Speed of Light

E + mC2, where C (speed of light) is constant...right? Well maybe not anymore.

In the 1990s, two researchers suggested that the speed of light may vary. They have now come up with a numerical prediction that will allow their theory to be tested.

In a paper published in the journal Physical Review D, João Magueijo and Niayesh Afshordi detailed the creation of an exact figure on the spectral index, a model that can be used to determine if their theory is valid or not.

According to Tech Times, all structures in the universe today were created when fluctuations occurred in the early universe. The spectral index is the record of these fluctuations that is now integrated into the cosmic microwave background.

The figure that Magueijo and Afshordi came up with is 0.96478 precise, which is extremely close to the currently used estimated readings of 0.968, give or take some margin for error, gathered from the cosmic microwave background.

What the duo proposed is contrary to what Einstein's theory of general relativity dictates: That the speed of light is, and always has been, the same.

Magueijo and Afshordi believe that the violent events following the Big Bang resulted in regions with fluctuating or erratic variations in density, and that these fluctuations were powered by varying speeds of light. These early fluctuations are imprinted on the cosmic microwave background.

"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," Magueijo says.

"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."

Magueijo and Afshordi are not alone in rethinking relativity. Quantum physics has always been unpredictable using classical physical assumptions, hinting at a mismatch somehow. Other physicists have echoed their excitement at testing the theory. If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, physics has a lot of rewriting to do.

"We have a model of the universe that embraces the idea there must be new physics at some point," Magueijo says. "It's complicated, obviously, but I think ultimately there will be a way of informing quantum gravity from this kind of cosmology."

"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."

According to Futurism.com, Magueijo and Afshordi are not alone in rethinking relativity. Quantum physics has always been unpredictable using classical physical assumptions, hinting at a mismatch somehow. Other physicists have echoed their excitement at testing the theory. If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, physics has a lot of rewriting to do.

"We have a model of the universe that embraces the idea there must be new physics at some point," Magueijo says. "It's complicated, obviously, but I think ultimately there will be a way of informing quantum gravity from this kind of cosmology."

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