“Bringing the world into focus
through the lens of Scripture”

Faster Than The Speed of Light

Physics and the Bible:

by Lambert Dolphin

Lambert Dolphin, Physicist Website

Superman was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he was more powerful than a locomotive, and he was said to be able to travel faster than a speeding bullet.

The speed of a bullet is no big deal in these days of supersonic aircraft and spacecraft. Yet our fastest space vehicles do no better than one one-hundred thousandth of the current speed of light.

Overcoming gravity (the weakest of all the forces of physics) still takes lots of push and power. The moon remains many days away and the planets many months when traveling as fast as current chemical rocket technology allows.

The nearest star is 4 x 1017 meters away, and the current estimated size for the entire universe is greater than that by ten orders of magnitude or so (about 1026 meters). For a long time the hope of space travel has been left almost entirely in the hands of the science fiction writers.

Yet with God there are invariably hidden truths waiting to be discovered that make the best that men can imagine seem like kindergarten.

Newtonian mechanics imposes no maximum upper limit to attainable velocities in the universe, but Einstein's relativity theory does. As charged particles are pushed up near the present speed of light they grow heavier, and more and more energy input is required to gain a smaller and smaller increment of increased velocity.

At the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC), near where I live, electrons injected in the accelerator reach 99.999% of the velocity of light in the first few feet of travel, and then they ride, traveling radio waves for two miles down a long evacuated pipe, gaining virtually no additional speed, but mostly acquiring mass (and therefore energy). There is no reason to doubt the highly successful and well-verified theory of relativity in this regard. One can point to countless examples of proven relativistic effects whenever charged particles are involved.

Physicist Hal Puthoff1 has recently suggested that the ability of a spacecraft to modify the properties of space in its immediate vicinity could allow it to travel faster than light. This is because the speed of light is simply a measure of two properties of the medium of space, or the vacuum: permeability and permittivity. It has been tacitly assumed by some theoreticians that the speed of light might be a measure not only of the electrical properties of space, but the mechanical properties of space as well. It now turns out that this is probably not the case!

A very exciting possibility has now come into the light. It has long been known that gravitational forces apparently act instantaneously over the entire universe. Why this should be so is simply glossed over and ignored in every generation of physics classes and in countless technical papers.

One way to understand this is to consider what is called "the classical aberration of light"-which was discovered by Bradley in 1728. In fact, aberration data became one of the early methods for measuring the speed of light. Light from the sun requires 8.3 minutes to travel from the sun to the earth during which time the sun and the earth have moved as much as 20 arc seconds with respect to each other.

Similarly, light from the stars arrives at an angle which can be as much as 20 arc seconds because the earth is moving with respect to the stars. It is by carefully measuring these aberration angles, and knowing the relative velocities involved, that Bradley made excellent and trustworthy measurements of the velocity of light 250 years ago.

However, during the time interval it takes light to travel from the sun to the earth, the sun and the earth have kept in touch with each other "instantaneously"-or at least very much faster than c! In fact every mass in the universe communicates with all other masses in the universe in a time frame that makes the present speed of light seem like the velocity of molasses on a cold day!

Astronomer Tom Van Flandern has recently detailed all the evidence that shows that gravitational forces, unlike light, operate with no measurable aberration!2

But Van Flandern shows that there are sound reasons for believing that the "speed of gravity" is not infinite. By carefully studying the observable data, Van Flandern now concludes that the speed of gravity is greater than or equal to the present speed of light by a factor of 2 x 1010.

This velocity (6 x 1018 meters per second) turns out to be just below Barry Setterfield's latest estimate of the speed of light everywhere in the universe on Day Two of creation week! Setterfield arrives at this initial velocity of light on the basis of the maximum observed Hubble constant, which gives an initial value of c that turns out to be 2.54 x 1010 times the present value.3

Since creation week, the diameter of the universe has been constant (a static universe) and the speed of light has dropped precipitously to its present value-following decay curves we can now piece together with some confidence based on (a) measured values of c for the last 300 years, (b) corrections to known radioactive decay dates which go back to approximately 2000 B.C., and (c) the observed quantization of the red shift of light from distant galaxies for the time period from creation to about the time of Abraham.

As the universe aged, the free space permittivity and permeability increased and c decreased - but the velocity of gravity may not be tied to the permittivity and permeability of free space!

If this is the case, the velocity of gravity stayed at the original velocity of c. If we can produce a propulsion system based on gravitational principles rather than electromagnetic or chemical ones, we could travel at absolutely enormous speeds-we could hope to push a space craft anywhere in the universe, very literally at warp speeds beyond what even the Starship Enterprise could produce!

By the way, this discussion solely relates to the physical part of the created universe. For now we must defer discussion about how angels travel and communicate - they are spiritual beings. And we must postpone speculation about what we followers of Jesus the Lord may find ourselves capable of doing when we don our new resurrection bodies (these bodies are, after all, "not of this creation"-but spiritual bodies-see 1 Corinthians 15).

If Van Flandern and Setterfield are correct, space travel may indeed be just around the corner! A fringe benefit is that we may at last have clues to help us begin to understand the well-documented behavior of countless UFOs, whose velocity and acceleration behavior has thus far defied explanation by conventional physics.

** *