J. Kevin Tumlinson

Recently a few scientists have said that they believe the speed of light is slowing down. There seem to be a couple of theories as to why this might be happening – the most common is that the expansion of the universe is slowing and since space and time are connected in a continuum, the slowing of one means the slowing of the other. So it takes less time to move from point A to point B than it used to. Think of it as if you’ve been chasing a fly ball for a while, always struggling to get under it for the catch, and suddenly it reaches the pinnacle of its arc and makes less and less forward progress. It becomes easier to catch up to it.

I’ve just used up all of the sports metaphors I know.

I’m not sure if the speed of light is really slowing down or not. Seems as plausible as any other hypothesis floating around. But if it were slowing down, it might explain a few things.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is pretty famous. Who hasn’t seen E = mc^2? And there are even people who know what it means. But for the unenlightened (and don’t be ashamed! This IS physics, after all!), let me see if I can roll up my intellectual sleeves a little and break it down into common-speak. “E” stands in for “energy” in this equation. The “m” represents “mass” (pretty straight forward so far, right?). And the “c” – well, that one breaks from the fine example set by the others and represents “the speed of light.” The superscript “2” means that the speed of light in this equation is “squared,” or multiplied by itself.

I’m no mathematician, so bear with me here. But the laws of distribution, I think, say that both sides of the equation must equal out. And, you know, there’s that equal sign in the middle of the thing. So it’s safe to assume that if you assign a numeric value to “E” the product of “mc^2” has to equal it. And if you make changes to one, it changes the other.

Bear with me, I’m getting there.

Ok, so physicists have been abuzz about this whole concept since Einstein came up with it because it implies certain things about the nature of time and the universe. Specifically, it implies that the closer we get to the speed of light, the greater our mass and required energy. And there’s also this thing called “relativity,” which in layman’s terms come down to the idea that if we are on a space ship (for example) moving at the speed of light, we would experience time normally, but the rest of the universe – RELATIVE TO US – would experience time much more quickly.

Did that make sense? We, on the space ship, might experience a month go by, but when we return to earth we might find that 70 YEARS have passed. Everyone we left behind would be older or, you know, dead.

Ok, so that’s basic SciFi channel stuff. Anyone who’s watched an episode of Star Trek probably gets that (except somehow they break the rules with Warp Drive, so maybe you might be confused right now!). What a lot of people overlook, however, is that little bit about our mass increasing as we approach the speed of light. It implies that there’s a relationship between time (or the perception of time) and mass as well.

Alright, you’ve come this far. So how does all of this relate to the speed of light slowing down? What does this explain?

Well, first of all, do you remember when you were a kid and your family went on a long road trip? Or maybe you have kids of your own and you’ve crammed them into the car and taken them someplace far away? What’s the number one question kids ask, over and over again? “Are we there yet?” Or at least some equivalent. Kids are impatient. To them, an hour is FOREVER. And a five-hour drive is FOREVER x 5! To the parents, five hours in the car seems like a long time, but not nearly as long as it seemed when we were kids.

So here’s Kevin’s Theory of Relatively Science number 1 – we, as adults, have more mass than a child. According to Einstein’s equation mass and time have a correlation. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that adults experience time differently than children because the adult's greater mass has moved them closer to the speed of light. Our time is different than their time because of relativity.

Now, as for the speed of light slowing down… I think this explains something that plagues me and millions of other Americans. Since you gain mass as you approach the speed of light, and since the speed of light is slowing down, that could be the reason that so many American’s are obese! The speed of light is slowing, so we’re all gaining mass!

And there you have it. Science explained. Behold its wonders and mysteries!

You read it. You can’t UN-read it!

J. Kevin Tumlinson is the Editor & Publisher of ViewOnline (www.viewonline.com), the author of the weekly syndicated column ViewPoint, and the owner of Hat Digital Media (www.hatdigitalmedia.com). He has been ticketed for breaking the speed of light and is wanted for breaking the laws of physics.

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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.


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