Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, alongside from the top speed limit for light it's being challenge by scientists, Image Source: BBC

A team of physicists hailing from the Imperial College in London and the Perimeter Institute in Canada recently proposed an experiment to test the theory that Albert Einstein‘s thoughts about the speed of light might have been wrong.

Prof. João Magueijo and Dr. Niayesh Afshordi first made this proposition back in the 1990s. Their hypothesis looks to prove that Albert Einstein made a mistake when he affirmed the speed of light to be a constant. This notion serves as the foundation of most modern physics.

The scientists argue that there could have been a time in the history of the Universe, right after the Big Bang, in which light traveled faster than it did today.

If they prove themselves right, this discovery will change the current human understanding of the world, and render Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity unusable.

How do they know that the speed of light used to be faster?

The Big Bang explosion, responsible for the formation of the Universe, is still an ongoing investigation that has shown many oddities and loopholes. One of them points to differences in density that scientists have noted while observing our current universe.

Magueijo and Afshordi are using the theory of a proposed faster speed of light to explain the Universe’s erratic density. There is another hypothesis currently in place for that phenomenon, the ‘Inflation Theory,’ which only suggests that the Universe expanded more rapidly at the time and gradually slowed down later on.

Einstein, however, proposes that the speed of light is a constant, meaning it has been the same rate always, everywhere, at any time. But if this is true, how do we explain the Universe’s current density, which is more homogenous?

Scientists challenge Albert Einstein's theory of relativity alongside the possible maximum for speed of light. Image Source: YouTube
Scientists challenge Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity alongside the possible maximum for the speed of light. Image Source: YouTube

These scientists theorize that a faster speed of light is what made these changes in density possible through time. According to Inflation Theory, the explanation is that the Universe became homogeneous earlier and then expanded, but this does not explain how exactly it evened itself out at that moment.

Magueijo and Ashfordi believe that they have found a way to prove their theory today

The scientists base their research on the cosmic microwave background, which is sort of a map that shows the oldest light in the Universe, and its evolution through time.

They have calculated a number (0.96478), a “spectral index” that would demonstrate that their proposed changes regarding the speed of light are correct.

A shot from the known universe's cosmic radiation background. Image Source: APOD NASA
A shot from the known universe’s cosmic radiation background. Image Source: APOD NASA

Scientists rely on their mathematical research of the data contained in the cosmic microwave background to gives them the answer. As a result, this will not prove their theory, but it would give them solid evidence to support it.

However, this is only one instance of proof, and if these scientists turn out to be right, they are still looking to further decades of work to prove their theory entirely.

Source: Forbes

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  1. There is no surprise that the speed of light is not constant because the entire relativity theory has been disproved both theoretically and experimentally (see “Challenge to the special theory of relativity” March 1, 2016 Physics Essays). The most obvious evidence is the absolute time shown by the universally synchronized clocks on the GPS satellites which move at high velocities relative to each other while special relativity claims that time is relative and can never be synchronized on clocks moving with relative velocities.

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