Constants

Tom 1

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Hello,

This isn't a 'does God exist' question, I'm just interested in what people working in the field think about variations in the measurement of 'constants', specifically the speed of light and the 'big G', and what the implications are of this within the study of physics. I haven't been able to find an argument that doesn't try to either pretend the variations don't happen, dismiss them without due consideration or just refer to what someone else said and consider that as closing the argument.
I've been reading through Rupert Sheldrake's 'The Science Delusion', so that's where the question comes from,

Thanks

Tom
 

Tom 1

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I've seen no evidence of such changes.

Maybe the light reached your eyes more slowly than you expected? ;-)
Rupert Sheldrake has done some research on this and found the speed of light as recorded by physicists internationally dropped between 1928 and 1945, before going up again, by around 20km/sec, as one example. When he questioned one of the UK's leading physicists (the head of metrology at the UK's national physical laboratory) on this he was told that this problem had been 'fixed' by making the unit of measure variable (or something like that - refer to Sheldrake for more info), so that any further variations in the speed of light can be assigned to how it is measured. The gravitational constant, if that's the right term, is based on averages from regular international measurements that vary quite dramatically, according to Sheldrake. If you haven't come across him before Sheldrake is (or was?) a fellow in developmental biology at Cambridge uni.
 
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Tom 1

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the speed of light as recorded by physicists internationally dropped between 1928 and 1945, before going up again, by around 20km/sec

Nb this isn't some 'secret information' - the universal constant speed of light as measured and recorded in university text books in the UK in 1928 and that recorded as the constant in 1945 differ by around 20km/sec. The head of Metrology Sheldrake spoke to didn't deny this issue - he referred to it as 'the most embarrassing episode in the history of our science' (the science of the measurement of constants). He didn't offer an explanation but informed Sheldrake that a workaround had been settled on in the 1970s, as above, using a variable unit of measurement: I don't fully understand what is meant by that - it goes something like this; the speed of light was fixed by definition (based on but not by any measurement), and the units of measurement were designed so that they work with this definition, so that if there is any variation, no-one will know, as the unit measured will stick with the definition, not the actual speed as measured by methods prior to the speed of light being fixed by definition.
 
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Radagast

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Rupert Sheldrake has done some research on this and found the speed of light as recorded by physicists internationally dropped between 1928 and 1945, before going up again, by around 20km/sec, as one example.

Checking a wide range of old books from the last 150 years, they all have the same 4-figure value of 186300 miles/sec, so I don't believe it (obviously measurement accuracy has steadily improved).

Past measurements include:
  • 1862 Leon Foucault 298,000 (2 correct digits)
  • 1879 Albert Michelson 299,910 (3 correct digits)
  • 1907 Rosa/Dorsey 299,788 (5 correct digits)
  • 1926 Albert Michelson 299,796 (5 correct digits)
  • 1947 Essen/Gordon-Smith 299,792 (6 correct digits)
  • 1958 K. D. Froome 299,792.5 (7 correct digits)
  • 1973 Evanson et al 299,792.4562 (8 correct digits)
  • 1983 Adopted Value 299,792.458
I see no evidence here of the change you suggest.

If you haven't come across him before Sheldrake is (or was?) a fellow in developmental biology at Cambridge uni.

I consider him a bit of a nutter, actually.
 
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Tom 1

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Checking a wide range of old books from the last 150 years, they all have the same 4-figure value of 186300 miles/sec, so I don't believe it (obviously measurement accuracy has steadily improved).

I don’t think that really explains it, differences in measurement accuracy are in tiny fractions of km/sec. whether or not you think he is a ‘nutter’ is neither here nor there. What I was hoping for are any answers that actually tackle this question, not just defences of constants as articles of faith.
 
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AnotherAtheist

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The speed of light isn't constant, e.g. it travels slower through glass than it does in a vacuum.

There is some evidence that the speed of light in a vacuum can be manipulated by changing the pulse structure of the light, but I'd want to see further repetition of this before I accept this as true. Speed of light not so constant after all
 
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Tom 1

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The speed of light isn't constant, e.g. it travels much slower through glass than it does in a vacuum.

That explains something I didn’t quite understand about the relation between the focal length of camera lenses and shutter speeds. I think.
 
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Occams Barber

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Hello,

This isn't a 'does God exist' question, I'm just interested in what people working in the field think about variations in the measurement of 'constants', specifically the speed of light and the 'big G', and what the implications are of this within the study of physics. I haven't been able to find an argument that doesn't try to either pretend the variations don't happen, dismiss them without due consideration or just refer to what someone else said and consider that as closing the argument.
I've been reading through Rupert Sheldrake's 'The Science Delusion', so that's where the question comes from,

Thanks

Tom
I would be cautious about any "scientific" info coming from Sheldrake. His qualification is in parapsychology and 'morphic resonance' is his big interest along with telepathic dogs and the idea that nature has a collective memory. Apart from Sheldrake nobody seems to know what morphic resonance actually is or how to measure it. His work is generally regarded as pseudo scientific, new age woo aimed at the crystals and pyramids crowd.
OB
 
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Tom 1

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I would be cautious about any "scientific" info coming from Sheldrake. His qualification is in parapsychology and 'morphic resonance' is his big interest along with telepathic dogs and the idea that nature has a collective memory. Apart from Sheldrake nobody seems to know what morphic resonance actually is or how to measure it. His work is generally regarded as pseudo scientific, new age woo aimed at the crystals and pyramids crowd.
OB

Thanks, but doesn’t address the question
 
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AnotherAtheist

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That explains something I didn’t quite understand about the relation between the focal length of camera lenses and shutter speeds. I think.

I removed 'much' from my post, as I realised that while I think it's a bit slower (hence being able to take high speed photos of light moving in glass), I wasn't sure how much. I looked it up and light travels 300,000 kilometres per second in vacuum and 200,000 kilometres per second in glass.
 
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Tom 1

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I would be cautious about any "scientific" info coming from Sheldrake. His qualification is in parapsychology and 'morphic resonance' is his big interest along with telepathic dogs and the idea that nature has a collective memory. Apart from Sheldrake nobody seems to know what morphic resonance actually is or how to measure it. His work is generally regarded as pseudo scientific, new age woo aimed at the crystals and pyramids crowd.
OB

On a side note, would Occam’s barber generally recommend ‘clean shaven’?
 
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Radagast

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I don’t think that really explains it, differences in measurement accuracy are in tiny fractions of km/sec.

If you look at my table, you will see a steady improvement in accuracy, i.e. more and more correct figures. Everything can be explained by that.

whether or not you think he is a ‘nutter’ is neither here nor there.

It means I don't take him on faith.

What I was hoping for are any answers that actually tackle this question, not just defences of constants as articles of faith.

I reported actual historical data and explained it. If you look at a graph, there are some low values around 1930, but the researchers there clearly underestimated their error bars. A constant value and steadily increasing accuracy still explain the complete pattern.

lightspeedfigure6.jpg


So basically, it's all nonsense from Sheldrake. Just like everything else he wrote.
 
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Tom 1

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I removed 'much' from my post, as I realised that while I think it's a bit slower (hence being able to take high speed photos of light moving in glass), I wasn't sure how much. I looked it up and light travels 300,000 kilometres per second in vacuum and 200,000 kilometres per second in glass.

Aha. Basically (prior to advancements in image stabilisation) with a longer focal length you need/needed a faster shutter speed to avoid light movement over the surface of the film (sensor). I have a vague notion that has something to do with photons bouncing around within the lens. Is light speed constant through glass and does it depend on how much glass or how that glass is shaped?
 
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Tom 1

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If you look at my table, you will see a steady improvement in accuracy, i.e. more and more correct figures. Everything can be explained by that.



It means I don't take him on faith.



I reported actual historical data and explained it.

An argument that starts I found this data but he found this data etc doesn’t really have a conclusion, it’s just a comparison of different things
 
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Hello,

This isn't a 'does God exist' question, I'm just interested in what people working in the field think about variations in the measurement of 'constants', specifically the speed of light and the 'big G', and what the implications are of this within the study of physics. I haven't been able to find an argument that doesn't try to either pretend the variations don't happen, dismiss them without due consideration or just refer to what someone else said and consider that as closing the argument.
I've been reading through Rupert Sheldrake's 'The Science Delusion', so that's where the question comes from,

Thanks

Tom
This article might help with the speed of light issue. It's a measurement issue.
OB
 
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Tom 1

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I would be cautious about any "scientific" info coming from Sheldrake. His qualification is in parapsychology and 'morphic resonance' is his big interest along with telepathic dogs and the idea that nature has a collective memory. Apart from Sheldrake nobody seems to know what morphic resonance actually is or how to measure it. His work is generally regarded as pseudo scientific, new age woo aimed at the crystals and pyramids crowd.
OB

There’s a bit more to it. He also has a PhD in Biochemistry and an MA in Natural Sciences, both from Cambridge, the parapsychology (and the philosophy and history of science) came later. I’m not sure how reliable the general regard of any community towards someone who challenges their beliefs is.
 
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