Jul 9, 2014

The global-c “Catastrophe” in Physics

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

To elder children and young adults, it is a bonanza since everything becomes transparent. The “ugly” dependency of the speed of light on the local pull of gravity – that it is slowed in the vicinity of the sun (Shapiro) and comes to a standstill at the horizon of a black hole (Oppenheiumer) – is gone since the distances travelled are proportionally enlarged. Simultaneously, the so far assumed to be added-on expansion speed of the universe ceases to be an option so that the “Big Bang” is no longer a physical reality. A new freedom – a vast new spatial reality to roam – opened itself up.

The same liberation has almost the opposite effect on slightly older young people – those who have to pass an exam or defend a thesis in a physical discipline. They are at a loss as to what still to believe and defend. Most textbooks have become obsolete. How discuss the new situation with Stephen Hawking, for example, or with CERN? Most importantly: How reconcile it with Einstein’s own work?

The latter job is a joy. A renaissance of the young Einstein – of the three years of his miraculous period ranging from 1905 until late 1907 – follows. These years were fueled by the universal constancy of the speed of light c in the vacuum as is well known.

What about the famous “Einstein equation” of late 1915, however: Has it become obsolete since its c is not a global but only a local constant? The equation only needs a re-scaling. The “too short” spatial distances for the elongated light travelling times just get proportionally stretched. The “Shapiro time delay” is now accompanied by a space dilation (“Shapiro-Cook space dilation”) and the infinite temporal distance to the horizon of a black hole is accompanied by an equally infinite spatial distance valid from outside.

The oldest and most important solution to the Einstein equation – the Schwarzschild metric – exists already in a correct stretched-out version. Only the full Einstein equation itself still waits to be written down explicitly in the correct form by a daring newcomer. Alternatively, Roy Kerr – author of the famous “Kerr metric” for a rotating black hole – may be willing to to accomplish the re-writing task for the Einstein equation which will then reveal a whole new physics.

Does the successful repair of a flaw that had gone undetected for a century ( really need to be called a “catastrophe”? The opposite is the case. One sobering consequence also follows, however: When even the “hardest science” – physics – could go awry for a whole century, a new humility is called for in physics. The strongest young generation of history is now at the ready aided by the no longer distant young Einstein.

Acknowledgment: I thank the three Universities of the Normandy for the undeserved honor bestowed in Le Havre on my chaos work done in the footsteps of Jim Yorke who, together with Celso Grebogi and Ron Chen, was most deservedly honored there. For J.O.R.


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