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Relativity Visualized

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Special Relativity and some of the strange features of light are presented in a converted slideshow in a simple graphic format, an alternative to the Minkowski diagram.

The most counter-intuitive features of Special Relativity are explained:

* How the "world-lines" of bodies in uniform motion have the same length in spacetime while moving at relatively different rates in time

* That bodies in relative motion have different orientations in space as well as time

* How observers with relative motion between them will each observe the other to be moving more slowly in time

* Why the speed of light is the absolute limit of speed

* That light is a constant, and for any observer, the speed of light is ~300,000 km/sec (or ~186,000 mi/sec), because in the continuum of spacetime, the distance it is observed to cover in space is equal in length to one second in time


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Jim Arnold Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

A former visitant of UC Santa Cruz, former union boilermaker, ex-Marine, Vietnam vet, anti-war activist, dilettante in science with an earth-shaking theory on the nature of light (which no one will consider), philosopher in the tradition of Schelling, Hegel, Merleau-Ponty, Marx, and Fromm (sigh, no one listens to me on that either), author of a book on wine clubs (ahem), and cast-off programmer of ancient computer languages. I've recently had two physics articles published in an obscure but earnest Central European journal (European Scientific Journal http://www.eujournal.org/index.php/esj) but my main interests remain politics and philosophy.



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Jim Arnold

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People with only a casual interest in physics can visualize the most mystifying claims of Relativity theory. Scientists are welcome to defend their cherished Minkowski diagram, which projects the clock of an observer on to bodies in relative motion, in direct contradiction of the most basic principle of Relativity.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 1:39:38 PM

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Fascinating, Jim. I would be interested in your views on the following phenomena in the context of your assertion nothing can travel faster than light (which is also the general scientific consensus -- as distinct from the global warming 'consensus'):

1. Speed of light vs. Wormholes. Speculative work, e.g., by Eric Davis, postulates this as more of an illusion of faster than light speeds by distorting space. However, since we are discussing relativity, are such speeds not real to an observer in a spaceship relative to other objects in the distorted space?

2. Speed of light vs. Quantum Entanglement. How do you explain this recent study by Chinese scientists which claims to have measured entangled particles interacting at four times the speed of light?

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 5:48:50 PM

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

Thank you for your comment and questions, Ramani.

1. I believe you are referring to the cosmic expansion of space, which enables distant bodies to recede from each other at speeds greater than the speed of light. It's analogous to how two boats, under the influence of currents between them, can be moved apart without expending any energy of their own. If a boat has a top speed of 7 knots, it is moving through the water at no more than 7 knots, no matter how fast it is separating from another boat.

2. It's not accurate to say entangled particles are interacting. Their properties are found to correspond at any distance, but there is no way of knowing whether they corresponded before an observation.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 6:47:43 PM

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Ramani K V

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1. My question was about speed. If the boats, even standing still, were accelerating away from one another at speeds in excess of the speed of light similar to cosmic bodies in an expanding universe, then how is the speed of light the absolute maximum? (You can replace the boats with Observers A & B in your slides. The question remains.)

2. There would be little point merely asserting entangled particles change their state (almost) instantaneously. The Chinese scientists did measure the pace at which one half of the particles in their experiment changed their state corresponding to the other half.

Quantum physics defies the laws of physics as has been known for centuries, Jim. We can't wish it away. Today, technology giants like Google, Intel and IBM are spending fortunes on quantum computers. Even Einstein acknowledged quantum action at such speeds over infinite distances is 'spooky'.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 at 4:15:36 PM

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

1. The speed of light is the maximum in the same sense that the maximum speed of the boat is 7.5 knots, regardless of incidental currents. If a salesman told you the boat can go 15 knots (without mentioning a 7.5 knot current) you would consider it a misrepresentation, wouldn't you?

2. I can't fully address without claiming that light is actually at absolute rest, and without an experiment I've proposed can confirm it. If I'm right, then "entanglement" is always local. Unfortunately, no one is willing to conduct the experiment.

BTW, Einstein never accepted the "spooky" aspects of quantum theory.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 22, 2019 at 12:46:04 AM

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Ramani K V

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I will buy your response to 2 pending your finding a sponsor for the experiment. Maybe sound out Xi on his next state visit?!

Re. 1. You are isolating the speed of the boat from the speed of the current to prove your point. It is like saying a champion sprinter's speed of 38 kmph (current world record: 37.578 kmph) down the aisle of an airliner hurtling at close to 1,000 kmph is the absolute maximum of anything traveling in the air. Come on...

Submitted on Friday, Nov 22, 2019 at 3:50:00 AM

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Well, Ramani. You could be a great physicist. Because like every physicist who has been confronted with the FIRST graphic representation of the mutual measure of time dilation (for each observer, the other observer's clock is moving slower) and the FIRST to project in two dimensions the reason for many of the strange properties of light (it being an ultimate velocity (expanding space aside), and it being a constant from any coordinate system), you have focused on a triviality. But you, at least, can plead an inexpert appraisal. I do genuinely appreciate your willingness to grapple with it.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 22, 2019 at 6:40:41 AM

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Ramani K V

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Your diagrams are highly educative even for a layman like me. Your dynamic model of relativity is clearly a great improvement on Minkowski's static model. Perhaps I wasn't expressive enough in conveying my appreciation of your work.

The speed of light as a constant is central to both your and Minkowski's models. If objects in space are capable of moving at higher and mutually different speeds, then the entire subject of relativity gets even more complex.

I raised the questions out of genuine curiosity, hoping you would shed light (pardon me) on them. Dismissing them as trivial is a condescension unworthy of a serious scientist. You need not respond if this has become uncomfortable for you.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 22, 2019 at 2:44:40 PM

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Ramani, I didn't mean to offend you. I apologize. I was unconsciously reacting to a typical approach in the scientific community, which is to seize on a side issue to avoid addressing a real issue. I recently encountered a scientist who wanted to convert me to his own unique definitions of "speed" and "velocity" rather than consider my thesis. It's been going on for decades, so I admit I've become over-reactive.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 22, 2019 at 8:57:57 PM

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I understand, Jim. The orthodoxy digs in whenever one of its anointed truths is challenged.

Do please give some thought to my questions when you have the time. We can exchange views over mail. I feel the speed of light greatly inhibits space travel. Only a way around it can help us launch the grandest human adventure of all -- the exploration of the universe. We are not destined to be stuck on this planet warring and killing one another for its finite resources forever.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 23, 2019 at 5:00:23 PM

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Michael Dewey

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

I don't think man should bother going any further than the flag it planted on the moon, as I believe is when Revelation 12 a women in child birth was said to have her foot on the moon. Like the tower of Babble (on?:) man was not allowed to go further. At least not until world sees and end of war and poverty. As someone said this earth is the insane asylum of the universe. But guess no one finds out for sure what is next until dead. But am sure the lunatics are not in charge where ever leave our bodies for.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 23, 2019 at 9:34:43 PM

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Michael, Earth is chaotic because too many people are fighting over too little resources. Since we cannot increase the planet's resources, the only realistic option is to decrease the number of people. Not through wars and sick uses of science, but by letting them migrate voluntarily to other habitable planets to start a new life. Earth with a tenth of its current population will be a far more prosperous place than it is now.

Will it end wars altogether? Perhaps not as history shows we were fighting one another even when we numbered a tenth of what we are now. Human needs are limited. Human greed is limitless.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 12:44:24 AM

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Michael Dewey

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

To understand, at times, where am coming from, starts with a rocken down angels awakening way back in 1994... 9 other in family still believes girl told truth in lies in police report... and can understood first second people would say it was crazy.


I don't know what went wrong in the beginning. But am sure life always existed and something went wrong. Wonder at times if it was the big bang that threw us down here to, ever so slowly, work things out.


Space ship technology could turn out cheapest way to get rid of the bomb that most people know must never fall again. Maybe that first step to stumble towards.


Some of them Twilight Zone Shows are looking to turn out true. Like Aliens showing up with a cookbook "To Serve Mankind." Oh that was a movie when the day the earth stood still.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 2:01:43 AM

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Michael Dewey

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Can't seem to hear this song enough. Him who saw bad moon arisen that is here today wonders how it's gonna end. Wonder much what it will take for the tipping point coming to awaken the comfortably numbed by living in land of material wealth, which really can be a whole lot of fun. There is a lot of innocent blood on every country in the world. Will the broken promised land be that firsts or last to say, "No more wars or poverty", so we can turn the corner for all having enough. Reminds me of Moody Blues' song words, "

The Dream

(Graeme Edge)

When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead

The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead.

Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying

Came to witness spring's new hope, born of leaves decaying.

Just as new life will come from death, love will come at leisure.

Love of love, love of life and giving without measure

Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen.

Live hand-in-hand and together we'll stand on the threshold of a dream.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 2:05:01 AM

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Reply to Michael Dewey:   New Content

We just went through the Harry Potter very well made movies for first time. Come to figure life goes on as that wizard stuff. Pool kid here says am Harry at 61, the girls think a, 18. I do live in cyberspace since good electric job part time through brother paid for great surround sound Desk top and work with great sober Navy Vet of early 90's. He wanted to end the wars 13 years ago. Grounded connections around here now. Love OEN. There's something out there somewhere. Arlo asks if we their prayers?

Submitted on Monday, Nov 25, 2019 at 4:10:24 AM

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Michael, thanks for the song. Going back, I never made it a point to listen to Fogerty. I always liked his music but I would guess about the only time ever I listened to him was on the radio. I think I missed out. I am going to start listening, good stuff. I take it he is one of your favorites. Give me a couple of your other favorites.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 at 1:57:47 AM

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

CCR has always been cool on the Juke Boxes people have said clearly, "That revival is "it." Kind of like Carl Perkins sings, "We are going to have a jubilee down in Memphis Tennessee." Did love "Center-field" back in, another life, of an IBEW Wirenut in my 20's around time of the Boss and John Cougar sang about a Scare Crow and Pink Houses.

Fogerty really touches me today singing, "Wondering how it all is going going to end?" Everybody does wish inside that this "Don't You Wish It Was True song?

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 at 4:17:18 AM

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I see the bad moon rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today

Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise

I hear hurricanes blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers over flowing
I hear the voice of raze and ruin

Submitted on Friday, Nov 29, 2019 at 7:40:58 PM

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

Him and Arlo where at first and 50th Woodstock. Marie and mine white main moon cat in Antwerpen was not named after his dad, but rather after a friend Marie met in woods on her 3 cold fall 2010 new england visit, who slept on my couch winter 2011 before leaving for Belgium 7-11 until 2017. Stretch said after 6 months on my couch and 20 gigs of classic rock 24-7 along with youtube said this, "Mike, what went wrong with the sixties id we forgot to believe in the music." Cat lived up its name taken off for 3+ week trip across bust river bridge never did learn to spell. Found by chip DLH drive saw under truck hoping to be mailed home-Marie joked. Had been waiting for someone to come into my life to give reason for recorded the few videos have mad as DJ for a few Arlo songs.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 29, 2019 at 8:31:58 PM

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You brought up Woodstock and that reminded me of this. You have probably seen me post a few Kinks songs in comments -- it has been a while but I have posted several articles about a few of their songs. Anyway, the Kinks came out very close to the same time as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I have always thought the Kinks' music was better than those two groups. Anyway again, the Kinks had toured America I think twice before they were banned from touring in the US by the American Federation of Musicians, the trade union. The ban lasted from 1965-1969. It is not clear why they were banned but some think it was because they got into some sort of fight with the trade union. Some think it was because the Davies' brothers fought too much on stage.

The point of this story is they were banned from the US before Woodstock so they were not able to play and they felt they lost out on a golden opportunity. As well, they could not tour in the US for four years when touring was hot and led to many opportunities. The Kinks were really hot at the time and were trading hits with the Stones and Beatles both in the UK and in the US. But while the Kinks thought they had lost out, I saw where one of the Davies brothers said looking back on it, it was probably a good thing they were banned. It turned out to set them apart from all the other groups and gave them time to develop their own neat and distinctive sound which led to dedicated Kinks' fans all over the world. They say that the quick hard riffs in songs like You Really got me are still an influence on all kinds of music like rock and Punk rock and I think, but am not sure, even some blues.

Michael, I am sure you wanted me to give you a Rock History lesson.

You are welcome. :)

Submitted on Monday, Dec 2, 2019 at 11:10:04 PM

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

That's really cool history. Do love the unique sound to them. Rock and Roll is my religion and favorite church is Arlo's bring your own band church.



I forget how got off topic of light,,,which little of. Maybe when dead we find out about time travel. Einstein recommended pondering.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019 at 1:37:06 AM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

I've heard of a plausible futuristic technology that could part space in the direction of travel while making it to close in again behind, thereby allowing speeds far in excess of the speed of light, maybe making even inter-galactic travel possible. A crude analogy: the way gophers travel underground.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 8:46:10 AM

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Are you referring to Stephen Hawking's speculation on using black holes?

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 4:48:04 PM

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

No, this would be a spacecraft with some sort of drive.

Hawking was a great mathematician, a mediocre physicist. The event horizon of a black hole is already so extreme an elevation that a living thing would be torn apart; the idea of a worm hole at its core is just silly.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 5:19:11 PM

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

If you have an article or link explaining that, I shall be greatly interested.

I beg leave of you here, Jim. An excruciating tendon injury has left me hors de combat for the past couple of weeks. Am getting it attended to today.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 25, 2019 at 12:54:26 AM

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nelswight

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Reply to Ramani K V:   New Content

Hey, Ramani - Jim, I don't know if I would buy the liquid refreshments if

the two of you started talking business before we even sat down.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019 at 9:03:42 PM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to nelswight:   New Content

Nellie, let's definitely sit down, you buy a round, then we'll talk.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 at 3:54:35 AM

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nelswight

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

AMEN, Bro.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 at 9:11:49 PM

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David Watts

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Jim and Ramani, I have just two things to say and I hope that Nels agrees with me.

The first thing is, I am no dummy. I had no problem at all following right along with the diagrams in the article in this sense: Jim, it was very easy for me to see that you are very well reasoned and rational and logical in presenting and making your case. Also, in reading your back and forth with Ramani in the comments, I am easily able to see that you both have very intriguing and interesting and thought provoking ideas and things that even Albert Einstein would have taken much pleasure in having had the chance to listen in to.

The other thing is, I have absolutely no idea what your case is or what the diagrams mean or what you and Ramani are talking about. :)

Submitted on Monday, Nov 25, 2019 at 10:21:08 PM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

David, Thanks for the laugh!

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 at 12:33:11 AM

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Michael Dewey

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Just ran across this Telse quite which have geard is real smart in this stuff have no understand of. Seem a b it like these theroys posted in photos that a draw a blank.


"Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point of the universe. This idea is not novel. Men have been led to it long ago by instinct or reason; it has been expressed in many ways, and in many places, in the history of old and new. We find it in the delightful myth of Antheus, who derives power from the earth; we find it among the subtle speculations of one of your splendid mathematicians and in many hints and statements of thinkers of the present time. Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic! If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic and this we know it is, for certain then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature."
- Nikola Tesla

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 at 5:07:15 AM

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shad williams

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Why the speed of light is the absolute limit of speed.

Just as you suggest, this a difficult concept for me to visualize. When I try, all I see in my mind is a orange haze inside a space shaped like a football that is growing faster than light is able to keep up with. I tried to make the haze appear purple. It makes me crazy. So I stopped trying to visualize it.

When you refer to speed, is this term interchangeable with motion? The terms are confusing.

Were any of the various constituencies that phased to create the photon, superluminal along with repulsive gravity before the photon froze into existence?

If inflation was superluminal would that imply that spacetime is an emergent feature of our world? If this is so, how may any consideration be made for physical reality without understanding gravity?

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 28, 2019 at 8:17:44 PM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to shad williams:   New Content

Shad, those are challenging questions!

I want to believe the reason light is a constant speed is understandable after considering the diagrams carefully. Given that world lines are necessarily equal (as sure as geometry), and given that light doesn't move in time (as sure as the Lorentz equation), light will necessarily move as far in space as an observer moves in time.

"Were any of the various constituencies that phased to create the photon, superluminal along with repulsive gravity before the photon froze into existence?" ?? Now I'm confused!

Motion is more general than speed. Speed is a definite quantity of motion, and it refers to a constant rate, unlike "acceleration."

"If inflation was superluminal would that imply that spacetime is an emergent feature of our world? If this is so, how may any consideration be made for physical reality without understanding gravity?"

I'd say that spacetime is a fundamental feature. But I think uniform motion ("special relativity", as in the diagrams) can be understood without getting into gravitation and acceleration ("general relativity").

Submitted on Friday, Nov 29, 2019 at 8:40:06 PM

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shad williams

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

Thanks Jim. I am certainly confused.. as though I am in a cartoon-like reality.

Submitted on Sunday, Dec 1, 2019 at 8:31:08 AM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to shad williams:   New Content

I dunno. Seems to me a cartoon-like reality would be a lot more fun.

Submitted on Sunday, Dec 1, 2019 at 9:43:29 AM

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David Watts

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Is the speed of light constant? Well, it seems it might have varied a bit at times. Check out this Banned TED Talk. The whole video is very interesting if you want to watch. But start watching at 9:40 if you just want to see why I asked the question is the speed of light constant. Interesting.

Banned TED Talk:The Science Delusion.


Submitted on Friday, Nov 29, 2019 at 3:18:11 AM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

David, thanks for sharing that. I like Sheldrake, I think he's right-on about consciousness. Regarding his talk about the apparent variance in the speed of light, it doesn't affect whether light is the limit of speed. The limit would vary with the speed. You could say that it's a constant for everyone right now, and paradoxically, it's a constant that varies.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 29, 2019 at 8:56:15 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

Thanks Jim. It makes sense "the limit would vary with the speed." But if it varies, how can it be called a constant? In that Banned TED Talk Sheldrake also talks about the gravitational constant "G" varying. Like the speed of light "constant," the value of the G "constant" has varied only a little.

I just find it interesting. If the speed of light changed "here," a certain amount, did it change "there" -- like across the galaxy or on the other side of the universe -- at the same time and by the same amount? And, our understanding of the universe I would think, must be grounded in the values of "constants." Well, if constants vary, how much does our understanding of the universe vary? I was going to say it probably varies by the same amount as the variance of the constant. But which constant!?! Jim, I am stuck at this point. Please let me know when you figure out the answer to whatever it is I am talking about. And please, make your answer very clear with diagrams I can't understand. Thanks. :)

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019 at 5:05:29 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content
"But if it varies, how can it be called a constant?" From here on out, I propose universal constants be called, "approximate constants." Makes sense to me.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019 at 5:21:34 PM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

David, thank you for asking about the speed of light. I haven't found anything conclusive online about it slowing down. But if it is slowing, two things: At any moment, at any now, every observer will agree on the speed of light, no matter how much speed there is between themselves. This is standard relativity theory. (For example, if I'm moving away from you at half the speed of light, and a beam of light passes us in the same direction, we will both agree that it is going the same speed -- in other words, you can't catch a beam of light.) So in any case, "right now" the speed of light is a "constant", or maybe better: it's coincident.

Secondly: I've shown mathematically in the slideshow that the "world-line" of light is the same length as an observer's motion in time. So if the speed of light is slowing down, it would be because clocks are slowing down. (In other words, if an atomic clock used for standard timekeeping is slowing down, clocks synchronized with the standard will slow at the same rate, so the only way we can know time is slowing is by measuring the speed of light.) This can be confusing: If clocks slow (the world-lines of standard atomic events shorten), but spatial distances remain the same, then the world-line of a ray of light moving along the space axis will cover less spatial distance in a unit of time.

Not to be grandiose, it's the principle I've derived from my spacetime diagram ("all unaccelerated world-lines are the same length") which establishes that if the speed of light seems to be slowing, it is actually the speed of time that is slowing. Unfortunately, scientists love their Minkowski Diagram too much.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019 at 10:02:05 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

Jim, I am going to have to try harder to keep up with you because right now I am not keeping up. But, I do have somewhat of an understanding about the speed of light. Or maybe I should say, I used to understand a few things about the speed of light and what that means regarding relativity. I remember in college physics there were some examples showing the nature or properties of light and relativity that were a lot of fun to think about.

Am I saying this correctly? The speed of light is the same for all observers no matter what speed, constant or accelerating, they might be moving at or in what direction. The speed of light is the same in all frames of reference.

I would like to get back and spend some time trying to understand your diagrams. Hopefully I will be able to follow along.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019 at 12:07:00 AM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

Hi David -- I'd prefer to call it a "present constant." But I think what's most important is the constant equality of world lines: an observer's world-line extended in time is precisely equal to the extension of a ray of light's world-line in space. With geometric certainty (c-squared equals a-squared plus b-squared), the equivalence is constant no matter how the speed of light (actually as measured by the speed of time) may vary.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019 at 8:27:20 PM

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