The Constants Vary

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The Constants Vary

Post by LloydK on Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:49 pm

This article is related to MM's paper on the change in the mass of the kilogram.
Specifically, Sheldrake discusses the Speed of Light and the Gravitational Constant, G.

Video: The Science Delusion, Rupert Sheldrake
9'45" to 15'15"
Anyway, that's my own hypothesis, in a nutshell, of morphic resonance: everything depends on evolving habits, not fixed laws. But I want to spend a few moments on the constants of nature too, because these again are assumed to be constant. Things like the gravitational constant and the speed of light are called the fundamental constants. Are they really constant? Well, when I got interested in this question, I tried to find out. They're given in physics handbooks. Handbooks of physics list the fundamental constants and tell you their value. And I wanted to see if they've changed, so I got the old volumes of physical handbooks. I went to the patent office library here in London and they're the only place I could find that kept the old volumes. Normally people throw them away when the new values come out, they throw away the old ones.

When I did this I found that the speed of light dropped between 1928 and 1945 by about 20 kilometers per second. It's a huge drop, because they're given with errors of only fractions of a decimal point of error. And yet all over the world it dropped and they were getting values very similar to each other with tiny errors and then in 1945 or in 48 it went up again. And then people started getting very similar values again. I was very intrigued by this and I couldn't make sense of it, so I went to see the head of metrology at the national physical laboratory in Teddington. Metrology is the science in which people measure constants. And I asked him about this. [] He said you've uncovered the most embarrassing episode in the history of our science.

So I said could the speed of light have actually dropped? And that would have amazing implications if so. He said, no, no, of course it couldn't have actually dropped. It's a constant. Oh, well then, how do you explain the fact that everyone was finding it going much slower in that period? Is it because they were fudging their results to get what they thought other people should be getting and the whole thing was just produced in the minds of physicists? [He said] We don't like to use the word "fudge". I said, well, what do you prefer? He said we prefer to call it intellectual phaselocking. So I said, well, if it was going on then, how can you be so sure it's not going on today and that the present values aren't produced by intellectual phaselocking? He said we know that's not the case. I said how do we know? He said, well, we've solved the problem. I said how? He said we fixed the speed of light by definition in 1972. So I said, but it might still change. He said, yes, but we'd never know it, because we defined meter in terms of the speed of light, so the units would change with it. []

So I said, what about big G, the gravitational constant, [] Newton's universal gravitational constant? That's varied by more than 1.3% in recent years. And it seems to vary from place to place and from time to time. And he said, well, those are just errors and unfortunately they're quite big errors with big G. So I said, what if it's really changing? I mean perhaps it is really changing. And then I looked at how they do it. What happens is they measure it in different labs. They get different values on different days and then they average them. And then other labs around the world do the same and they come out usually with a rather different average. Then the international committee on metrology meets every ten years or so and averages the ones from labs around the world to come up with the value of big G.

But what if G were actually fluctuating? What if it changed? There's already evidence actually that it changes throughout the day and throughout the year. What if the Earth, as it moves throught the galactic environment, went through patches of dark matter or other environmental factors that could alter it? Maybe they all change together. What if these errors are going up together and down together? For more than ten years I've been trying to persuade metrologists to look at the raw data. In fact I'm now trying to persuade them to put it online on the internet with the dates and the actual measurements and see if they're correlated, to see if they're all up at one time, all down at another. If so, they might be fluctuating together and that would tell us something very, very interesting. []

A dogmatic assumption actually inhibits inquiry. I myself think that the constants may vary quite considerably within narrow limits, but they may all be varying. And I think the day will come when scientific journals, like Nature, have a weekly report on the constants.


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