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No. 58: Jul-Aug 1988

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Has the speed of light decayed?

In a recent technical report, The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, T. Norman and B. Setterfield answer this question affirmatively. Scientific creationists have in the main welcomed this report, because its findings are consistent with their desire to prove the earth very young. However, G.E. Aardsma, at the Institute for Creation Research, in California, urges caution:

"Measurements of the speed of light have been made for the past three hundred years which could potentially provide the required empirical basis. Norman and Setterfield tabulate the results of 163 speed of light determinations in The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, and claim clear support for the decay-of-c hypothesis from this data set. [c= velocity of light] My inability to verify this claim when this data set was subjected to appropriate, objective analyses is the motivation for this article which is intended to caution creationists against a wholesale, uncritical acceptance of the Norman and Setterfield hypothesis. At the present time, it appears that general decay of the speed of light hypothesis is not warranted by the data upon which the hypothesis rests."

(Aardsma, Gerald E.; "Has the Speed of Light Decayed?" ICR Impact Series no. 179, May 1988.

Comment. Thus, American creationists concur with what Australian scientists have already concluded. (Bridgstock, Martin; "Creation Physics," Search, 17:141, 1986. Cr. R. Molnar.)

Reference. Historical measurements of the speed of light are recorded in our handbook: Mysterious Universe. To order, visit: here.

Velocity of light versus year Measurements of the velocity of light (c) versus year, as plotted by Aardsma. VErtical lines are error bars.

From Science Frontiers #58, JUL-AUG 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987