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The Speed Of Light- Could We Be Wrong About It?

A recent peer-reviewed paper by physicist James Franson from the University of Maryland in the US has initiated a stir among physics community. Issued in the New Journal of Physics, the paper points to evidence proposing that the speed of light as defined by the theory of general relativity, is slower than originally thought. The theory of general relativity states, In a vacuum light travels at a constant speed of 299,792,458 meters per second. The speed of light, or you can say number of light years, is what we measure essentially everything in the cosmos by, so it’s essential we acquire it right.  Franson’s paper is founded on measurements taken of the supernova SN 1987A, which shrunken and blasted in February 1987. Physicists observing the supernova collapse picked up on the occurrence of both photons and neutrinos in the detonation, as Bob Yirka reports, there was a problem.
Supernova 1987A, observed in light of various wavelengths. Image Credit: ALMA/NASA

The physicists noted a strange time for the arrival of the photons. According to their calculations, the photons were thought to reach three hours after the neutrinos and keep the same speed as they voyaged through space. But they arrived 4.7 hours late. Possibly the photons were discharged slower than estimated, some scientists proposed, or possibly the neutrinos' travelling speed was slower than estimated. The most common theory was that the photons originated from some other source completely. But what if they originated from the supernova eruption, says Franson, and their late appearance is described by light slowing down as it travels due to a property of photons recognized as 'vacuum polarisation’. Vacuum polarisation defines a procedure where an electromagnetic field sources a photon to be divided into a positron and an electron for a few moments, alters the current and charge of the electromagnetic field, and then snap back together again into a photon.

Yirka describes why this is vital: “That should create a gravitational differential, [Franson] notes, between the pair of particles, which, he theorises, would have a tiny energy impact when they recombine - enough to cause a slight bit of a slowdown during travel. If such splitting and rejoining occurred many times with many photons on a journey of 168,000 light years, the distance between us and SN 1987A, it could easily add up to the 4.7 hour delay, [Franson] suggests.”

If Fransons’s theory is right, every distance measured by light years is incorrect, comprising how far away the Sun and distant galaxies are from the Earth. In certain circumstances, says Yirka, astrophysicist’s might have to start it all over from scratch.


Sumadi said...

Photon's are sensitive to gravity. Because of that they snake through diverse gravitational fields on the way to us. Nutrino's are not sensitive to gravity. They are travelling in a straight line their voyage being much shorter. So neutrino's arrive long before the photon's.

Anonymous said...

Neutrino is supposed to be impacted by Gravity too. Remember gravity is warping of space time, so whether its light photon or particle with mass, both will get impacted by same measure

Anonymous said...

This is because the electro magnetic spectrum has many speeds which are color dependent. The atomic forming time decides how fast it travels and how much time is slowed down for its frequency. The whole notion of red shift is bogus and needs to be thrown out with most of special relativity.

Unknown said...

Gravity affects based on momentum. If something swings by a planet, solar system, or galaxy with more momentum, that object will be less affected by gravity. Neutrinos have a very, VERY tiny mass (one theory estimates 2 eV/c^2 vs the electron's ~0.511 MeV/c^2, 0.0004% mass of an electron).

Although both particles travel at or near the speed of light, if the photon's wavelength is long enough, the photon will be more affected by gravity (deBroglie's theory; p=h/λ).

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