Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper: Jupiter’s Moons

As you know, Jason Lisle, Ph.D. is the creationist astrophysicist employed by Answers in Genesis (AIG). We’ve had several posts on Jason’s justification of scriptural “instant starlight” which he proposed in a recent paper. You can read his paper here at the AIG website: Anisotropic Synchrony Convention — A Solution to the Distant Starlight Problem.

When Jason’s paper was first posted, we wrote Jason Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper. We were dismissive, and so were the comments of others. But since then, after extensive commentary in later threads, we’ve slowly come to understand that ASC isn’t nonsense. In this instance Jason knows what he’s talking about.

Our last post on this subject was Jason Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper, More. That dealt with some feedback Jason had been getting on his paper (about the Michelson-Morley experiment and Maxwell’s equations), and he promised that there would be more of the same.

Jason has now posted again about objections he’s been getting: Asking about ASC, Part 2. “ASC” is his abbreviation for Anisotropic Synchrony Convention. He begins with a good summary of what ASC is all about:

The most fundamental aspect of ASC is that we are free to choose the one-way speed of light. As long as light travels from point A to point B, we are free to choose its speed to be anything from ½ c to infinity (where c is the average round-trip speed). The reason this is so is because it is apparently impossible to construct an experiment to measure the speed of light on a one-way trip without first stipulating the speed of light on a one-way trip in order to synchronize two clocks located at A and B. Naturally, this is rather counter-intuitive.

Counter-intuitive indeed. Despite a lifetime of assuming that lightspeed is constant regardless of direction, we’ve finally been persuaded that the ASC convention isn’t just another example of creationist goofiness. It seems to work as well as constant lightspeed does, and there may be no way to decide which is “correct.” Being untestable, the issue is unimportant — relatively speaking, as it were.

[Addendum: ASC didn’t originate with Jason. Some good background can be found in this Wikipedia article, One-way speed of light, which came up in a comment to one of our earlier threads.]

The only “advantage” to Jason in advocating the ASC convention is that it is arguably consistent with the implication from Genesis that the stars were visible on earth as soon as they were created on the Fourth Day (but not until after the creation of light, the earth, the waters, and the firmament on the first three days). It’s mildly interesting that, if one adopts the ASC convention, one-way instant starlight can be considered possible; but nothing can salvage the rest of the Genesis creation account — because it’s inconsistent with what we know of the real world. Nevertheless, the ASC convention is fun to think about.

Jason’s newest post is about the work of Ole Rømer (born 1644, died 1710), the Danish astronomer who made the first measurements of the speed of light — using the moons of Jupiter. As Jason describes it:

Römer knew from observations that Jupiter’s moon IO [he means Io] takes 1.769 days to orbit Jupiter once. But Römer noticed that sometimes [Io] appeared to be ahead of where it was supposed to be, and other times it lagged behind. This correlated with the fact that the Earth (in its orbit around the sun) is sometimes closer to Jupiter, and other times it is farther. When Earth is closer to Jupiter, Römer speculated that it takes light less time to get here than when Earth is farther from Jupiter; this could account for the early or late apparent positions of [Io]. By observing the position of [Io] at various times of the year, Römer concluded that it takes light about 22 minutes to cross Earth’s orbit — just a bit larger than today’s estimate of 16.6 minutes.

In our earliest thread about Jason’s paper, the measurement of lightspeed using Jupiter’s moons was mentioned as an obvious method of measuring the one-way speed of light — something the ASC convention says can’t be done. Jason says in his latest post that “Römer’s method seems to be measuring the one-way speed of light.” Jason’s explanation of why it isn’t what we thought it was is well worth reading.

Click over to his post to see what he says. Then we’ll discuss it.

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

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48 responses to “Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper: Jupiter’s Moons

  1. I haven’t run the numbers on whether Lisle is correct about the time-dilation effect with an ASC compared the effect for a traditional convention when seeing Jupiter’s moon procession, but I will give Lisle the benefit of the doubt until I run them (or someone else runs them).

    However, it certainly seems to me that Gabe’s test to see if an asynchronous convention holds up to observations would still work even with the time-dilation effects changing. It seems that if the synchronous view wasn’t really just a convention, the different effects observed from what is predicted from an asynch convention would be magnified.

    But, since people who have worked with this particular topic a lot more than I have are still arguing over it, I guess I must be missing something. In my copious spare time, maybe I’ll specifically work out the math rather than just guesstimate what the results would be for Gabe’s test.

    (I know someone has put “Gabe’s test” in a paper already, but since he is the one on here who first mentioned it, I’ll call it his.)

  2. I’m sorry, I just can’t handle the raw, unfiltered material. Clicking on an AiG link would probably cause me a massive depressive episode and result in one fewer opponent of the IDiocy.

    The main problem with Jason’s work is that it’s not science. As SC mentioned, it’s untestable and unfalsifiable.

    Further, it’s a science stopper. “Well, any ol’ thing can happen and with sufficient mathematical manipulation, I can prove that you can’t disprove me. I win.”

    I wonder if Jason has considered the fact that, as a scientist, once he’s explained away the need for science, then he won’t exactly have a job.

  3. Under ASC, where light speed is infinite in one direction, how would we calculate the refractive index of a material? My understanding of refraction is that it is, essentially, the slowing of light as it enters a material. The refraction index is therefore the ratio of light’s speed in a vacuum to light’s speed in the material. If the numerator is infinite, then the ratio will be infinite.

    Also, how does one determine direction for light traveling at infinite velocity? It appears at it’s destination at the same instant it is created at it’s source. From the observers viewpoint, the light didn’t “travel” in a conventional sense to his or her eyes. It is just there – so how would it aquire directionality such that it can be focused by an eye or a camera lens?

    One can argue numerous other ASC assumptions as to velocities, but when one of the speeds is infinite, I think it loses all meaning.

    Ole Römer was a smart man. Lisle should listen to him.

  4. Jason’s hypothesis makes for an interesting little puzzle, but as it turns out, his idea is disproven experimentally millions of times each day. Every time your car’s GPS tells you where you are, it is able to do so because the speed of electromagnetic waves is the same in all directions. Here is a link to a brief description of how GPS works:
    http://www.nasm.si.edu/gps/work.html

    If Jason’s theory were true, your GPS would have to adjust for the “fast direction vector” for the speed of light. But it does no such thing… because it doesn’t need to.

    Maybe Jason will try to wiggle out of this by saying that we do not know whether or not the speed of light was the same in all directions at the time the universe began. He may claim that by some miracle there was light that traveled in ZERO time during the week of creation only — the cosmic analogue to a one-week only breakfast special at Denny’s– the price of a cup of coffee is ZERO (when you order either a stack of pancakes or a cubic parsec of dark matter) this week only! (At participating galaxies only — offer not valid in Utah or Delaware).

    I give Jason a B+ for imagining an new theory of light, a D- for presenting a convincing argument, and an F for trying to bend scientific ideas to conform to an archaic fairy tale. Not PhD. level thinking, IMHO.

    If the scientific community is viewed as a village, it just might have a few village idiots. I suspect that they will be found in the “creation science” part of town.

    “Curb your dogma – free your mind.”

  5. comradebillyboy

    Better than the average creationist nonsense, but what good is an untestable hypothesis?

  6. comradebillyboy asks: “but what good is an untestable hypothesis?”

    It’s as good as Last Thursdayism, which is also consistent with Genesis.

  7. The refraction index is therefore the ratio of light’s speed in a vacuum to light’s speed in the material. If the numerator is infinite, then the ratio will be infinite.

    As long as the ratio is the same (i.e., refractive index is constant), it doesn’t matter if the numerator gets infinite- there’s no a priori reason to allow c to go to infinity but hold constant the speed of light through the material.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    Once again, this is not Lisle’s theory. This work about Ole Roemer–this is not Lisle’s work. It comes from mainstream scientific publications. Roemer’s methods were not experimentally sophisticated enough to determine whether the speed of light was finite, anyway.

    Lisle is presenting mainstream scientific work in a way that supports his version of creationism, but he didn’t invent it and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Those of you complaining that it’s “untestable” are missing the point. Your common sense assumption that light always travels at the same speed is ALSO “untestable” The existence of electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields are “untestable”.

    Please learn something about this before you comment. You are making Lisle’s stereotypes of “Darwinists” come true.

  9. Gabriel Hanna says:

    Please learn something about this before you comment. You are making Lisle’s stereotypes of “Darwinists” come true.

    I thought my post was pretty fair, thanks to your efforts. It never occurred to me that Jason’s critique of Rømer’s work was his own, and it wasn’t presented like that. If I gave the wrong impression, I’ll fix it.

  10. WRT Gabriel Hanna’s statement:
    “The existence of electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields are ‘untestable’.” I cannot make any sense of this assertion. The Apollo missions to the moon and back provided a rather convincing demonstration of the gravitational fields of the moon, the earth and the sun, IMHO. Most people (except perhaps Bill O’Reilly) are fairly convinced that the ocean tides are caused by these same gravitational fields.

    Much of the electronic and electro-mechanical technologies that make this Internet-based discussion possible depend upon electric and magnetic fields. Neither your local utility’s electrical generators nor your old TV’s CRT would work without the existence of magnetic fields. There are thousands of other devices that work only because such fields can be created and controlled. The entire “field” of electrical engineering is based on these things.

    I cannot make any sense of GH’s assertion.

  11. Lisle argues that the light coming from Jupiter’s moon is undergoing relativistic effects, but that makes no sense. Time dilation at the velocities of objects in our solar system is so slight as to be practically negligible. In the twenty-two mintues that light takes to get here from Io, there would be only fractions of a second difference.

    As to whether it’s possible to test the constancy of the speed of light in a single direction, what about determining the distance to Jupiter with parallax and use that independently determined distance to check the light speed results.

    The assumption of science is that, all things being equal, the behavior of physical properties and forces remains consistent. If Lisle claims that light speed is variable, he needs to give evidence that it is, evidence that goes beyond a desire to square things with his interpretation of the Bible.

    By the way, this reminds me of a fan explanation of the highly variable travel times in “Star Trek.” It’s been noticed that the Enterprise can take only a few days to go many hundreds of light years on one course, but take far longer on another. The explanation was that there are variations in subspace that make warp four to the Klingon homeworld a whole lot faster than warp four to other stars.

  12. Realist1948 says: “I cannot make any sense of GH’s assertion.”

    Gabe can speak for himself, but I think he’s talking about fields. A field is just a convenient way to think about what’s going on.

  13. Gabriel Hanna

    @Realist: Reflect on the distinction between “force” and “field” and they answer should be clear, shouldn’t it? You can measure a force between two masses, but the “field” is a mathematical abstraction which is due to ONE mass. Fields were invented because otherwise you have to wonder how the Sun knows where the Earth is in order to put a force on it, but if that doesn’t bother you then there is no need for the “field” concept. It is mathematically very convenient, but that doesn’t mean that you can measure them.

    So you can stop sneering about Bill O’Reilly, and maybe thik a little more deeply on the things you think you know and how you know them.

    I don’t know where Lisle got the inspiration to hit on an obscure bit of physics to bait educated people into revealing their ignorance, but I am determined to see his tactic fail, and so I am trying to educate people. With little success.

    @SC: not aimed at you, I know you’ve been paying attention.

  14. I updated the post to add a link to this Wikipedia article, One-way speed of light, which I think Gabe mentioned in a comment to one of our earlier threads.

  15. @GH. If we use your definition of “field”..[as] a mathematical abstraction which is due to ONE mass”then you are certainly right. The Webster’s Dictionary on my desk defines magnetic field as ” n (1845):the portion of space near a magnetic body or a current carrying body in which the forces due to the body or current can be detected.” Explicit in this definition (and the analogous definition for gravitational fields, etc.) is the requirement that some ‘detector’ must be used (e.g. a second mass in the case of gravitational fields. Gravitational lenses give us another kind of detector).

    I suppose one could only rigorously ‘prove’ the existence of a field in some region by moving the detector through an infinite number of places in that region… which is likely to take an infinite amount of time :-). So of course we have to cheat and make some assumptions about continuity, etc. I suppose I am guilty of having been so comfortable with these notions for so long that I don’t question them as much as I might. I’ll have to dust off my old Halliday and Resnick this week-end and see how they defined fields.

    And for all —
    Going back to Jason’s hypothesis about the speed of electromagnetic waves somehow being greater in one direction, I again assert that GPS systems would not work if his hypothesis were true today. Does anyone question this?

    Sneering about Bill O’Reilly? Why wouldn’t I sneer about Bill O’Reilly??? 🙂

  16. Gabe, I’m quite sure Lisle is not trying to bait educated people into revealing their ignorance – if so, he picked a very obscure topic to use. Maybe if you had a number of physicists asking these questions it would be a problem, but I wouldn’t expect even 1 or 2 percent of very well educated people to know this concept. I’m certainly not embarrassed to have been ignorant of ASC, and I’m willing to bet no one Lisle is preaching to has any idea what he is talking about.

    I think most of use are familiar with normal relativity, though. If I were in a spacecraft moving near the speed of light, would there be any observable differences between ASC and the usual convention in the way objects outside my spacecraft appeared? Also, how does this affect the horizon problem? If light travels toward the observer instantly, would this mean that all parts of the universe are visible to all other parts of the universe?

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    @Realist: Does anyone question this?

    It is dangerous to assume that just because you’ve never heard of an issue, that the issue is unimportant. The GPS satellites work just fine if other synchronization conventions are used. Please refer to the wikipedia article on the one-way speed of light, it is a good introduction. Reality is more complicated than you would like to it to be.

    Why wouldn’t I sneer about Bill O’Reilly??? 🙂

    Because it’s an irrelevant political aside. Bill O’ Reilly might not know anything about gravity or relativity, but Jason Lisle does, and knows a lot more than you. You assume that because he disagrees with you he’s stupid or lying. Lisle’s talk about synchrony conventions is mainstream science that you just didn’t happen to know about. A few months ago I, like you, had never heard of it and thought it obviously ridiculous. Since then I’ve done my homework and learned better.

  18. Gabe says:

    Lisle’s talk about synchrony conventions is mainstream science that you just didn’t happen to know about. A few months ago I, like you, had never heard of it and thought it obviously ridiculous. Since then I’ve done my homework and learned better.

    Likewise. I thought I had a reasonable grasp of at least the special theory of relativity. I strongly suspect that Jason is the only creationist in the world with the education to pull a stunt like this. His originality is in trying to exploit an obscure concept like ASC for his beliefs about Genesis.

  19. Gabriel Hanna

    @Ed:

    if so, he picked a very obscure topic to use.

    Of course he did. He can use it to make it appear that his knowledge is deeper than that of his critics. It’s an old rhetorical trick.

    Maybe if you had a number of physicists asking these questions it would be a problem, but I wouldn’t expect even 1 or 2 percent of very well educated people to know this concept.

    I asked around, and none of my colleagues had heard of it either. I have seen the problem mentioned in a recent textbook, but it wasn’t discussed in detail. It’s obscure even among physicists. The biggest journal it ever comes up in is American Journal of Physics, which focuses on physics education. I think awareness is slowly beginning to spread.

    I’m willing to bet no one Lisle is preaching to has any idea what he is talking about.

    That doesn’t matter, they’ll find any reason or none. We need to argue in good faith from solid science.

    I think most of use are familiar with normal relativity, though.

    As I’ve said before, special relativity is totally consistent with other synchronization conventions. The equations just get more complicated to write. There is no point in attacking synchronicity conventions. They are mainstream, non-creationist science.

  20. @Anonymous [Gabe]:
    WRT
    “You assume that because he disagrees with you he’s stupid or lying…”
    No, I formed my opinion about ‘Dr.’ Lisle by first seeing his performance in the movie version of ‘What’s The Matter With Kansas?” In his brief appearance he presents a banquest of BS to some Kansas fundamentalists, mostly children. Anyone who has so little respect for the truth (or children, for that matter) does not get much respect from me.

    BTW my GPS still works, regardless of what Jason Lisle says 🙂

  21. Here is my transcript of Jason Lisle’s spiel to some school kids in the movie “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” I may have a word or two wrong, but you can verify this transcript simply by watching the appropriate scene in the move. The scene is a picnic area at the ‘Creation Museum’ near Cincinnati:
    Commenting on the Columbine school shootings, Lisle claims a connection between the teaching of evolution and school violence. I didn’t transcribe that part verbatim. But a short time later, he tells the kids:

    “Biblically, planets are actually clasified as stars. In fact there is a lot of evidence that those planets were created recently, a few thousand years ago.
    For example the internal heat of planets like Jupiter and Neptune .. they give off a lot of energy. If they were really billions of years old they should have cooled down a long time ago. But the fact that they’re still warm is because they are young.
    “There is no justification for believing in the big bang..” (because they don’t know what came before it). “Things that have a beginning require a cause. The universe has a beginning and so it requires a cause. Because the universe is running down, it needs something to have wound it up a finite amount of time ago … it has a beginning. God is beyond time, and doesn’t require a beginning and doesn’t require a cause.

    “If the Bible wasn’t true, science wouldn’t really be possible.
    Science requires a logical orderly universe that behaves in a consistent, predictable fashion. Otherwise science would be impossible. And if the universe were just an accident, a byproduct of a big bang, why would it obey laws? So if naturalism were true, logic would be impossible… you wouldn’t be able to reason. If you give up the bible, you’ve given up the possibility of really knowing anything.”

    As I said, a banquet of BS. That was the first I ever heard of Jason Lisle, and forms the basis of my lack of respect for him. Inflicting this nonsense on naive kids borders on child abuse. BTW, if you turn on the audio commentary on the DVD you can hear Thomas Frank and one of the film-makers yucking it up over Jason’s little rant.

  22. Gabriel Hanna

    @Realist: Lisle is a creationist and his creationist arguments are pure sophistry. That being said, he believes that the earth goes around the sun, as do mainstream physicists, and that the speed of light cannot be measured without first determining a synchronization convention, as do mainstream physicists who’ve bothered to investigate the matter.

    He has set a trap for people who believe in evolution. He misuses an uncontroversial, though obscure and surprising, result from relativity to support creationism and then tricks you into attacking it, instead of his unjustified conclusions which use it as a premise. That makes you look like a dogmatist, like someone who doesn’t care at all what physics says, you’re going to support “Darwinism” come hell or high water. I’m not saying you deserve to be described that way, but you’re making it easier for him to do.

    BTW my GPS still works, regardless of what Jason Lisle says 🙂

    He never said GPS won’t work. Nobody said GPS won’t work. It’s your incomplete misunderstanding that GPS doesn’t work if the speed of light isn’t the same for everyone.

  23. Gabriel Hanna

    @SC: could you be a lamb and put my name on my “anonymous” comments? Every “anonymous” here is me.

  24. @GH ” It’s your incomplete misunderstanding that GPS doesn’t work if the speed of light isn’t the same for everyone.”

    No, GH, I don’t think so. The issue is not whether the speed of light is the same for everyone. The issue I am speaking to is whether the speed of radio waves (electromagnetic radiation) is the same in all directions for a given observer. That is not the same thing as “for everyone.”

    My understanding of one of Jason’s claims is that the speed of light is not necessarily the same in all directions. It is this hypothesis I am disputing.

    Please explain to me how a GPS could be at all accurate if, as the earth rotated on its axis, the speed of radio waves from a given GPS satellite to the GPS receiver were to change by even one percent (with the change being a function of the angle between two vectors: a satellite-to-receiver vector and the alleged “preferred direction” vector). With such a variation, the accuracy of the GPS would be so poor as to make the device unusable for normal driving. Without moving the GPS receiver at all (relative to the earth) you would get very different estimates of your location at time t vs. time t + 12 hours (180 degrees of earth’s rotation).

    (See link above for a brief description of how a GPS works. It depends on the speed of radio waves being the same in all directions).

    My understanding of one of Jason’s claims is that the speed of light is not necessarily the same in all directions. It is this claim I am disputing. Except for the special case where this “preferred direction” is parallel to the earth’s axis of rotation, I believe the argument above strongly suggests that there is no such “preferred direction.” The special case for a “preferred direction” parallel to the axis can be dealt with by moving between higher and lower latititudes.

    I think you’re making this more complicated than necessary.

  25. @Realist: I went down the GPS rabbit hole before … see the comments to SC’s earlier post. I’m not sure I entirely agree with Gabe, but I acknowledge he understands this better than I, so I defer to him.

    A point about conclusions. Lisle uses ASC to support a recent origin for the universe. Since we have evidence unrelated to lightspeed that the universe is older than 6,000 years, could we not conclude that Lisle’s interpretation of ASC is not consistent with the evidence of an old universe and throw it out on that basis?

    @Gabe – you did not answer my question about the horizon problem. Isn’t the reason that we have a horizon issue linked to the speed of light, and wouldn’t ASC as Lisle interprets it negate that problem? Would we not see light from the entire universe (given a large enough telescope)?

  26. Gabriel Hanna

    @Realist: Please explain to me how a GPS could be at all accurate if, as the earth rotated on its axis, the speed of radio waves from a given GPS satellite to the GPS receiver were to change by even one percent …

    Because the GPS does not know when you will receive its signal, or when you sent a signal to it, without assuming something about the speed of light. GPS satellites do not have magic clocks which can measure the time in distant locations. The GPS satellites synchronize their clocks by communicating with distant clocks. It’s very, very simple.

    I can see you haven’t bothered with the wikipedia article. It’s not as though it’s very long. Would you like me to send you some of the papers I’ve read, or will references to them do? But if you won’t even read wikipedia I don’t suppose you’ll read them either.

    @Ed: Since we have evidence unrelated to lightspeed that the universe is older than 6,000 years, could we not conclude that Lisle’s interpretation of ASC is not consistent with the evidence of an old universe and throw it out on that basis?

    You can’t throw out his synchronization convention with the creationism, no, because the creationism does not follow from the convention. The age of the universe has nothing to do with how we synchronize clocks and is not affected by that, any more than the size of the universe is affected by how we define the meter.

    All that Lisle can do with his ASC is say that we don’t know that light coming from six thousand light years away really shows events that happened six thousand years ago. So what? We still have rocks that are billions of years old, as determined by the ratios of isotopes found in them. God may have created those rocks mature, but why did he give them fake birth certificates?

    you did not answer my question about the horizon problem.

    Inventing questions to ask me takes no effort. Answering those questions does. I don’t specialize in this subject so I have to go read papers to find the answers. Verb. sap. You know, of course, that even in “orthodox” relativity light waves can travel faster than c, but they don’t cause problems with causality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anomalous_dispersion#Group_and_phase_velocity).

    You have to be very careful in answering these questions not to import the wrong assumptions. For example, your question about refractive indices

    The refraction index is therefore the ratio of light’s speed in a vacuum to light’s speed in the material. If the numerator is infinite, then the ratio will be infinite.

    but you forget that the denominator might be infinite as well, and so you have to argue from limits. In the limit as the numerator and denominator go to infinity the ratio may be not infinite. You have to set these questions up mathematically, without hand-waving.

  27. retiredsciguy

    I don’t understand how light can have varying wavelengths and frequencies if c is infinite. If light arrived instantaneously, wouldn’t the concept of “frequency” be meaningless, and thus so too would be “wavelength”?

    Another indication of the great age of the earth, if not the universe, is the distance travelled by landmasses due to plate tectonics. We now have the ability to determine the change of position of one landmass relative to another to an accuracy greater than within one cm, and thus we know that it has taken many millions of years to open up the Atlantic Ocean. And no, it couldn’t have moved much faster in the past. It would defy the laws of physics.

  28. Here’s a link to a brief article about GPS and the speed of light.
    http://metaresearch.org/cosmology/gps-relativity.asp

    Note section 4: Is the speed of light constant?

    and in particular this part:
    ” …the [GPS] system has shown that the speed of radio signals (identical to the “speed of light”) is the same from all satellites to all ground stations at all times of day and in all directions to within ±12 meters per second (m/s). The same numerical value for the speed of light works equally well at any season of the year.”

    This is the point I was trying to make earlier… and in particular, the “in all directions to within +/- 12 m/s” assertion. Nothing I’ve read on ASC or “The one-way speed of light” appears to refute this.

  29. @retiredsciguy: I don’t understand how light can have varying wavelengths and frequencies if c is infinite.

    Because the speed of light is a product of the two, and there are an infinite number of combinations of frequency and wavelength that produce a given speed of light. Why would that cease to be true in the limit that the speed goes to infinity?

    @Realist: From your link:

    For example, if the satellite clocks are fully synchronized with ground atomic clocks, and we know the time when a signal is sent from a satellite, then the time delay for that signal to reach a ground receiver immediately reveals the distance (to a potential accuracy of about one foot) between satellite and ground receiver.

    QED. In order to synchronize the clocks, the satellites have to assume how long it took their signals to get to the distant clocks and how long it took for the signal to come back.

    So A wants to know the time at B. A sends a signal to be, saying “What time is it”? B sends the signal back, “4:20”. But the signal took time to travel from B to A. A can’t change his clock to 4:20 without accounting for it, he’d be wrong. How much time? That depends on the speed of light from B to A, doesn’t it?

    The paragraph you quoted is based on an unstated, assumed synchronization convention. A does not have magical powers to know when B got a signal, and B does not have magical powers to know when A got a signal. So we assume a convention where A and B assume that light travels at the same speed for both of them. If we assume a different convention, nothing physical changes. We say the speed of light is different in different directions so we change the procedure for synchronizing distant clocks, but all of physics works out exactly the same.

  30. my head is exploding… 🙂

  31. As far as I can tell, Lisle is using Edward’s theory (from here: http://ajp.aapt.org/resource/1/ajpias/v31/i7/p482_s1?isAuthorized=no) . I haven’t read his paper and I won’t give creationist sites hits but the argument he makes matches rather well with c/(1+q) as referenced in the Wikipedia article.

    I foresee one, maybe two problems:
    1. The big one is that Edward’s Theory is functionally equivalent to Special Relativity – it’s utterly unimportant how ‘long’ it took light to arrive on earth because time still varies with the speed of light – every result you get via SR is going to be exactly the same in ET. The age of the universe does not change.
    2. Provided c varies, then values dependent upon c will vary. The fine-structure constant depends upon c. The fine-structure constant is known not to vary enough to accommodate a 6ky old universe.

    By way of explanation, if c varies, then e in α = (e^2)/(hbar c) would also have to vary by an inversely proportional amount. Changes in e would have rather drastic effects upon matter, effects which would be rather easily observable.

  32. Gabriel Hanna

    @Roger3: No, Lisle is not using Edward’s theory.

  33. ‘The Distant Starlight Problem’ is the elephant in the room for creationists. The problems created by the rest of science can be waved away in the usual creationist manner. The trouble is that anyone in the pew, who can be made to give the matter any thought, is likely to realize that the Bible account of a 6-day creation is incompatible with a universe encompassing billions of light-years. As it becomes increasingly clear that there is no way that those pictures from the Hubble telescope will fit into 6000 light-years, the Biblical account is under attack.

    The problem is that unless creationists accept the traditional model of ‘light created en-route’, with its attendant problem of making God out to be deceptive, they are left with having to find some science to explain it or having to introduce another, post-creation, miracle.

    The crude solution is to say that the stars were each ‘turned on’ at just the right moment so that their light simultaneously arrived at the Earth on the ‘fourth day’. Dr Lisle is a biblical hyper-literalist and also a creation scientist – he is also very clever and devilishly cunning. What he has done is to make the crude solution suddenly appear not crude. His Biblical interpretation is impeccable as is his science, but there really isn’t any science there: nothing has changed, the Universe is as old and as large as it was before, but he has hidden the elephant.

    Where has the elephant gone?

    What Dr Lisle has done is to use Special Relativity to show that, although any observer will measure the same value for the speed of light based on the average speed in the outwards and return directions, that observer cannot determine the outward or return speed separately. He may assign any value to one direction between c/2 and infinity providing he accepts the corresponding value for the other direction that makes the average speed c. He justifies assigning a value of infinity for the inward journey towards an observer on Earth on Biblical grounds. With an infinite speed of light, ‘The Distant Starlight Problem’ disappears.

    We need to note that assigning different values to the outward and return speed makes no difference to any physical laws, it is purely a matter of convention, at least within the confines of Special Relativity.

    Dr Lisle has taken the special case of light travelling from distant stars to an observer on Earth. He has achieved his objective of making the light from stars that are ‘turned on’ during ‘day four’, arrive at Earth on the same day. But this is done at the cost of producing another synchronisation problem. How can a signal arrive at each star at the correct time so that they all light up together as viewed from Earth? God could send a signal out to all the stars whilst adopting the convention that outward going signals travel at infinite speed. But when God looks at the effect of his work on the Earth, the circuit has been completed; if God is to see his work on the same day, we have to have information travelling around a closed loop at (nearly) infinite speed. This is not possible for any observer.

    Dr Lisle has assumed that he can get away with assigning a non-c value to the speed of light without any consequences because the light trip is only one way. Instead of solving ‘The Distant Starlight Problem’ by invoking an extra-biblical miracle to make the speed of light infinite, he has shown that the same result can be achieved non-miraculously. However the ‘problem’ has merely been moved ‘upstairs’ where God is required to work another miracle to get the timing right. Of course this is no problem to Dr Lisle, he has no idea how to create a ‘mature’ universe and adding this to God’s workload probable seems a small thing.

  34. Gabriel Hanna

    Nice job, Alan.

  35. Alan(UK) says:

    How can a signal arrive at each star at the correct time so that they all light up together as viewed from Earth? … [T]he ‘problem’ has merely been moved ‘upstairs’ where God is required to work another miracle to get the timing right.

    I agree with Gabe — that is very good. However, Jason would probably respond that God doesn’t need to send signals to the stars. Like the First Cause argument, where God needs no cause (thus undermining the entire argument), God is exempt from your diabolical two-way signaling loop.

  36. Lisle gets around the signalling-the-stars-to-ignite problem early on, by stating that God is omnipresent; he can act in all places without having any internal communication delay.

    I have come to accept that Lisle’s ASC is internally consistent and unfalsifiable, just like the metric system or Celsius temperature convention. It exchanges one set of (Einsteinian) relativistic weirdnesses with another set of weirdnesses, to which we have not become inured by long exposure.

    I suppose gravity propagates at infinite speed toward the observer in Lisle’s model as well; this would be a way for creationists to explain how objects more than 6000 ly apart (like opposite ends of a single galaxy) can be gravitationally bound to each other, without invoking ‘gravity in transit’.

    Having just reread Lisle’s paper, I admit that there is still one point that I can’t grokk: the parts about Einstein synchrony and events that are simultaneous from one measurement point on Earth’s orbit becoming widely spread apart in time from another measurement point on the orbit, when our velocity relative to those events has changed. I just don’t understand this bit. Suppose that there are two supernovas equidistant to us but in opposite directions, so their incident light hits us simultaneously on June 21. Over the next six months, we don’t observe that one supernova expands into a full fledged bigass nebula while the other regresses back into an unstable star. Can someone explain what he’s on about here?

  37. @Gabriel Hanna: “Because the speed of light is a product of the two, and there are an infinite number of combinations of frequency and wavelength that produce a given speed of light. Why would that cease to be true in the limit that the speed goes to infinity?”

    Gabe, I’m not a mathematician, but I can’t think of any two finite numbers that will yield infinity as their product. If we take any particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum (red light, say), it has a definite wavelength and a definite frequency, both of which can be measured precisely and both of which are finite numbers. Moreover, both wavelength and frequency can be measured by independent means, and in ways that don’t rely on knowing the speed of light first.

    In other words, since the speed of light is the product of wavelength and frequency, and since wavelength and frequency are both finite numbers, the speed of light must be finite. Am I wrong?

    I must be, because I can’t believe I’m the first one to think of this argument to disprove the idea of c=infinity. I’m just an amatuer astronomer/retired 7th grade science teacher/artist/photographer/etc. What am I missing?

  38. @retiredsciguy:What am I missing?

    Think about how you measure frequency and wavelength. To measure wavelength, you have to know that the wave is in the same phase in two different places at the same time. In order to know when two things happen at the same time, you need a synchronization convention.

    If we take any particular part of the electromagnetic spectrum (red light, say), it has a definite wavelength and a definite frequency, both of which can be measured precisely and both of which are finite numbers.

    Given a synchronization convention, you can measure them precisely. But that’s equivalent to choosing a one-way speed of light.

    @brossaHaving just reread Lisle’s paper, I admit that there is still one point that I can’t grokk: the parts about Einstein synchrony and events that are simultaneous from one measurement point on Earth’s orbit becoming widely spread apart in time from another measurement point on the orbit, when our velocity relative to those events has changed. I just don’t understand this bit.

    I quit reading Lisle’s stuff when it became clear none of it was original with him. So I don’t know if you’re missing something or he is, but there’s a lot of stuff we don’t understand but the math checks out. And when you’ve spent enough time with the math, then it becomes familar and it does make sense. I work through these things with time-space diagrams on graph paper. Like you said,

    It exchanges one set of (Einsteinian) relativistic weirdnesses with another set of weirdnesses, to which we have not become inured by long exposure.

    Except, let me emphasize again, none of this synchronicity convention stuff is Lisle’s. We should call it Reichenbach’s or Poincare’s convention.

  39. The Curmudgeon said:

    …Jason would probably respond that God doesn’t need to send signals to the stars. Like the First Cause argument, where God needs no cause (thus undermining the entire argument), God is exempt from your diabolical two-way signaling loop.

    The end of my post was not very clear.

    Creation Scientists have an aversion to introducing too many miracles – their ideal is invoking the Biblical ones plus a minimum of others to make their argument work. Solutions to ‘The Distant Starlight Problem’ by assuming a variable speed of light have all been shot down long ago. Thus they are left with having to perform the task assuming a method unknown to science – this comes close to invoking a miracle.

    What Dr Lisle has done is take the miracle from the real world of time and space and moved it to the heavenly realm of the Creator where it will just be lost amidst the general task of creation. In other words, he has moved ‘The Distant Starlight Problem’ from where it can be examined scientifically to the theological realm where anything goes.

  40. Alan(UK) says: “The end of my post was not very clear.”

    You were clear. I failed to grasp that (to a creationist) bumping the problem upstairs provides a solution to the problem.

    Actually, because the speed of everything we perceive with our senses or instruments requires clock synchronization, this ASC convention — if applied more broadly — could be an assault on all sensory evidence, the validity of which is an axiom of science. If we can’t rely on the evidence of our senses, then all we have left is faith in what the swamis tell us.

    No one raises the clock-sync issue regarding sound, however, because even to a creationist it would seem crazy to claim that his words to you are traveling away from him in waves vibrating through the air at half the accepted speed of sound, and he’s receiving your reply coming to him through the air at twice the speed of sound. It’s easier to adopt the ASC convention with light, which doesn’t travel through the aether.

    Nevertheless, the whole business is a challenge to the validity of sensory evidence, which has been the holy grail of mystics forever.

  41. I disagree that the ASC challenges the validity of sensory evidence any more than the Einstein relativity convention, which has its own set of issues with defining simultaneity. Sensory evidence hasn’t been an immutable, universal Truth since the Newtonian model was superseded.

  42. brossa says:

    Sensory evidence hasn’t been an immutable, universal Truth since the Newtonian model was superseded.

    That’s a common argument, but it doesn’t hold up. Sensory evidence has never been “immutable.” One can be misled, for example, by the appearance of a mirage in the desert. Yet it’s ultimately sensory evidence that discloses the reality that there wasn’t any water, and that in certain circumstances, light can play tricks on us. So it is with relativity. Mere appearances can be deceiving, but they can be corrected to account for an observer’s frame of reference. And relativity (at least the special theory) has been tested innumerable times — such tests ultimately relying on sensory evidence.

  43. SC: The problem with your sound analogy is that the speed of sound is not a property of space, the way the speed of light is. This is why a jet can travel faster than the speed of sound without going backward in time or requiring an infinite amount of energy.

  44. Gabe says: “The problem with your sound analogy …”

    I didn’t think much of it either. Just trying to make the larger point. Failed, I guess.

  45. Gabriel Hanna

    When I was young and first heard of relativity I didn’t understand what was so special about light that all speeds had to be less than it. Surely we could discover something that moved faster, how did we know light was the fastest thing? But of course that reasoning is backward. There is a fastest speed that space will support, and light can travel at that speed.

  46. SC says: “Mere appearances can be deceiving, but they can be corrected to account for an observer’s frame of reference.”

    But the exact same thing can be said for the ASC. You can’t state that the ASC is an assault on sensory evidence without also (I almost said simultaneously!) saying that Einsteinian relativity is an assault on sensory evidence. Just like you can’t say that the Celsius temperature scale is an assault on sensory evidence while the Fahrenheit scale is not. We like to say that we live in a universe where the charge on an electron is negative and a proton is positive; but we could by fiat declare the opposite, and the universe would continue to operate just the same.

  47. brossa says:

    You can’t state that the ASC is an assault on sensory evidence without also (I almost said simultaneously!) saying that Einsteinian relativity is an assault on sensory evidence.

    Neither is literally an assault on sensory evidence. We know what we know, and it’s sensory evidence that gives us the input. If there are limits, such as knowing whether lightspeed is always constant or whether ASC is “true,” okay, there are limits. I can live with that. But I’m suggesting that Jason’s promotion of ASC will be used for an assault on sensory evidence. It’s what mystics always try to do.