Student Project


Is the speed of light slowing down over time?

The punch-line to the familiar joke says the only things you can count on are death and taxes.  In the scientific world of physics one key fundamental that could be counted on is the speed of light remaining constant at a speed of 186,000 miles a second, over time.  Much of physics is based on this assumption.  But now “the times, they are a-changin', and so are the fundamental constants of physics, an international group of physicists reports. After analyzing light from distant quasars, the team has concluded that the fine-structure constant, which is related to the speed of light, has shifted over time” (Seife 1410).

Why is this such a big deal?  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity would be wrong.  The universe would not be as old as previously thought.   While scientists cannot find over 90% of the matter needed to make the Big Bang a feasible theory, faster light speeds would explain it while rendering it unworkable.  It would agree and substantiate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Much of astronomical theory would need to be rethought.  One thing is for certain…there will be much debate and research regarding the constancy of the speed of light.



Search Terms



“speed of light”

“light speed”

“light particle”

“particle of light”

“velocity of light”
















Berman, Bob.  Strange Universe.  Astronomy  August 2001:  78.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_25_0_A76413761?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Brown, Harvey R., and Adolfo Maia Jr.  Light-Speed Constancy Versus Light-Speed Invariance in the Derivation of Relativistic Kinematics.”  The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science  September 1993:  381.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_1_0_A14940327?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Guterl, Fred.  Crazy Speed Demon : An Idiosyncratic Cambridge Scientist Says the Fastest Thing in the Universe Was Once Even Faster.”  Newsweek International.  10 March 2003:  42.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_7_0_A98572321?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Hawkes, Nigel.  Is Einstein About to Be Dethroned?”  The Times  5 April 2000:  S12+.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_2_0_A61522390?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Los Angeles Times.  Science File; IN BRIEF; Theory Tests Constancy of the Speed of Light.  Los Angeles Times  12 August 2002:  A-9.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_6_0_CJ90292718?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Magueijo, João. Faster Than the Speed of Light:  The Story of a Scientific Speculation. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2003.

Odenwald, Sten.  “Is It True that the Speed of Light is Slowing Down?”  Gravity Probe B:  Testing Einstein’s Universe.  1997.  Stanford University.  3 May 2004.  <>.

This is a fantastic website.  I have been privileged to know several people working on this project.  The Gravity Probe B project has been in process for over 25 years and finally, as of last week, is now orbiting the Earth ready to test Einstein’s theory of relativity.  Stanford University has sponsored the project as well as private funding from individuals and corporations.  The one hesitancy with this site is that they are trying to prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Some of their assumptions they accept as proven are exactly the ones that are being challenged by research (e.g. dark matter; redshift…the constancy of the speed of light over time).  Einstein’s theory of relativity hinges and presupposes these conditions to be constants.  If the speed of light is not constant over time, his theory of relativity is wrong (as well as a number of other physics theorems).  They have wonderful links for the interested, written in layman’s terms, for the inquisitive.  Check out the gp-b classroom with the Relativity FAQ’s.  “From curved space-time to super-conducting loops, general relativity to spinning gyroscopes, photon-detecting telescopes to super-fluid helium, Gravity Probe B is bursting with complex theory and incredible, cutting-edge engineering and technology.” (Range 1).

 Schewe, Phillip F., and Ben Stein.  “Physics News Update #432.”  The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News  7 June 1999.  American Institute of Physics.  3 May 2004.  <>.

This website is sponsored by the American Instituted of Physics.  It publishes research papers and abstracts and disseminates them to the public, scholars and journalists.  It is an educational site as well as an organization.  It has links to other journals, historical sites about physics and links to researchers as well.  The author of this paper gives the an email link directly to the researcher performing this study:  Bradley Schaefer of Yale University.  Since, Yale is the place of research, and the direct link to the researcher, there is a high credibility to this site and article.  More information could be easily obtained and the full article is offered upon request.

Schilling, Govert.  Relativity Passes a Tough Cosmic Test”.  Science  28 April 2000:  593.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_1_0_A62087616?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Setterfield, Barry. “On the Constancy of the Speed of Light”.  28 August 2002.  3 May 2004.  <>.

The first glance of this web page indicates that it is from an individual’s personal web site.  It is the author’s personal site and ends with an .org extension.  He (Barry Setterfield) co-authored a paper (with Trevor Norman) while at the Stanford Research Institute that was published by Flinders University (Australia).  He was tagged as a creationist scientist and the paper was withdrawn.  He has faced criticism from both the creationist and evolutionary spectrum of scientists. Four physics journals refused to publish his paper due to no institutional affiliation.  Although he is not published recently, his findings agree with later independent physics research, if not his conclusions.  This info was on his site (
His page has info and conclusions.  While some agree with his info, others don’t agree with his conclusions.  He has links to other sites and articles that I have found in the LII site and also scientific journals and government web sites.  Some of these links are also a fellow scientist personal web page.  The page was last updated 08/2002 so it is fairly current.  He is educated on this subject yet does not hold a PhD.  He has nothing for sale on the site and he freely divulges sites, authors, and critiques of his research which are complementary and also disparaging.  These were easy to verify and find with a Google search.
In conclusion, I would use his info and links, but not base all my research on his findings alone. His philosophy is from a creation standpoint and it was good to see that he listed critical co-philosophical reviews of his work. It was nice to see that he was upfront with disagreeing viewpoints.  His links were worthwhile to search and peruse.

Seife, Charles.  COSMOLOGY: Changing Constants Cause Controversy.”  Science  24 August 2001:  1410.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!1?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

 “Relativity Rethink.”  Chemistry and Industry 19 Aug. 2002: 4.  InfoTrac OneFile. GaleGroup.  3 May 2004.  <!xrn_1_0_A90991940?sw_aep=plan_skyline>.

Wieland, Carl.  “Speed of Light Slowing Down After All?”  9 August 2002.  Answers in Genisis.  3 May 2004.  <>.


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last revised: 5-4-04 by Eric Brenner, Skyline College, San Bruno, CA

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