This is a bit esoteric, but it’s certain to attract the attention of creationists everywhere. As you know, creationists assert that the laws of the universe are wildly variable, and in the past they were whatever was necessary to make the bible’s history true. In particular, they often assert that the speed of light was much greater in the past, which avoids their distant starlight problem — that is, if the universe were only around 6,000 years old, then how is it possible that we see light from stars and galaxies that are millions of light-years away from us? We’ve discussed this before — see How Old Is The Creationists’ Universe?
We just found an article at PhysOrg which is certain to raise the creationists’ hopes. It’s titled Theory that challenges Einstein’s physics could soon be put to the test. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
The assumption that the speed of light is constant, and always has been, underpins many theories in physics, such as Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In particular, it plays a role in models of what happened in the very early universe, seconds after the Big Bang.
But some researchers have suggested that the speed of light could have been much higher in this early universe. Now, one of this theory’s originators, Professor João Magueijo from Imperial College London, working with Dr Niayesh Afshordi at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, has made a prediction that could be used to test the theory’s validity.
Okay, what would the test be? We’re told:
Structures in the universe, for example galaxies, all formed from fluctuations in the early universe – tiny differences in density from one region to another. A record of these early fluctuations is imprinted on the cosmic microwave background – a map of the oldest light in the universe – in the form of a ‘spectral index’.
Working with their theory that the fluctuations were influenced by a varying speed of light in the early universe, Professor Magueijo and Dr Afshordi have now used a model to put an exact figure on the spectral index. The predicted figure and the model it is based on are published in the journal Physical Review D.
Here’s a link to their published paper: Critical geometry of a thermal big bang. Without a subscription, all you can see is the abstract, so we’ll stay with PhysOrg, which says:
Cosmologists are currently getting ever more precise readings of this figure [the spectral index], so that prediction could soon be tested – either confirming or ruling out the team’s model of the early universe. Their figure is a very precise 0.96478. This is close to the current estimate of readings of the cosmic microwave background, which puts it around 0.968, with some margin of error.
Professor Magueijo said: “The theory, which we first proposed in the late-1990s, has now reached a maturity point – it has produced a testable prediction. If observations in the near future do find this number to be accurate, it could lead to a modification of Einstein’s theory of gravity. The idea that the speed of light could be variable was radical when first proposed, but with a numerical prediction, it becomes something physicists can actually test. If true, it would mean that the laws of nature were not always the same as they are today.“
You can see why the creationist will be excited. PhysOrg continues:
The testability of the varying speed of light theory sets it apart from the more mainstream rival theory: inflation. Inflation says that the early universe went through an extremely rapid expansion phase, much faster than the current rate of expansion of the universe.
We’re all familiar with that. Creationists have never, to our knowledge, been able to do anything with that brief moment of inflation. But if the speed of light is variable — oh boy!
We thought PhysOrg had dropped their comments feature a few years ago, but their article has over 160 comments already. That’s quite understandable. Even without the creationists’ interest, this is a fascinating topic.
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