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Scientists to Challenge Albert Einstein's 'Speed of Light is Constant' Theory

Nov 28, 2016 04:20 AM EST
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A team of scientists from London and Canada is set to challenge one of Albert Einstein's accepted theories regarding the classification of the speed of light as constant, which means that light in a vacuum will have the same numerical value under any conditions.

The new theory of the scientists, described in a paper published in the journal Physical Review, hypothesizes that the speed of light might actually be a variable.

Einstein has long claimed that the speed of light is constant and it would be impossible for anything to travel faster than light because it would violate the rules of physics. The speed of light was then treated to be a constant with a numerical value of 299,792,458 meters per second.

For many years, Einstein's theory remained to be the basis of most scientific milestones. However, Joao Magueijo, a scientist from the Imperial College of London, began to challenge Einstein's theory in order to solve a physics conundrum known as the "horizon problem".

"The theory, which we first proposed in the late-1990s, has now reached a maturity point - it has produced a testable prediction," explained Professor Magueijo in a report from Daily Galaxy. 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 best way to explain the horizon problem is the inflation, suggesting that the temperature after the big bang even out before the universe went through the rapid phase of expansion. However, scientists have difficult time trying to explain why or how the inflation occurred and stopped.

Due to the uncertainties of the inflation theory, Magueijo proposed that light and gravity may have traveled at different speeds in the beginning of the universe. In order to reach the so-called temperature equilibrium, photons need to travel faster than the gravity, giving it enough time to travel into all parts of the universe.

To test out his hypothesis, Magueijo, along with Dr Niayesh Afshordi of Perimeter Institute in Canada, used a model to put an exact figure on the spectral index, or the record of early fluctuations in the speed of light that is imprinted on the cosmic microwave background, which commonly referred to as the map of the oldest light in the universe.

The numerical figure given to the spectral index by Magueijo and Afshordi is a very precise 0.96478. The current estimate of the cosmic microwave background puts it around 0.968, suggesting a close match to Magueijo and Afshordi's estimates.

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