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Tuesday 16 January 2024

The Relative Speed of Light and the Influence of Gravity: A Hypothesis for Further Investigation


Abstract: The widely accepted notion of light's constant speed (c) throughout the universe has been a cornerstone of physics since Einstein's theories of relativity. However, this hypothesis relies heavily on measurements conducted within the gravity-influenced environment of our solar system. This paper proposes a theoretical framework suggesting that light's speed might not be absolute, but rather relative to the gravitational potential it experiences. This hypothesis challenges the current paradigm and warrants further investigation through experimentation and theoretical refinement.

1. Introduction:

The speed of light (c) is often referred to as a universal constant, a cornerstone of our understanding of the universe. However, this notion relies primarily on measurements conducted within our solar system, which is inherently subject to the influence of the sun's gravity.

2. The Influence of Gravity on Spacetime:

General relativity posits that gravity is not a force, but rather a curvature of spacetime caused by mass and energy. This curvature affects the paths of all objects moving within its influence, including light. Consequently, the speed of light might be influenced by the strength of the gravitational potential it experiences.

3. Hypothesis:

We propose that the speed of light is not a universal constant, but rather a variable dependent on the gravitational potential it encounters. In regions with stronger gravity, light's speed might decrease compared to its value in weaker gravitational fields, such as interstellar space. This hypothesis proposes a scenario where c = c(φ), where c is the speed of light and φ is the gravitational potential.

4. Supporting Arguments:

  • Gravitational lensing: The observed bending of light by massive objects like galaxies suggests that gravity interacts with light, potentially affecting its speed.

  • Gravitational redshift: The observed redshift of light emitted from objects in strong gravitational fields could be explained by a decrease in the speed of light relative to the observer.

  • Black holes and the event horizon: The escape velocity at the event horizon of a black hole is c. If light's speed were not affected by gravity, even photons would not be able to escape.

5. Consequences and Implications:

If the hypothesis is true, it would have profound implications for our understanding of the universe:

  • Cosmological models: Current cosmological models rely on a constant c. A variable speed of light would necessitate revisions to understand expansion, dark energy, and the cosmic microwave background radiation.

  • Black hole physics: The behavior of black holes and the event horizon would need to be re-evaluated in the context of a non-constant c.

  • Gravitational wave propagation: The speed of gravitational waves might also be tied to the local gravitational potential, with implications for gravitational wave detection and interpretation.

6. Conclusion:

The hypothesis of a relative speed of light, while currently speculative, warrants further investigation. New experiments and theoretical frameworks could shed light on this fundamental question. Exploring the possibility of a variable c would not only challenge our current understanding of gravity and light, but also open doors to new avenues in cosmology, black hole physics, and the nature of spacetime itself.

Note: This paper is intended to be a starting point for discussion and further research. It acknowledges the limitations of our current understanding and emphasizes the need for rigorous experimentation and theoretical refinement. It is not a definitive proof of a variable speed of light, but rather a call to explore the possibility and its potential consequences for our understanding of the universe.

Disclaimer: The hypothesis presented here is currently not widely accepted in the scientific community. More research and evidence are needed to substantiate its validity (e.g. measuring speed of light in the same conditions as we currently have measured it within our solar system/galaxy). This paper is intended as a thought experiment to stimulate further discussion and investigation. Moreover, Google's Artifical Intelligence has been used to generate this paper using all the information available to it in its model.

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