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VSL Varying Speed Of Light

  1. Aug 4, 2003 #1
    Any thoughts on this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2003 #2


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    It doesn't.
  4. Aug 6, 2003 #3
    you wouldn't notice?
  5. Aug 6, 2003 #4


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    You would absolutely notice if it varied.
  6. Aug 6, 2003 #5
    In long frame/form How?
  7. Aug 6, 2003 #6


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    I'm not sure what you are asking. Should I list all of the ways the speed of light has been measured and every implication of Relativity that depends on a fixed speed of light?
  8. Aug 7, 2003 #7
    Yes, I'd like to know all the way of measuring speed of light. I'm puzzled, how they measure something that is fundamental to spacetime itself, being source of both standards of time and distance. I've got impression that c is 'measured' the same always.. that leaves some options..
  9. Aug 7, 2003 #8
    No thanks, no need.

    But, just as possiblity, it is possible that, in the near vicinity of our Sol, due to the gravitational influences of that Star, all measurements of Light end up equalling C, because the gravitational influence of the Sun, does that.

    How can we have tested for that?
  10. Aug 7, 2003 #9


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    Wimms, measurements are of course all we have to go by. Light has only recently become a standard on which to base measurements BECAUSE it is now known to be a universal constant. Not the other way around. The speed of light has been measured so many ways and under so many different conditions, not to mention the discovery that the speed of light is constant has been used for so many pracical applications, that if it were wrong, we'd know it.

    The easiest way to accurately measure the speed of light is bouncing a laser off a mirror of known distance and measuring the time. The first method I believe had to do with timing the motions of Jupiter's moons. GPS depends on the constant velocity of light. If the speed wasn't constant, GPS wouldn't work.

    There are more if you want more.

    Thats easy. Its the same as the MM experiment just using the sun as the reference point instead of the earth. Any gravitational effects on the speed of light would manifest themselves through measurements at right angles to a the sun. And of course if the Sun's gravity had an effect, so would Earth's.
  11. Aug 7, 2003 #10
    How do we get 'known distance'? measure time of light travel, right, heh?
    GPS depends on TIME, not c. speed of light changes when signal enters atmosphere, doesn't it? This just cancels out.

    I'm worried about what else depends on velocity of light? Does size of atom depend on c? Does fields, forces depend on c? Does length of our physical meterstick depend on c? If all this does depend on c, then how on earth can we measure c itself? It simply must appear constant...

    oh yeah, I want all of them I want to see what is the meterstick with which c is measured.
  12. Aug 7, 2003 #11
    Lots of thoughts on it. It amounts to proposing that space has a "variable index of refraction". If it were the root cause of gravity we could think of the planets as having their paths bent in space by such a diffraction.

    How do we define the speed of light? One way is by using the value of electric charge.

    h-bar*C/e2=137.036, so C has the value 137.036

    Since electric charge is conserved and h-bar seems to be fixed this means we could measure any variation as being a change in the velocity of light.
  13. Aug 7, 2003 #12


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    No, you measure the distance through another means. Like a tape measure.
    Yeah - the time it takes for the signal to travel the distance at C. So you still need C.
    GPS is far too precise to depend on cancelling errors. Also, the error would vary greatly with the azmuth of the satellite.
    I already addressed that. Reread my last post.
    "The" meter is a bar of platinum in a case in England (I think) with two notches on it. But its precision is limited and its accuracy changes with atmospheric conditions.

    The arguement here seems to be that since we don't know everything maybe there is some effect not yet observed that makes the speed of light vary. Sorry, but science doesn't work that way. Everything we know about light tells us its speed is constant. Does anyone want to present some ACTUAL EVIDENCE that it is not constant?
  14. Aug 8, 2003 #13


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    I wonder...

    how do photons jump from zero speed into c or if ther seed is only c what if something gets in the way?
  15. Aug 8, 2003 #14
    What is tape measure? Platinum bar that depends on environmental conditions? What if tape length changes with variations of C? What if spacetime itself depends on C? Thats the reason why I asked what else depends on C?

    You don't need C. You need locally uniform average velocity of signal. It could aswell be 1/8 of C or sound, GPS would still work like a charm. And yes, GPS receivers are calculating all sorts of compensations. Of course errors cancel out, thats the point of triangulation and averaging.

    Not sure I got it. You simply assured me that we'd notice. I'm asking if we really would be capable of noticing, and you didn't address that imo.

    Exactly. Velocity of light has been found to be 'more' stable than any bar, and instead of measuring c precisely, it was dropped and 'defined' from theory, and taken as standard. Big win, but at the same time make C defined through itself. Imo, best definition of C is c=1.

    No, argument was more like that we don't have any kind of independant from C reference to measure C. Fact that C is constant in any inertial frame, and that timeflow can differ for differing inertial frames, makes one think that length dilations compensate so that velocity of C is measured same, within the frame. Given that C isn't absolute, but only relative, its more like some sort of law of 'conservation of ratio' between spatial extent and time.
    Actual evidence. I don't know. If we can't measure C then variance of C would manifest as something else. Maybe curvature of spacetime, gravity? Maybe matter?

    My point is that how do we know that C is truely constant, and not that whole spacetime fabric is vibrating causing local variance of C along with spatial and temporal deformations etc?
  16. Aug 8, 2003 #15


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    Re: I wonder...

    If something gets in the way then it gets absorbed or reflected as usual. As far as the acceleration goes, photons have no mass.
    Again, all of the relevant effects are quite well understood.
    Certainly. But since satellites use radio waves, GPS uses C. Please remember that all of the satellites move independently and the earth rotates. The relativistic effects of these motions *IS* considered when using GPS.
    I ugre you to read more about how GPS works. For that matter, read a little bit about the concept of "precision" ie significant digits in ANY calculation. Errors do NOT cancel out, they build up. You learned that in 8th grade science class (if you are an American). Remember the pictures of a target with groupings of arrows illustrating the difference between precision and accuracy? Same unit.
    What are you looking for? I gave examples of situations where we would notice. Thats all I can really do for you. If you choose not to believe it, thats up to you.
    Sure. But of course that only works if C really is constant. I guess I'll have to repeat it: this isn't an assumption used for convenience, its observed data. C is constant.
    Given based on WHAT? You haven't given a shred of evidence that C isn't constant.
    Which is exactly the point: there isn't any reference frame independent of C. Its constant in all frames. Are you suggesting we've never measured C in another reference frame? Again, I'll have to invoke GPS.
    We know that C is constant because we measure it and it is always constant. There is no simpler way to explain it than that. If you won't accept that fact, there really isn't any way for me to help you understand the implications of that fact.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2003
  17. Aug 9, 2003 #16
    Re: Re: I wonder...

    Really? I didn't know that. And that was salt of my this question. I haven't seen anyone describing what would it imply if C would change, fundamental as it is, and how would it be perceived. And not just change of C alone, but together with all that depends on it together with it.
    Can you explain to me or point to, what would be implications of it changing? What would change together with C, especially that which we'd have to use as 'meterstick' to measure C itself.

    Here we are. You called errors what I called variance of C due to entering atmosphere. I said this variance cancels out because same change in C occurs for signals from any satellite. I also implied they account for different distances C has to travel in atmosphere depending on azimuth. I was not talking about last digit precision errors. But they are canceled by averaging process.

    Russ, I'm not arguing that we measure C as constant, so its not issue of me believing. We can notice variance of C IF we have something given, like spatial extent that is independant from C, or time measure. But do we have that? For eg. if C would speedup, then time to moon should decrease. But if together with speedup of C, timeflow would slow down, then our clock measure of time would be same. In effect, we can't measure change in time to moon, it would produce same time as with constant C. You say we would notice variance of C, but seems to me you assume that there exists space independant from C. Does it? Afaik whole sense of spacetime is that its intimately relating space with time through C.

    Suppose C was 1billion times faster. Then objects 1B lyrs away would seem like 1 lyr away, and completely other stuff would appear 1b lyrs away. Does it matter what the actual C is? Nope, only relation between space and time is what matters. If C would change, our perception of world would change. How? Can we explain something if we suppose that C can change without us being able to directly measure that?

    I'm not in position to give evidence. I ask questions. C is same within any inertial frame. C is same between any inertial frames. What is it? Perception of reality or alice in wonderland?

    No. My point is that together with change in C our whole reference frame would change. If that includes timeflow, we have very hard time in detecting changes in C.

    I know that Russ. I'm asking myself, WHY is C constant in all inertial frames or interframe comms? 'Its just so' is only one answer. That its fundamental limit due to planck length per planck time is another, but here I suggest that perhaps its so because we wouldn't have any reference frame to notice changes in C, and being restricted to measure C in measures of frame that depends on C itself, what else can we detect?
  18. Aug 9, 2003 #17


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    Re: Re: Re: I wonder...

    Special Relativity is the theory that explains why the speed of light is constant. General Relativity is an extension of Special Relativity to explain gravity. If the speed of light were found to be varialbe, then both theories would be proven wrong and all of their implications (which are vast) would be called into question. Besides just the nature of light, thats all we know about time and gravity as well. We'd need to find another explanation for why the rate of the passage of time is variable for example. Gravitational lensing. Gravitational red shift. The "light barrier": (if the speed of light changes, would this "barrier" change too? Matter/energy relationship. The behavior of particle accelerators.

    Thats a major chunk of physics that depends on our explanation of the MM experiment.

    This is starting to get big. Have you read any books on this? "A Brief History of Time" would be a good start. I can't give you a 150 page book in one post.
    Actually, YOU brought up errors in GPS. And C DOES change (on average) when it passes through the atmosphere as it does when passing through any medium. But the effect of that is different for each satellite because the signal passes through different parts/amounts of the atmosphere. Thats yet another part of the calculations done in GPS recievers. Since its a known effect taken into account in calculations, its not an error and its certainly not offsetting errors.
    You mean step outside of the universe? Not really an option, is it? And not really relevant either.
    Are you saying that you can't measure the speed of a car while inside the car? Why not? Also, relativity talks about different reference frames, not different universes. According to classical mechanics, measuring the speed of anything including light in different reference frames will not necessarily produce the same result. So all you need to do to prove that is to measure the speed of light in different reference frames. And we have.

    After relativity explained why, and tecnology provided the means, it became possible to measure TIME in different reference frames. Lo and behold, the rate of the passage of time was found to vary exactly as relativity predicts.
    Except of course this would affect GRAVITY among other things.
    Then you shouldn't use the word "given." And questions on reality are philosophical, not scientific.
    Again, "why" is a philosophical question. For the purpose of explaining HOW it works, "why" really doesn't matter. Science doesn't answer why. I submit to you that the question is irrelevant for understanding how it works. The universe is the way it is and this is the only unverse thats relevant to us. How things would work in another universe doesn't really matter.

    And what you are describing is a chicken vs egg scenario. Is the universe the way it is because we are here to see it or are we here to see it because thats the way it is? Thats the "anthropic principle" (there are two version) and its philosophical, but also discussed in "A Brief History of Time."
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2003
  19. Aug 9, 2003 #18


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    That's when we apply Occham's Razor. If the whole of spacetime is conspiring to make any variation in c unmeasurable, then we can get no wrong answers by presuming c does not vary in our theories.

    Just to be picky, it was Maxwell's electrodynamics that explained "why" the speed of light is constant; Special Relativity just dealt with the consequences of that constancy.
  20. Aug 11, 2003 #19
    Re: Re: Re: Re: I wonder...

    Fundamental postulate 'explains'???

    We need to find that out anyway. Why you think we'd need to throw all out of window? Who said that C can change 'freely' and independant from anything else?

    I have read books. But nowhere have I seen coherent approach to what would change in C imply to all of the physics. Only bits here and there, but no complete picture. I wonder if we even can have such picture before we have complete understanding of all underlying fundamentals.

    sigh. Please reread posts. I was talking about C variance due to entering atm and that it cancels out for usable satellites. I didn't call that errors. There is no way to account for fluctuations in atm due to weather, and these are cancelled out by averaging samples over time.

    Are you chasing ghosts? That was precisely my point! We can't step outside, thus all we can measure is relations between what we observe. And if C underlies all of what we observe, we have hard time to measure its variance. And why isn't this relevant?

    Are you saying that speed of car affects space around it, gravity, timeflow, physical processes to same extent as C does? IF together with car speedup exactly proportional time speedup occured, what speed change could you measure from inside a car?

    Is that end of story? Have we reached the 'finish'? As I've understood, relativity put things into correlation so we can compute, not explained 'why'.

    Of course. It would affect everything. And if it would affect everything in such a way that all would change proportionally, how would we go for detecting such C change? And if we can't detect it directly, doesn't it make you wonder that it might manifest itself as something else, eg GRAVITY? I'm asking, I'm curious how we'd observe it manifesting itself.

    Whats wrong with word 'given'? Do you attribute some special meaning to 'given' that I as nonenglish person don't get? For me, what SR says is given.

    nah. "Why" is the driving question. Without it, science has no purpose and no function. "How" is substitute until we get to the "why". Question is relevant, because to answer it we'd need to have deeper insight into how things work.

    Noo. I'm not asking the question in that sense. I'm inquiring what fixes C to appear constant in any inertial frame? Is there possibly a reason for that to seek? And so I ask, would we notice change in C at all if it affected all that we can observe? Or would we notice only indirect effects of that, like time variance or gravity, or matter?

    I'm not arguing this. There is tiny detail though, our theories say that C appears constant for any frame by any measurements. This is different than saying that it IS constant. This difference leaves some room to ponder what would be indirect evidence if C changed in such a way that our direct measurements wouldn't detect it.

    "The fact that the speed of light is a constant in nature is DUE ONLY TO THE FACT THAT FREE SPACE HAPPENS TO HAVE A SPECIFIC PERMEABILITY & PERMITTIVITY. We do not know why this is. Maxwell's equations do not know why this is. The only thing that Maxwell's equations say is: "given this fact that the permeability and permittivity seem to be constant, the speed of light will be constant too." In regions where the permeability and permittivity is NOT constant, the speed of light is also not constant (such as in layered dielectric materials in modern fiber-optic cables). I assure you that the Maxwell equations can very happily accommodate a light-speed that is not constant!"

    Thats not my claims. Do you agree with this?

    "Maxwell equation for c implies that, assuming the permittivity and permeability of the vacuum are the same when evaluated at rest with respect to any inertial frame of reference, in accord with the classical principle of relativity, and assuming Maxwell's equations are strictly valid in all inertial frames of reference, then it follows that the speed of light must be independent of the frame of reference."

    What is source of permittivity and permeability constants? Fact: matter changes permittivity and permeability. Q: is matter a manifestation of change in permittivity and permeability? If possible, then isn't gravity fieldlike change in permittivity and permeability?
  21. Aug 11, 2003 #20


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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wonder...

    The word "given" is followed by an accepted fact. If what follows is not an accepted fact, then the word "given" doesn't apply. Yeah, its an English thing.

    Leemme give this one last try with three important points to take from this thread:

    1. The expierment you want done has already been done, or at the very least covered by other experiments. Now I'm sure you can nitpick forever about tiny differences between what was done and what you want done, but it doesn't matter because:

    2. As Hurkyl so eloquently put it, if the laws of the universe are "conspiring against us" to make it unobservable, then there is no possible experiment that will ever be able to show a VSL even if it exists. But that doesn't matter because:

    3. If the effect can never be observed and it doesn't change how the laws of the universe work, you can (and should) ignore it.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2003
  22. Aug 12, 2003 #21
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I wonder...

    Hello, when did I say anything about experiment? Are you confusing me with someone? I'm asking what would be implications of C changing? And is there a possibility that we wouldn't detect changes in C by direct measurements but instead as some other phenomena?

    Strings. 10+ dimensions. what the heck are they doing then? Why are they wondering about 10+ dimensions if "universe is conspiring against us"? Go bash them out of waters.
    If not, then why not ask 'what if' questions with other ideas?

    Who says it can never be observed? What I meant is that it might prove difficult to detect by straightforward means, what macroscopic measurements are. Let me think of one effect that doesn't change how the laws of the universe work: uniform motion. Lets ignore it? If not light and "windows", you'd do this?

    My very question IS how would it change the laws of universe? Do YOU know? Or are you just 'ignoring' questions? Somehow, without me ever giving reason, you started to defend SR as if I was refuting it.

    You asked whats the evidence that C changes. There's plenty, it changes in presence of matter, in BEC. Does TIME flow differently there? Vacuum isn't exactly empty, its full of EM and G fields. Does this change C? There are changes in C, but they are called something else. And I still don't understand why its 'stupid' to seek for reasons why C appears constant in any frame, instead of just endlessly repeating conclusions derivered from fundamental postulate.
  23. Aug 12, 2003 #22


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    Apologies. Wisp/wimms - simlilar names, similar threads.
    repost: Special Relativity is the theory that explains why the speed of light is constant. General Relativity is an extension of Special Relativity to explain gravity. If the speed of light were found to be varialbe, then both theories would be proven wrong and all of their implications (which are vast) would be called into question. Besides just the nature of light, thats all we know about time and gravity as well. We'd need to find another explanation for why the rate of the passage of time is variable for example. Gravitational lensing. Gravitational red shift. The "light barrier": (if the speed of light changes, would this "barrier" change too? Matter/energy relationship. The behavior of particle accelerators.

    your response:
    Maybe I shouldn't have ignored this. Relativity isn't a postulate, its a theory and all of its implications are theories. You're still looking at the issue backwards - relativity depends on the speed of light being constant, not the other way around. Maybe this is the key.
    No, Einstein already found that out. Or rather he PREDICTED it and later experiments verified it (at the time, clocks weren't accurate enough to detect it).
    Time dilation results directly from a constant C. If C were found to not be constant, time dilation would have to have another cause.
    Relativity is the underlying fundamental and its implications are the big picture.
    You certainly implied it:
    The answer to your question is now and always has been SR. You ARE trying to refute it whether you know it or not.
    String theory is an attempt to unify Relativity and QM. It does not change my point #2. Or rather, point 2 does not change string theory.
    Fundamental postulate thing addressed above: this isn't one. But maybe we're getting somewhere now: you're now saying there IS evidence that C is not constant. Could you be more specific? Specifically changes in C that "are called something else." You're saying we have observed C to not be constant? Are you talking about refraction? Clarify.

    It certainly appears to me that you have a point to your questions. But you are trying very hard to not argue it. Make your point. If it has some validity, we will accept it. If it doesn't we well tell you why and YOU must accept it. But running from a discussion of your point won't help you prove it.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2003
  24. Aug 12, 2003 #23
    VSL book

    Just finished reading Faster Than The Speed of Light by Joao Magueijo ISBN 0-434-00948-2 (if you're curious).

    The book outlines the theory that c is a constant now but has not always been a constant. Can't say honestly that I followed it all, but as speculation goes the idea has possibilities.

    Proposed as an alternative theory to inflation whereby the the early hotter universe produced light waves that travelled at a greater velocity. C./C was the term used.

    If anyone has seen this and has an opinion I'd love to hear it. Me, I'm just a sucker for a good tale.

  25. Aug 13, 2003 #24
    Right. If you see I'm off, plz don't ignore. Let me get this straight: fundamental postulate of SR is that speed of C is constant (relative to any frame, not some absolute space), and from this and other assumptions it works out a theory that is in amazing correlation to observable. That makes this model very viable in that it explains 'how' things relate. So we basically go ahead and assume that C IS constant. From there, we bend space fabric and timeflow that SR initially assumes to have independant existence. Our point of reference becomes C, not space, not time.
    Fundamental result of SR is that time and space can vary and DO vary. And we know that they vary in such a way that C remains constant for any frame.

    Assumption that C is constant was smart and resulted in consistent theory. But now that inter-relations between variables are known, it becomes irrelevant which 'ingredient' is considered primary. Equations make indgredients equal. Given any of ingredients, we can derive correctly others. Constancy of C becomes historical assumption. Now to put things into perspective of what is anterior and what is posterior, or what makes what, we make 'physical interpretations'. Based on initial postulate, we rely on C being constant, and all else being variable. And I ask what if we don't restrict C to being constant, but take a look at how other 'ingredients' must behave to gain same sort kind of evidence we observe.

    Exactly. He 'modeled' how to predict it. He didn't explain 'WHY' it happens, or even mechanism of 'HOW' it happens. Thats left to be found.

    All-or-nothing. Is world black&white? Maybe time dilation that goes in pair with space dilation always results in same velocity C for observer?

    No. I implied that we can't observe it NOW because we have no theory that predicts that and offers means to detect it. My stress was on word 'never'.

    SR is NOT and answer. In QM they even question existence of space that SR takes for granted. Nature of time is mystery. I'm not trying to refute SR. SR is in the end a bunch of equations that interconnects space, time and motion of energy. At best you might say I'm wondering if SR could be expanded or perhaps rephrased from different ground.

    Whats the point of #2 then?

    I'm about permittivity and permeability. I quoted for Hurkyl claims about Maxwell equations that underlie constancy of C. Could you comment? Obviously in presence of matter things change. One can explain it with other theories and debunk me, but just consider, if its not matter that 'resists' C in matter, but infact that matter IS manifestation of changes in C. c2[mu]0ε0 = 1

    My point is to get things into perspective for myself.
    Conceptual idea of SR is among others that 'measurement of absolute velocity is impossible'. That leaves only relative velocity, or velocity relative to our current frame of reference, c included. Now that we know time can vary, it seems to me that velocity of C measured depends on time rate of our measurement frame. On what would time rate depend no ideas, or what is meaning of distance, but their relations are such that to yield a constant C.
    This makes me sincerely wonder if we'd really be able to detect changes in C. Changes in C could be detectable only indirectly, perhaps as difference in momentum between inertial frames, or gravity.
  26. Aug 13, 2003 #25


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    Re: VSL book

    Thats a different issue, but an interesting theory nonetheless.

    You keep using those words. I don't know where you are getting them and I don't know how else to say it: The fact that C is constant in all reference frames is IMPERICAL DATA. Its not a postulate, assumption, stipulation, or other baseline position made for mathematical convenience. You're still looking at Relativity backwards.
    "Why?" is a philosophical/religious question. But Einstein most certainly did explain "HOW?" it happens. "HOW?" is the mathematical derivation itself. And the question of whether a mathematical model is a real extension of a physical reality is an interesting one, but it is also largely philosophical. As far as scientists are concerned, if it makes an accurate prediction, its a real extension of physical reality.

    Also, mechanisms are unnecessary here and are somewhat linked to the "why?". What is the mechanism by which C stays constant? Dunno - maybe a later theory will answer that. Maybe its just something God decided. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that C is constant and it doesn't change the theories that use the fact that C is constant.
    I'm going to have to invoke Occam's razor again. It makes more sense to conclude from observing through imperical data that shows C is a constant and T is a variable, that C is a constant and T is a varible. You're going back to 'the universe is conspiring against us' position again.
    You have it almost exactly backwards. You don't need a theory to know how to observe something. And generally, before you can have a theory, you need the data. You're putting the cart before the horse. Example: The MM experiment confused the hell out of M&M, but it was data and they accepted it. It was years later that a theory was constructed that adequately explained their data. The exception is theories that are built on other theories.
    Discarding the theory completely can hardly be called "rephras[ing]" it. It can of course be expanded - and thats not even close to the same as what you are proposing. Example: Newton vs Einstein's gravity.
    String theory is an example of expansion - but it doesn't change the fundamental principles of relativity. It does not claim VSL. Just like the above, you're confusing expanding on a theory with discarding it completely. There is a huge difference.
    Sounds like you already know that scientists have a different explanation from what you prefer.
    Sure. Those quotes display a lack of understanding of the mechanism behind refraction. Or to be nice, the variability of C is a mathematical convenience, used in refraction calculations, which leads to a very common misunderstanding of the mechanism behind refraction. I'd bet my last paycheck that quote came from a site who'se purpose is to try to refute relativity.
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