Australian scientists think the speed of light may not beconstant, which could bring down one of the most basic lawsof modern physics: Einstein’s theory of relativity.It’s possible that the speed of light has slowed down overbillions of years, and “That means giving up the theory ofrelativity and E-mc squared and all that sort of stuff,”says physicist Paul Davies.

Evidence that the speed of light can change is based on datacollected by University of New South Wales astronomer JohnWebb, who found that light from a distant quasar hadabsorbed the wrong type of photons from interstellar cloudson its 12 billion year journey to earth. Webb’s observationsmean that the structure of atoms emitting the quasar lightwas slightly different in structure from the atoms that nowexist. This can only be explained by a change in theelectron charge or the speed of light. “But two of thecherished laws of the universe are the law that electroncharge shall not change and that the speed of light shallnot change, so whichever way you look at it we’re introuble,” Davies says.

The Australian team realized that a change in the electroncharge over time would violate the second law ofthermodynamics, so they decided the only thing that couldhave changed was the speed of light. According to Einstein,the speed of light is 186,300 miles per second. “?There’s acherished law that says nothing can go faster than light andthat follows from the theory of relativity,” Davies says.”Maybe it’s possible to get around that restriction, inwhich case it would enthrall Star Trek fans because at themoment even at the speed of light it would take 100,000years to cross the galaxy. It’s a bit of a bore really andif the speed of light limit could go, then who knows? Allbets are off.”

Some of our most important science was originally discoveredby ancient civilizations. Find out how they did it from?Galactic Alignment? by John MajorJenkins,clickhere. Jenkins will be on Dreamland August 10.

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