The Speed Of Light Isn’t A Fundamental Constant (Record Scratch)

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago


There are all these assumptions that we make on a day-to-day basis that we have no control over. We assume our electricity isn’t going to power down in the middle of our favorite TV show. We assume our cars won’t get peppered with bird excrement the one day we don’t park inside the garage. We assume that every step won’t be our last. (Cue high-pitched organ music.)

But there are some things we just know, dammit, like how fast the speed of light is inside of a vacuum, and seven looks back at this other website later, I know that it’s 299,792,458 meters per second. But I might as well go and unknow it now, because the speed of light inside of a vacuum isn’t really a fundamental constant after all, since a vacuum isn’t even really a vacuum at the sub-atomic level, and its ability to impede upon the speed of light rests more on the electrical charge of those tiny particles rather than their masses. So the speed of light is dependent on the properties of the vacuum through which it travels, while the properties of the vacuum are kind of informed by the speed of the light passing through it. And at the end, the speed of light fluctuates about 50 quintillionths of a second per square meter. That’s enough to fuck up some of the foundations of physics.

Nothing is collapsing, and everything, even things that apparently are based on nothing, can be rebuilt upon. Oddly enough, this discovery came from a pair of studies. One from a team led by Marcel Urban of the University of Paris-Sud, who figured out the vacuum’s fluctuation, and the other was from physicists Gerd Leuchs and Luis L. Sánchez-Soto, from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen, Germany, who hypothesized how the vacuum affects the light’s travel on a molecular level.

I apologize if I messed anything up in the preceding paragraphs. I’ve shined a flashlight into my vacuum a thousand times and it never comes out the other side.