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Speed of light may not be constant, physicists say

Discussion in 'News & Current Events' started by Revmitchell, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Feb 18, 2006
    The first, by lead author Marcel Urban of the Universit du Paris-Sud, looks at the cosmic vacuum, which is often assumed to be empty space. The laws of quantum physics, which govern subatomic particles and all things very small, say that the vacuum of space is actually full of fundamental particles like quarks, called "virtual" particles. These matter particles, which are always paired up with their appropriate antiparticle counterpart, pop into existence and almost immediately collide. When matter and antimatter particles touch, they annihilate each other.

    Photons of light, as they fly through space, are captured and re-emitted by these virtual particles. Urban and his colleagues propose that the energies of these particles specifically the amount of charge they carry affect the speed of light. Since the amount of energy a particle will have at the time a photon hits it will be essentially random, the effect on how fast photons move should vary too.

    As such, the amount of time the light takes to cross a given distance should vary as the square root of that distance, though the effect would be very tiny on the order of 0.05 femtoseconds for every square meter of vacuum. A femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second. (The speed of light has been measured over the last century to high precision, on the order of parts per billion, so it is pretty clear that the effect has to be small.)

    To find this tiny fluctuation, the researchers say, one could measure how light disperses at long distances. Some astronomical phenomena, such as gamma-ray bursts, produce pulses of radiation from far enough away that the fluctuations could be detected. The authors also propose using lasers bounced between mirrors placed about 100 yards apart, with a light beam bouncing between them multiple times, to seek those small changes.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/04/29/speed-light-may-not-be-constant/#ixzz2RtQdY8to