The conventionality thesis on the synchronisation of clocks separated by distance

I recently read the book “Concepts of Simultaneity” by Max Jammer[1] where Jammer presents the history of concepts of simultaneity. Primarily he starts with the Greek philosophers and works through to the modern age—with philosophers and physicists. The book outlines that in regards to the concept of simultaneity the most significant developments occurred in the past 110 years, starting with Albert Einstein when he published his famous paper on Special Relativity in 1905.

Time is intrinsically linked with simultaneity. Simultaneity involves how we might synchronise distant clocks with our own local clocks. This issue then has an enormous bearing on some significant philosophical questions. How do we measure the speed of light coming from the distant cosmos? How old is the universe? How do we know how old the universe is?

We accept as fact, even consider it as empirical fact, something that is actually not fact at all but conventional. I explain below. But an incorrectly held notion has led to the idea that we can definitively know how old the universe is. Since we know the speed of light is finite (not infinite) and the universe is enormously large, then it is concluded that it must have taken light billions of years to travel to Earth from the distant cosmos. From that it follows that both theist and atheist have incorrectly concluded that the biblical timeline cannot be correct. The atheists even use this as an argument against the existence of the Creator.

In classical (Newtonian) physics, up to several hundred years before Einstein and any measurement of the speed of light, a distant event was considered simultaneous with a local event if the local observer saw them occur at the same time, as measured by his local clock. This is because the speed of light was assumed to be infinite. There was no delay between the light leaving its source and its reception at the observer. But that all changed.

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Einstein’s physics says there is no biblical creationist starlight travel-time problem

Review of the book “The Physics of Einstein” by Jason Lisle


I would say that there is no other biblical creationist book like this on the physics of Einstein. Astrophysicist Jason Lisle explains the subject matter in a style that any educated non-specialist could understand. However, there are sections that contain equations, which are important, but they are sectioned off into boxes so that one may skip those without loss of the train of thought.

In the book Lisle addresses questions such as:

“Is it possible to travel faster than the speed of light? Will future human beings build spaceships that can travel at ‘warp’ speed like in Star Trek? Is time travel possible? If so, could we ever travel back in time to prevent a catastrophe from occurring? What does E = mc2 really mean? What are black holes, and do they really exist? What would happen to a person who fell into a black hole, and how do we know? Is the universe really expanding? How long does it take starlight to travel from distant galaxies to Earth? Does this distant starlight require the universe to be billions of years old?” (p.7)

Figure 1: The Physics of Einstein

The book starts with a short history of Einstein and his discoveries in physics. Though Einstein never performed any physical experiments to test his theory of relativity, today it is one of the most well established theories of science.

One small initial criticism I would make is how Lisle uses the word ‘prove’ in relation to relativity theory. He does qualify what he means:

“My point here is that relativity, unlike most branches of science, is actually provable, within the context of its foundational premises” (p.9)

I think it is unfortunate that he was not clear enough on this. He writes that the proofs involve basic logic, basic geometry and basic mathematics. This is a different sense to experimentally testing a theory. In an experimental sense no theory can ever be proved. It can be tested and even disproven, but never proven. Even so, relativity—both the special and general theories—has been extensively tested on Earth and in space and has be found to be exquisitely consistent with all results.  Nevertheless, there is a domain where it is expected to break down, and that is at the quantum level.

Newton and Maxwell

Chapter 1 starts out with a discussion of Newtonian physics, involving gravitation as well as the three laws of motion. Newton realised that all motion is relative, that is, that any speed and direction of a particle is only meaningful when quoted with respect to a particular observer. And this sets the scene for the rest of the book. One important aspect of that is ‘reference frames’. The outcome of any experiment will always be the same for all inertial reference frames, though the measured values may vary. An inertial reference frame is one where the observer is not accelerating—but either stationary or moving in a straight line. So Newton’s laws of motion apply only to inertial reference frames. The Earth is not an inertial reference frame but for some applications it is approximated as such.

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Can we see into the past?

Is it possible that when we look into the cosmos that we are seeing into the past?

Hubble Deep Field showing galaxies up to 10 billion light-years distant from Earth.

We hear all the time that we are looking into the past when we look out into space. But we can’t definitively say that! In the following I’ll explain why.

Astronomers say that because the speed of light is a finite value (c = 299,792.458 km/s ) it takes light 1 year to travel a distance of 1 light-year. On the surface of it that seems very reasonable.

That means that light leaving the star alpha Centauri, which is 4.3 light-years away, took 4.3 years to get to Earth and thus the information in that light is 4.3 years old by the time it gets to Earth. Thus they say we are looking back in time — into the past. And for distant galaxies this means we are looking back in time even billions of years.

But is that correct? Continue reading

Jason Lisle’s new book “The Physics of Einstein”

Today I have nearly finished reading Jason Lisle’s new book “The Physics of Einstein”. I highly recommend it to you if you ever wondered about any of the major questions it deals with:

  1. Does light from distant galaxies really take billions of years to reach Earth? 
  2. Is time-travel possible? 
  3. Are black holes real? 
  4. What are some of the weird effects of travelling at near the speed of light? 
  5. And how do we really know?  

The physics discovered by Albert Einstein allows us to answer all of these questions.  In this easy-to-read book, we learn how Einstein was able to deduce what happens when an object approaches the speed of light.  The results are as amazing as they are strange.  Designed for readers with no background in physics, this book explores one of the strangest and most fascinating branches of science.

Soon I will write a review of the book but before that I would strongly recommend you buy it and read it. It can be ordered from Jason’s website’s shop.

It is written for the layman and the sections that involve any mathematics are sectioned in boxes and can be skipped without losing the flow of the points being made.

The book explains in extensive detail, that a non-specialist can understand, the simplest solution to the biblical creationist starlight travel time problem.

By making the reasonable assumption, based on textual evidence, that the language used in the Bible for the timing of events, especially the creation of the stars, implicitly involves the scientifically valid Anisotropic Synchrony Convention (ASC) the starlight travel-time problem disappears.

If the question of how do we see distant stars in an enormously large universe, billions of light-years in extension, has been a big problem for you, this book is a must read. Even if you only read the last 4 chapters of the book that deal with this question you would be greatly enlightened. If you are pressed for time, start with chapter 17 “The Curious Case of the One-Way Speed of Light”. But really you should read the whole book. The preceding chapters clearly explain the physics discovered by Einstein, which build the case for the arguments presented and the refutations of the criticisms against his main thesis.

Is Dark Matter the Unknown God?

CM Title imagePublished in Creation magazine 37(2):22-24, 2015.

Over years of researching cosmology and astrophysics, I have argued that ‘dark matter’ is a sort of ‘god of the gaps’,the ‘unknown god’. It is proposed mainly to rescue the standard big bang model from problems when a mismatch is found between the theory and some observations. However, secular cosmogonists (scientists who study the beginning of the universe) usually believe the big bang worldview to be correct as well as all its associated astrophysics. So they must postulate something invisible to explain the discrepancy. This ‘something’ is ‘dark matter’, a hypothetical substance that emits no light or radiation, so cannot be seen.

Several years ago, astronomers claimed that they now had direct empirical proof of the existence of ‘dark matter’.2 This was dutifully repeated in the popular media.3 It was claimed that this demolishes the criticisms of ‘dark matter skeptics’. The section entitled “Dark Matter Proof?” (below) explains this further, and shows how there are many competing explanations for the same evidence. Continue reading

Lift up the Word with gentleness and respect

Someone writes a book, or develops a theory (or even just presents some speculation), and then a believer in a church uses that information and says something like,

 “The YEC position is true and here’s the proof! You are crazy if you can’t believe it because we have this evidence.”

Sadly, sometimes I hear this sort of thing.  Folks it just should not happen. And a person who hears it might react, complaining with,

“A (creation ministry) speaker filled their heads with stuff, which isn’t true about the YEC interpretation of the Bible.”

Well that’s how the recipient may have understood the attack on his belief system, which was obviously not a biblical creationist one. Maybe he believes in theistic evolution or big bang or both. (I am not supporting those inconsistent interpretations, but I am talking about our approach.) This sort of thing has led to a division in the fellowship. Some even claim that the whole subject of biblical creation is divisive. That is not what I am talking about, but rather how some well-meaning people use speculations and theories like clubs trying to win an argument, when they should be categorized only as man’s attempts at a solution to a biblical creationist problem. Continue reading

A solution to the creationist starlight-travel-time problem

STNP coverModern astronomy describes a universe that is billions of light-years in extent. If we reasonably assume that a light-year is the distance that light travels in one year at one light-year per year and that the speed of light has been a constant over all time since the creation of the Universe then creationists have a problem, don’t they? Since the Universe was created only a mere 6 thousand years ago how can light travel billions of light-years? This is called a light-travel-time problem.

Despite increasingly compelling arguments from biblical creationists that offer solutions to this problem, still many doubt the Bible’s clear timescale. This is because, they think, it is impossible for light to have reached Earth in only a few thousand years from galaxies that are billions of light-years away. This misconception is often the ultimate stumbling block to a straightforward acceptance of the Bible—even the gospel itself.

This book, Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, provides one such solution and it is summarized below. But before proceeding know this, the most accepted model describing the origin of the universe in the hot big bang also has a light-travel-time problem. This is called the horizon problem.  See my blog, Big bang has a light-travel-time problem.

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