I still like my whirling whoopie from the last thread) but I know my limitations so I’ll assume that Jason’s “convention” is — if not useful — at least not “wrong.” Now what?

    For the moment, let’s adopt Jason’s convention and agree that lightspeed is 2c when going away from us — in any direction — and it’s instantaneous when the light bounces back toward us, so lightspeed for the round trip is always c. If that convention is really untestable, then it’s consistent with the traditional convention that lightspeed is a constant in both directions. Does any of this make any difference? No — if there are no verifiable consequences, then it’s irrelevant.

    Now let us turn to that philosophical oddity known as subjectivism — the belief that the whole universe is merely a manifestation of my mind. You don’t really exist. Your consciousness is something I could never know and need not acknowledge, and the whole objective world is an illusion. You couldn’t persuade me otherwise even if you showed up at my door and dumped a bucket of water on my head. It’s all in my mind, you see. My subjectivism is a convention, and it’s just as valid as yours about the existence of objective reality. But most of us agree that society is far more congenial if we reject subjectivism, and most of us leave it behind in our infancy.

    Now then, I suggest that Jason’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC), according to which we see instant starlight, is nothing more than a rarefied form of subjectivism that he’s applying to physics. It’s true that Jason’s ASC convention is consistent with his creationism. That’s because it’s an extension of scriptural geo-centric, homo-centric, tribal-centric subjectivism.

    Jason’s ASC appears sophisticated, but it’s really little more than a “logical” extension of saying that God made the whole universe for us, he made the earth for us, he made us in his image, he sent his son to save us, etc. And not only that, he also made the speed of light so that it comes to us instantaneously. None of that can be tested, so none of it is within the scope of science.

  21. I snagged this off PZ’s site. It’s the former scientist Lisle talking to the Slackjaw family about the universe.

    Lisle lies his head off. PhD in astrophysics, yet he says with a straight face that Jupiter is still warm because it’s young. Yes, folks, Jupiter if billions of years old should have cooled off by now.

    I couldn’t watch much more of this.

  22. If that convention is really untestable, then it’s consistent with the traditional convention that lightspeed is a constant in both directions. Does any of this make any difference? No — if there are no verifiable consequences, then it’s irrelevant.

    Right.

    My subjectivism is a convention,

    A convention is something that we agree on, like how we define the meter; subjectivism doesn’t allow for “we” so “subjectivism is a convention” is a contradiction. QED. But that’s not important.

    Now then, I suggest that Jason’s Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC), according to which we see instant starlight, is nothing more than a rarefied form of subjectivism that he’s applying to physics…Jason’s ASC appears sophisticated, but it’s really little more than a “logical” extension of saying that God made the whole universe for us, he made the earth for us, he made us in his image, he sent his son to save us, etc. And not only that, he also made the speed of light so that it comes to us instantaneously. None of that can be tested, so none of it is within the scope of science.

    No. This is totally wrong. Lisle’s ASC uses every observer as the “center”, wherever that observer happens to be, Earth, Mars, Alpha Centauri, wherever. It’s not geocentric or anthrocentric or whatever, the “observer” could be a mirror or a photomultiplier tube, and the synchrony convention is just the the instructions you might give to a computer to decide which photomultipliers went off when and coordinate their readings.

    That Lisle wants to use it to support these other things doesn’t make his convention invalid–it’s just that his conclusions don’t follow from his convention, and that’s the point we need to make when we argue against him.

    By definition, a convention cannot be invalid. We are free to choose any convention we wish, and our physics is guaranteed to come out the same. Now if you want to argue that it’s “unscientific” to define the meter by the speed of light because it’s “untestable” simply to score debating points on a creationist, that’s fine. I’m trying to make you aware of just how many babies are being thrown out with that bathwater.

  23. Gabriel Hanna says:

    No. This is totally wrong. Lisle’s ASC uses every observer as the “center”, wherever that observer happens to be …

    Hurumph! That’s okay. As long as it makes no difference, he can have his convention.

  24. Gabriel Hanna quotes me saying: “My subjectivism is a convention” and he says:

    A convention is something that we agree on, like how we define the meter; subjectivism doesn’t allow for “we” so “subjectivism is a convention” is a contradiction. QED.

    But if I’m all there is, and that’s they way I look at things, then that’s the whole ball o’ wax. It’s my universe and it’s my convention. Hey, it works for me!

  25. Lisle doesn’t have to be correct nor consistent. He just has to sound sciency to the Slackjaw family. Lisle speaks only to the Slackjaw clan in his sandbox. You don’t see Lisle at conferences or even engaging with real scientists.

    Perhaps en-gagging would be a better word as one can only listen to the preachy little twerp for a few seconds before feeling nauseous.

    This strictly a side show in the Ken Ham Circus empire, but no worse than Hovind, Walt Brown, Kurt Wise and JoJo the Dog-faced boy.

  26. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Lisle’s ASC uses every observer as the “center”, wherever that observer happens to be, Earth, Mars, Alpha Centauri, wherever.

    I’ve been pondering this, because my first reaction to Jason’s paper was that he claimed the Earth was a unique frame of reference. But you say his ASC convention isn’t restricted to that. Your interpretation of Jason’s convention works, but only at a superficial level. Or so it seems to my primitive mind.

    Suppose we’re communicating with Klaatu who lives on a world orbiting Alpha Centauri, 4 light years away. Klaatu sends us a message and we swiftly reply. Klaatu observes, from his frame of reference, that the round trip was 8 years. He assumes that was because the messages, traveling at lightspeed, required 4 years each way. Using Jason’s “convention” and Klaatu’s reference frame, it took 8 years for his signal to get to Earth; but then Earth’s reply got to him instantly. Either way, Klaatu is satisfied because the exchange took 8 years. Fine.

    From Earth’s point of view it’s the flip side of that. Using Jason’s convention we received Klaatu’s message instantly, and our reply took 8 years to get to him. That’s okay, because in each reference frame the message & reply take 8 years. One convention appears to give the same result as another. However

    Jason’s convention would have the signals traveling instantly in both directions, depending on who is on the receiving end. When Klaatu is receiving an Earth message, lightspeed is instantaneous. Likewise, when we’re receiving a message from Klaatu, it gets to us instantly. The opposite is true from the sender’s viewpoint — Klaatu’s signals travel away from him at 2c one-half c, and it’s the same for the signals we send. Thus, between Earth and Klaatu, we have signals going in each direction that travel both at 2c one-half c and instantaneously. Yet the distance is the same and everything else is the same — except the observer’s frame of reference. That is the unavoidable implication of Jason’s convention. Are you okay with that?

  27. Gabe, I know what you mean about “light being asynch or synch”, but I haven’t found a good way to say it in a short way. Suggestions welcome – five words or fewer.

    No, the penny analogy doesn’t fit the astronomy because there isn’t an equivalent to “terminal velocity”. We see galaxies that have heavily deformed each other through gravitational interactions. Those interactions took time to happen – we can see what type of galaxies they were, and how they look now, and extrapolate how long they two galaxies have been warping each other.

    What Lisle is claiming is that God must have made the two galaxies already warped as if they had already been interacting for millions of years. This was my background a couple months ago and demonstrates what I mean – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Warped_galaxy.jpg

    It would take hundreds of thousands of years for the galaxy to warp in the first place, and we can tell that the galaxy has been recovering its equilibrium, so there is at least several million years of processes evident. Lisle’s God has to have made it in the middle of being warped when its light began its journey to us.

    Or take something closer to home – Sagittarius Dwarf going around our own Milky Way, and on the far side of the Milky Way from us (slightly below). If by Jason’s convention, gravity only travels away from Earth at 0.5c, the gravity of the MW has not yet had time to reach the SD galaxy, whereas the gravity from the SD has very quickly reached the MW. That’s not even close to what we see.

    The only way to synch up what we see with Lisle’s convention combined with an age of only 6000 years is if God made the SD galaxy look just like gravity from the MW has been affecting it for millions of years.

  28. Gabriel Hanna

    Thus, between Earth and Klaatu, we have signals going in each direction that travel both at 2c one-half c and instantaneously. Yet the distance is the same and everything else is the same — except the observer’s frame of reference. That is the unavoidable implication of Jason’s convention. Are you okay with that?

    It’s no weirder than anything in “orthodox” special relativity, where two observers can disagree on the order of space-like separated events. “Are you telling me that O sees A happen before B, and O’ sees A happen after B? That’s absurd!” But nonetheless true.

  29. Gabriel Hanna says: “That’s absurd!” But nonetheless true.”

    I thought of that after I commented. Yeah, but darn … a signal is a signal, and it has to be traveling at one speed, not two. And in the case of simultaneity, at ground zero, where the events occur, the sequence of events is evident. It’s only for distant observers that the sequences can appear otherwise. I donno, my brain hurts.

  30. Gabriel Hanna

    Yeah, but darn … a signal is a signal, and it has to be traveling at one speed, not two.

    Why?

    I donno, my brain hurts.

    Join the club! That’s why we have the math. The math forces us to acknowledge conclusiona that we might reject, if we didn’t believe that math works.

  31. Welcome to the club SC. With relativity, it’s the observer that is moving at varying speeds through space-time, and light that is constant. Speeding up or slowing down time within the observer’s reference frame due to the observer’s velocity makes these weird effects seem almost sensible. Throwing in a variable speed of light seems to me to violate relativity.

    I think I’m trying to talk about physical reality vs a measurement convention, which is my current (this evening) understanding of Gabe’s explanations.

    I agree with the Doc that Lisle is basically a religious zealot doing what the others at AiG do, which is misrepresenting some scientific idea in such a way that makes it seem to support a recent creation. I think Gabe might have said that in his comment about Lisle making the wrong (or over-reaching) conclusions from this convention.

  32. Gabriel Hanna

    Throwing in a variable speed of light seems to me to violate relativity.

    No. It just makes relativity more complicated. A version of special relativity that doesn’t rely on a synchronization convention has already been worked out. Not every convention is compatible with relativity, though.

    I think I’m trying to talk about physical reality vs a measurement convention,

    Physical reality is only known through measurement conventions. That’s why it’s important to know what is a convention and what is not.

    Look, I do think there may be some way to show that the speed of light is the same coming and going and that it’s not a convention, but the people who agree with me have been losing the argument for decades. I may just be forced to reluctantly accept it.

  33. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Look, I do think there may be some way to show that the speed of light is the same coming and going and that it’s not a convention, but the people who agree with me have been losing the argument for decades.

    One last gasp: Permit me to go back, one more time, to the exchange of messages between Earth and Klaatu, where (in Jason’s convention) the signals are moving at either 2c — Aaaarg, I mean 1/2 c — or instantaneously, depending on whether you’re the sender or receiver. Okay, now let’s have another observer, midway between the two. This observer doesn’t send messages, he just intercepts the two-way traffic and measures the speed of the signals. What will he see?

  34. What he sees depends on which way he faces. Let’s have two in the same place, back to back, O and O’.

    Earth sends to Klaatu, Earth starts his clock. O’ gets it, starts his clock and O does the same. O sends it on to Klaatu, who starts his clock, and sends back to O and O’ who stop their clock, and calculate t / d = c. O’ sends the message back to Earth, who stops his clock and calculates 2t / 2d = c…

    Everybody gets the same answer for round trip distance. The observers in the center can’t measure the speeds of the signals that end up at different places without first having a sycnhronization convention. Neither of them knows what time Earth and Klaatu have without going there to see, which misses the point, or getting a round trip signal from their own clocks which averages to c.

    Draw it out on graph paper, you’ll see. That’s what I did.

  35. @Gabe: I have two more ideas for measuring the one way speed of light.

    Accelerate an object to a predetermined speed toward an observer. When the object passes a predetermined point that is a known distance from the observer, have it transmit a signal (e.g., a pulse of laser light). When the signal is detected by the observer, the observer starts a timer. Later, when the object physically passes the observer, the observer stops the timer. Knowing the speed of the object, the observer can then calculate the time in the past that the object would have passed the trigger point, compare that with the elapsed time on the timer, and the difference would be the time required by the signal to traverse that distance. If this could be set up as a single physical system – for example using a sled on a rail – then the distances, positions, speeds, etc. could be very finely controlled. The advantage is that only one clock is used, thus avoiding the synchronization issue.

    The second lab experiment would involve a long axle with a disk attached to each end. Each disk would have a very fine slit cut into it, precisely aligned with the other, such that a laser beam traveling exactly parallel to the axle would pass through the slit at each end. Set up the laser at one end, switch it on, and spin the axle. The spinning disk at the laser end of the axle would interrupt the beam for most of it’s rotation, allowing light through only when the slit passed in front of the beam, such that a series of short pulses of light would travel down the axle toward the disk at the far end. If light travels at some finite velocity, and is not instantaneous, then only at certain rotation speeds would the pulses travel down the axle and arrive at the disk at the far end as the slit is passing in front of the pulse, allowing the light to register on the detector. At other speeds, the light pulses would arrive at the far end and encounter only the solid portion of the disk, resulting in no light reaching the detector. If light travelled toward our detector at instantaneous speed, then the detector would record light pulses regardless of the rotation speed of the axle and disks. A refinement of this test would be to wire the laser to fire during only one rotation, such that only one pulse is sent down the axle. If counters were in place at each end which ticked at each rotation of the axle, and the counter reading when the laser fired were compared to the counter reading when the signal was detected, then the speed of the light could be calculated by knowing the rotation speed of the axle. The counters could be set to zero at the beginning of the experiment, and as part of a single physical system they would remain in synch during the experiment, eliminating the problem with separate clocks.

  36. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Earth sends to Klaatu, Earth starts his clock. O’ gets it, starts his clock and O does the same. O sends it on to Klaatu …

    I didn’t describe it well enough. We need only one observer between Earth and Klaatu. The direction he faces shouldn’t matter, and he doesn’t re-send messages. The messages merely pass through detectors at his observation station. I’m assuming he has some way to time them as they enter and leave his station. I’m suggesting that the transit-time will be the same, whether the messages are coming from Earth or from Klaatu.

  37. @Ed: It doesn’t work. Draw it out on graph paper using different speeds of light and you will see. If the signal comes to you faster, your estimate of the object’s velocity is lower, which makes you think the signal came earlier.

    Each disk would have a very fine slit cut into it, precisely aligned with the other, such that a laser beam traveling exactly parallel to the axle would pass through the slit at each end.

    And that’s a synchronization convention using light as a signal….

  38. “Jason’s convention would have the signals traveling instantly in both directions, depending on who is on the receiving end.” – SC (and agreed to by Gabe)

    @ Gabe and SC,

    I understood Lisle’s claim to be a bit different – I thought he said his ASC convention is that light speed is infinite toward Earth, and 0.5 c heading away, regardless of who the sender is or anything like that. I don’t think his convention would ever have c be infinite heading away from Earth.

    I don’t have time to look up the paper right now, but that was my recollection. If you guys don’t feel like it, I might have time tomorrow to track down his paper again and figure out which Lisle meant.

  39. Gabriel Hanna

    I thought he said his ASC convention is that light speed is infinite toward Earth, and 0.5 c heading away, regardless of who the sender is or anything like that.

    Still works even if he did say that. You could pick Mars or Europa or Alpha Centauri, it still works.

    What Lisle said to me personally was

    Under ASC, you have agreement on synchronization for all observers with the same position, regardless of velocity. ASC is “position based” so-to-speak, whereas ESC is “velocity based.”

  40. @SC:

    We need only one observer between Earth and Klaatu. The direction he faces shouldn’t matter, and he doesn’t re-send messages. The messages merely pass through detectors at his observation station.

    Well, it does matter which direction the detectors are facing, because light moves at different speeds relative to them.

    I’m assuming he has some way to time them as they enter and leave his station.

    I don’t understand. If you mean “record what time they pass by”, fine, but that doesn’t tell how fast they moved, just when they got there. If you mean he’s going to somehow measure the speed of the signals as they go by, how can he do that unless he times them moving across a known distance–which requires a distant synchronization convention.

  41. @Gabe: Let me describe my second test a different way. Suppose we build a device consisting of a long axle, with a disk at either end. Each disk has a very fine slit cut into it. The experiment consists of rotating the device at a high speed along its axle, direct a laser beam through it, and observing the light that emerges. If the axle is long enough and rotating fast enough that a beam of light traveling at c cannot pass from the slit in the first disk to the second disk before its slit rotates out of the path of the beam, then no light will pass through the device. On the other hand, if it is traveling at infinite speed it will. We can refine our experiment to alter the position angle of the second slit with respect to the first such that at a specific rotation speed, the slit in the second disk will rotate into the path of the light beam that passed the first disk (if that beam is traveling at c) but would not be aligned with a light beam traveling at infinite speed. The experiment could be observed from either end. If the observer stands behind the laser, and mounts a mirror at the far end of the device, and spins the device so as to pass light traveling at infinite speed but not c or 1/2c, then the observer would see no light in mirror. From the mirror’s point of view, no light passed through the device, and it had nothing to reflect.

    This poses a dilemma paradox – from the position of the observer firing the laser, per Lisle’s convention, light should successfully travel through the device at 1/2c and be seen by the observer on the other end, but to that observer it must be instantaneous so it cannot be seen. (This is due to the fact that we aligned the slits in such a way that the rotation of the device is required to bring the second slit into alignment with the segment of light traveling down the device precisely at the time it should arrive at that slit. Instantaneous light would strike a solid portion of the second disk and not pass through.) How can light both pass through for the sender but be blocked for the receiver?

    In this case we have no clocks, no timers, nothing to synchronize. We only spin a piece of hardware in the path of a beam of light and observe what happens.

  42. Instead of “dilemma” I should have said “paradox”.

  43. Gabriel Hanna says:

    If you mean he’s going to somehow measure the speed of the signals as they go by —

    Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

    — how can he do that unless he times them moving across a known distance–which requires a distant synchronization convention.

    That’s the method I had in mind, but I don’t see “a distant synchronization convention” as being much of an objection, because the midway observer is all alone, synchronizing with no one. He’s making all the velocity determinations by himself, using the same equipment all the time. He doesn’t ever need to chat with Klaatu or with Earth.

    The whole thing could be automated with no human present, but of course the equipment would still qualify as an observer. The observations are merely clocking the transit time of the messages (both from Earth and from Klaatu) as they pass from detector A to detector B (or vice versa). One observer, one clock, one distance. And (I humbly suggest) one velocity for light traveling either way, which contradicts Jason’s “convention.” However, it appears that we disagree so I’ll drop it.

  44. @gabe:

    I’m going to wear out my welcome, but I’ve thought of another possible test.

    Suppose we observe a planet sufficiently to calculate it’s orbit to some precision. If light travels toward us at speed c, then the planet will appear to us as it was some minutes in the past, depending upon our distance from it. That distance varies on a regular basis due to the earth and the other planet moving in their orbits, alternately becoming closer and further from each other. If light is not instant, then we should see an effect of the differing distances – the visual position of the planet would seem to advance and recede in it’s orbit as we alternately observed it at lesser and greater times in its past. On the other hand, if light traveled toward us instantly, the visual position of the planet in our sky would not vary from it’s calculated orbital position. I might be missing something with this one because it’s so simple, but …

  45. @SCbecause the midway observer is all alone, synchronizing with no one.

    An observer can’t be in two places at the same time, right? If he’s timing light moving at a known distance he has to start the clock when the light is at point A and stop it when it’s at point B. He can only be at one of those points at one time. So he needs a synchron
    \ization convention to tell him how to figure out what time the light got to point B (if he’s at A). He can’t move to A fast enough to get there when the light does, and if he could he’d lose time on his clock.

    Okay, so he sets up detectors at point A and point B–which are some distance apart and thus they require a synchronization convention.

    However, it appears that we disagree so I’ll drop it.

    Don’t do that.

  46. @eric: Both of your examples involve a synchronization convention.

    Your rotating axle: how do you know it’s aligned properly? If there is a tiny angle between the two slits, then you will get the wrong speed of light when the disks rotate. You have to have some way to know that slit A is in exactly the same angular position as slit B at the same time, when they are separated by a large distance–which is a synchronization convention. Once you set them moving, how do you know they are still aligned? It is well known that in relativity forces are not transmitted infinitely fast, so when you start disk A there’s a lag before disk B starts, because forces are not transmitted infinitely fast down the shaft, but limited by the speed of light–which is the thing you are trying to measure. So again, you need a synchronization convention.

    Suppose we observe a planet sufficiently to calculate it’s orbit to some precision.

    Which means you need to know where it is at a given time in its orbit. You are not sitting on the planet with a clock. So you can’t tell whether the planet is farther away, and so you got a delay, or the speed of light changed and you got a delay.

  47. @Gabe: With respect to a planet, it’s an object with mass traveling in an orbit. We can calculate lots of different possible orbits, but none of them involve a planet physically accelerating and slowing down the way it appears to do as we see it alternately more and less time in its past. We don’t really need to know the planets precise position – it is the change in position that would otherwise be inexplicable that tells us that light is traveling to us at some finite speed.

    I would also assert that if we did not actually know where a planet is, and more importantly where it will be at some given time in the future, we would not be able to apply an exact amount of propulsive force to an object and have it arrive precisely on target at the planet some months or years later.

  48. With respect to the spinning device, to prove or disprove the possibility of instantaneous light travel, it is only necessary to alter the rotation speed of the device. If light is instantaneous and the slits are perfectly aligned, light will pass at all speeds, but light at a finite velocity will only pass at certain rotation speeds. On the other hand, if the slits are not perfectly aligned, instantaneous light will never pass, yet light at finite velocity will again pass at some rotation speed. The forces in the system that you refer to that could distort the alignment would seem to occur during spin-up, but once the device is steadily rotating and no additional force is being applied (assume we do this in space in a micro-g environment), then would not the flexure work itself out, allowing us to step up our rotation speed in small increments?

    Assume for a moment though that we have constructed our device out of unobtainium, and are spinning it at relativistic speeds. I’m interested in the paradox that I mentioned for the observer standing with a laser at one end of the device, and looking at the mirror held by a second observer at the far end of the device. Assume the slits are in alignment to pass light at c (which would also pass light traveling at 1/2 that speed.) The observer fires his laser and looks in the mirror. Under Lisle’s convention, the observer’s light beam should travel through the device at 1/2c, hit the mirror, and return to the observer at infinite speed. The observer with the laser should see a pulsing light. However, the observer with the mirror should see no light at all, because the slits were offset to allow light at c to pass, thus blocking light at infinite speed. How can the laser observer see a return off the mirror if the observer with the mirror sees no light at all? Conversely, if the disks were aligned such that it would pass a signal at infinite speed so that it would reach the observer with the mirror, the signal traveling away from the observer with the laser at 1/2c should not be able to pass through the device. It would be a paradox either way. If the paradox cannot be resolved, could that not be the basis for a proof?

  49. I goofed my html tags…

  50. Ed says: “I goofed my html tags…”

    If you just wanted “c” to be in italics, I’ve fixed it. If you wanted something else, then I donno …

  51. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Okay, so he sets up detectors at point A and point B–which are some distance apart and thus they require a synchronization convention.

    I don’t see the problem. There are two detectors (A and B) lined up between Earth and Klaatu, and they’re, say, 10 meters apart. Each one is connected to a clock — the same clock. A signal comes from Earth on its way to Klaatu. It passes through point A and the clock records that; then it passes through point B and that too is recorded. The interval between the two blips is known, as recorded by one clock.

    Then a signal comes from Klaatu on its way to Earth, and it hits point B first, then point A. The same clock records those two hits, and now that interval is known. Contrary to Jason’s “convention,” it’s the same interval.

    Even if, say, the clock’s connection to point A is somehow out of sync with its connection to point B, it’s irrelevant because the entire apparatus behaves the same way with every signal that passes through. (Hey, you asked me not to quit.)

  52. Gabriel Hanna

    @SC:Each one is connected to a clock — the same clock.

    Okay. WHERE IS THE CLOCK?

    If it’s at A, it can’t know the time at B, because there is signal from the detector at B takes time to travel–we don’t know how much time. Likewise if it’s at A. Do you see? You don’t have a magic clock that knows the time anywhere in the universe no matter how far away. If those existed, there wouldn’t be a synchronization problem.

  53. Gabriel Hanna asks: “Okay. WHERE IS THE CLOCK?”

    If you were here it would be where the sun don’t shine — in sync with your head. Aaarrrrgghhh!

  54. Gabriel Hanna

    Look, SC, the problem is that you and Ed insist on hand-waving. You import assumptions into the problem that already contain the thing you wish to prove, because you’re not thinking about them. It’s just like the twin paradox or any other relativity paradox, you have to stop sneaking in assumptions that violate the conditions of the problem.

    You’ve got your detectors 10 m apart, hooked up to the same clock. Your clock says B goes off 66 nanoseconds later then A does.

    So where is your clock? Is it at A? Let’s pretend for a moment that light always goes at the same speed and you expect to measure c. The light has to go from A to B, then the signal has to come back to A where your clock is, and it can’t go faster than light is going. So you get twice as much time as you expected if light travels at c. Of that 66 nanosecond, how much was due to the light crossing the 10 m and how much was due to the signal traveling from the detector to the clock? It’s the same problem over again–if light travels different speeds in different directions you can’t spot it this way. You’re still doing a round trip measurement with one clock.

    You can’t separate the time that the light takes to go ten meters from the time it takes the signal from the detector to reach your clock. Because your clock isn’t magic–it only knows the time in its own location. If it wants to record the tiem from somewhere else, it needs a signal from that place, and that signal has a travel time which is the very thing we are trying to measure.

  55. Gabe, with respect to the little thought experiment that I thought created a paradox, what assumption did I unknowingly bring into the puzzle that negates the paradox? It seems to me that either light passes through the imaginary device or it doesn’t. I’m totally stumped.

  56. Gabriel Hanna says: “You’re still doing a round trip measurement with one clock.”

    Ah, the light dawns, so to speak. I understand the problem, and my error. Thank you for your patience.

  57. Gabriel Hanna

    @SC: You can imagine how I felt, being corrected by Lisle. The burning shame of it is what motivated me to figure it out.

    @Ed: The assumption you shouldn’t have made is that you can know where both slits are at the same time. So you have the disks at rest, and you line up the disks so that a laser passes through both slits. You define that as “aligned”. But of course light gets through both at any speed.

    So you spin it. And if the slits are aligned then the one way speed could be measured. But the two disks don’t accelerate together. Whichever disk receives the torque first spins first, and the second one lags behind. When the first reaches constant velocity, the second is still being accelerated. When it finally reaches constant velocity, it is not aligned any more. (Imagine one car towing a second with an elastic rope.) How far out of alignment it is will depend on how quickly the torque can propagate down the shaft, which can’t be faster than the speed of light in that direction, which was the thing we wanted to measure. But it will still let light through, you’ll just have the wrong estimate of the travel time.

  58. Gabriel Hanna says: “You can imagine how I felt, being corrected by Lisle.”

    I’m always glad to learn, but the provenance of this information leaves me a bit queasy.

  59. Gabe, I will concede on your point about building and operating the device, but the paradox such a device could cause is still interesting.

    Let’s consider this a thought experiment, and assume for discussion that the device is aligned. It creates a paradox, does it not? If we assume Lisle’s convention as true, and align the device for the observer at the laser end, the beam traveling at 1/2c away from that laser will penetrate the device, and bounce off the mirror so that the sender will see it, but the person holding the mirror will see nothing at all since that person will receive the light instantaneously, and instantaneous light will not penetrate the device. The converse is true too, if the device is aligned for the observer with the mirror, so that only instantaneous light penetrates it, the observer with the laser will not see anything in the mirror since light travels away from that observer at 1/2c and is blocked. It doesn’t matter that we physically build the device. The device in principle could exist, therefore does it not create a paradox that might be a challenge to Lisle’s convention?

  60. @Ed:The device in principle could exist, therefore does it not create a paradox that might be a challenge to Lisle’s convention?

    The device cannot in principle exist if special relativity is correct. You don’t get to magically know things, you have to have a procedure to measure them. You haven’t thought of a procedure that doesn’t already assume something about the speed of light.

    The paradox comes from the contradiction in your premises, not from the application of Lisle’s logic to them. The contradiction is a) special relativity is true and b) you can know without measuring that disk a and disk b are properly aligned after they’ve been set in motion.

  61. Gabriel Hanna says:

    You don’t get to magically know things, you have to have a procedure to measure them.

    That is why, along with Lisle’s dual-lightspeed convention, the venerable convention of Last Thursdayism is also a contender.

  62. @Gabe – ok, let’s take this a bit further and agree that we do not know how the disks are aligned. We have our two observers, one with a laser and one with a mirror. They fire the laser through the device to see what happens.

    We know the round trip time has to equal c. Thus there are three possibilities, one of which is a paradox:

    1) Neither observer sees any light. This is the most probable outcome if the disks are randomly aligned.
    2) Both observers see light – this cannot happen under Lisle’s convention, but could happen if light travels in both directions at c. It may be possible to calculate combinations of finite speeds in each direction that would pass the slits and still produce a roundtrip average of c, however under those combinations the two observers would see different intensities of light (more or less light would pass the first disk depending on speed), which is a paradox similar to …
    3) Only one observer sees light. This could happen under Lisle’s convention, creating the paradox.

    So, under Lisle’s convention, light is either blocked by the device or creates a paradox. Under any convention where light is faster than c in one direction but slower in the other, a paradox is created.

  63. @SC, Ed: That is why, along with Lisle’s dual-lightspeed convention,

    I’ve said this before. It’s not Lisle’s idea. He’s using it for his own purposes. I have the paper that proposed it, which I don’t think Lisle cites but I’m sure he read. I don’t understand why you insist on throwing out perfectly good science merely because you first heard of it from a creationist.

    It’s like refusing to believe that blood clots because Behe thinks it’s proof of creationism.

    Under any convention where light is faster than c in one direction but slower in the other, a paradox is created.

    No, it isn’t. It’s only a paradox because you haven’t set up your assumptions carefully. The equations that govern special relativity have been reformulated so that the speed of light in both directions is not assumed to be the same, and they are consistent. They are mathematically guaranteed to be paradox-free, not necessarily for every possible convention but yes, light can have different speeds in different directions.

    Like the twin “paradox”, the paradox is because you’ve left something out of your analysis, not because relativity is wrong. It’s the same situation here.

  64. Gabriel Hanna says:

    I’ve said this before. It’s not Lisle’s idea. He’s using it for his own purposes. … I don’t understand why you insist on throwing out perfectly good science merely because you first heard of it from a creationist.

    I understand. No problem. It’s odd on first impression, but if it’s consistent with what we know — including relativity — then it’s not objectionable. Nor is it objectionable merely for being compatible with Genesis. As I’ve said before, if it’s not testable it’s nothing to worry about.

  65. Ok. It’s strange but I’ll accept that one cannot stipulate a set of conditions in order to argue whether or not a paradox would be created.

    I’m in agreement with SC that if an idea that is not testable, even hypothetically, then it’s not relevant.

  66. Ed says:

    I’m in agreement with SC that if an idea that is not testable, even hypothetically, then it’s not relevant.

    In the spirit of Occam’s Razor, I would also suggest that when confronted with a choice of such untestable conventions, the one which is simplest is preferable.

  67. Besides, light that is instantaneous really doesn’t travel through space at all – if you think about it. By definition it spends zero time between the instant it is generated and the instant it manifests itself to the observer. So how does it pass through the pupil of your eye, get focused, and register on the rods and cones in your retina? How can something that is instantaneous be split into a spectrum, or exhibit refraction patterns?

    Bah, humbug, I say.