# What would happen if the speed of light were different?

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• Hrithik mudaliar
In summary, the speed of light is a fundamental physical constant and changing its value would also change the value of other related constants, such as the fine structure constant. However, experiments have shown that the speed of light does not change with time, and any apparent changes can usually be explained by changes in units or other factors. The fine structure constant is of particular interest to physicists as it relates to the strength of electromagnetic interactions and has been extensively studied for any potential variations over time.
Hrithik mudaliar
if speed of light were not 3*10 ^8 m/s and something else would it affect the reality ?

No

Dale
This topic has come up several times. You'll often get a faster answer with a forum search.

You can't just change the speed of light, because the physical constants are linked. So you also have to specify what else you are changing and what you are not - and at least one other thing must change.

Generally, if you work through the consequences of such a change there is no effect. It turns out to be a Byzantine way of changing your units. Obviously we can halve the value of the speed of light by defining the metre to be twice what it is, and obviously this makes no difference to anything.

The exception turns out to be if you change the fine structure constant, which is a dimensionless number which relates the speed of light to the strength of the electromagnetic interaction. Since you (and everything else) are held together by electromagnetic interactions between your atoms, this changes the relationship between your size and the speed of light. In other words, this actually changes the relationship between monkey arm lengths (~1m), monkey heart beats (~1s), and the speed of light (a natural scale factor between distance and time units).

I don't think mucking around with the fine structure constant has any effect classically beyond changing the speed of light (or, at least, being interpretable as a change in the speed of light). My quantum (what I ever knew of it) is way too rusty to know if there are effects there - others may know.

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but if doesn't change anything how would we know that the speed of light was constant over the time ? and it was changing over the time as the universe was expanding

Hrithik mudaliar said:
but if doesn't change anything how would we know that the speed of light was constant over the time ?
We can just define the speed of light to be constant over time.

What physicists are actually interested in is whether the fine structure constant is constant over time. That is a matter of real physics, not just unit choices.

Sorcerer
Hrithik mudaliar said:
if speed of light were not 3*10 ^8 m/s and something else would it affect the reality ?
In case you didn't know...

That's the speed of light in a vacuum. It's different in other media like water (about 25% slower).

Hrithik mudaliar said:
if speed of light were not 3*10 ^8 m/s and something else would it affect the reality ?
As others have mentioned, experimental tests to see of the speed of light changes with time usually revolve around looking for changes in the fine structure constant.

The fine structure constant is something that one can measure that doesn't depend on one's units system. If you believe that plank's constant, the charge on the electron and the permittivity of free space are all constant, then detecting a change in the fine structure constant would be equivalent to saying the speed of light varies. Such experimental tests as have been done for changes in c really measure the fine structure constant (as far as I know), so if you want to look at the experimental literature, that's a good place to start.

Talking about changes in the fine structure constant eliminates trivial "changes" in the speed of light that amount to changes in units. For instance, the speed of light is about 9.8e8 feet/second. If one called a meter a foot, one might claim that the change of nomenclature "changed" the speed of light, but it was really just a changing in words, not a change in physics.

Considering only dimensionless quantities such as the fine structure constant eliminates this sort of confusion, because the units all cancel out and it's a pure number that's independent of one's choice of units.

Dale said:
We can just define the speed of light to be constant over time.
What physicists are actually interested in is whether the fine structure constant is constant over time. That is a matter of real physics, not just unit choices.
Hi @Dale:

I think you (and others) misunderstood what the OP was asking. Suppose I rephrase the OP question as follow:
Suppose the fine structure constant, α = 2π e2 / h c, actually had a different value some time in the past, t, than it does now, t0, and the values of e and h are unchanged. This would imply that the speed of light in vacuum would also have had a different value at time t. Under this assumption, what astronomical measurements could be detected now that would confirm this had happen?​
Obliviously the answer would depend on how large a change there was, so the most useful answer would assume the smallest changes, both + and -, that would result in some detectable measurements now.

Regards,
Buzz

Buzz Bloom said:
Suppose the fine structure constant, α = 2π e2 / h c, actually had a different value some time in the past, t, than it does now

This is a meaningful question, yes.

Buzz Bloom said:
and the values of e and h are unchanged

But this is not. If the fine structure constant changes, it is entirely up to your choice of units which of c, e, and h you want to change; you could choose for anyone of them to change, or any two, or all three. So there is no physical meaning to asking which one of c, e, and h "actually" changed. The only physically meaningful question is whether the fine structure constant changed.

Sorcerer
PeterDonis said:
So there is no physical meaning to asking which one of c, e, and h "actually" changed. The only physically meaningful question is whether the fine structure constant changed.
Hi Peter:

I confess I find your post to be quite fascinating. I would much appreciate your explanation about how the energy E of a photon is measured, and why this measurement depends on knowing the speed of light. I am assuming that it is not a problem to measure the frequency f of a photon without knowing the speed of light. If both h and f can be measured without knowing c, then since E = h f, h could then be determined without knowing the value of c.

I may also be misunderstanding the description of the Millikan’s experiment
https://users.wfu.edu/~bonin/Intermediate_Lab_Phys_265/Millikan_Oil_Drop_Charge_electron.pdf​
which seems to be measuring e without requiring knowledge of c. I understand that measuring e requires measuring voltage, and I was not able to find on the Internet what the method is for establishing the standard for the volt unit. So, I may be mistaken, and the establishment of the volt unit might require knowing the speed of light.

Regards,
Buzz

Buzz Bloom said:
I would much appreciate your explanation about how the energy E of a photon is measured, and why this measurement depends on knowing the speed of light.

Who said it did?

Buzz Bloom said:
I am assuming that it is not a problem to measure the frequency f of a photon without knowing the speed of light.

How would you measure the frequency of a photon?

Buzz Bloom said:
If both h and f can be measured without knowing c

The usual way of "measuring" the frequency of a photon is to measure its energy and divide by Planck's constant.

Buzz Bloom said:
which seems to be measuring e without requiring knowledge of c

Yes. So what?

Buzz Bloom said:
I was not able to find on the Internet what the method is for establishing the standard for the volt unit

PeterDonis said:
Who said it did?
Hi Peter:

Obviously I misunderstood the meaning of:
PeterDonis said:
So there is no physical meaning to asking which one of c, e, and h "actually" changed. The only physically meaningful question is whether the fine structure constant changed.
My interpretation was that given α = 2π e2 / h c, if α changes, and e does not change and h does not change, then the change is α must be due a change in c. If e can be measured without specifying a value for c, and e can be measured without specifying a value for c, then the changed value of c can be calculated: c = 2π e2 / h α.

That is, under the assumptions of h and e being measured and found to not change in value, then c changes inversely to α. If that is correct, what is the meaning of: "So there is no physical meaning to asking which one of c, e, and h 'actually' changed,"?

Regards,
Buzz

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Buzz Bloom said:
My interpretation was that given α = 2π e2 / h c, if α changes, and e does not change and h does not change, then the change is α must be due a change in c.

Please go back and read my post again, carefully. This is not what I said.

Buzz Bloom said:
If that is correct

It isn't. Go back and read my post again, carefully.

Buzz Bloom said:
what is the meaning of: "So there is no physical meaning to asking which one of c, e, and h 'actually' changed,"?

You are confusing yourself by thinking that you measure h, e, and c. You don't. You measure ##\alpha##. (More precisely, you observe and record physical events whose relationships depend on ##\alpha##.) The formula ##\alpha = 2 \pi e^2 / h c## does not tell you how to calculate ##\alpha## once you've measured h, e, and c. It tells you how your measurement of ##\alpha## is related to other measurements. Summarizing the results of lots of different measurements in constants like h, e, and c, which have units, is a matter of convenience (and historical practice), not physics; all of the actual physics is in dimensionless numbers like ##\alpha##.

PeterDonis said:
The usual way of "measuring" the frequency of a photon is to measure its energy and divide by Planck's constant.
Hi Peter:

I get from this that the "usual" way of measuring frequency depends on knowing h, so using that method would not allow for the determination of h from E and f. Are you saying that all methods of determining frequency depend on the prior knowing h?

Regards,
Buzz

PeterDonis said:
Please go back and read my post again, carefully. This is not what I said.
Hi Peter:

I did not say that this
Buzz Bloom said:
My interpretation was that given α = 2π e2 / h c, if α changes, and e does not change and h does not change, then the change is α must be due a change in c
is what you said. I said it was my interpretation of what you said, and I also indicated that I realized my interpretation was incorrect.
Buzz Bloom said:
Obviously I misunderstood the meaning of:

I confess that I am having difficulty understanding the meaning of you posts, and reading them again will not help me. You last paragraph did provide some help.
PeterDonis said:
You are confusing yourself by thinking that you measure h, e, and c. You don't. You measure α\alpha. (More precisely, you observe and record physical events whose relationships depend on α\alpha.) The formula α=2πe2/hc\alpha = 2 \pi e^2 / h c does not tell you how to calculate α\alpha once you've measured h, e, and c. It tells you how your measurement of α\alpha is related to other measurements. Summarizing the results of lots of different measurements in constants like h, e, and c, which have units, is a matter of convenience (and historical practice), not physics; all of the actual physics is in dimensionless numbers like α\alpha.

What is still a mystery to me is that I do not understand the reason that,
"The formula α=2π e2/ h c does not tell you how to calculate α once you've measured h, e, and c."
If h, e, and c, can be measured independently of knowing the value of α, what prevents the value of α from being calculated in this manner? I understand that this is not the "usual" way α is measured, but if this calculated determination of α is significantly different than the "usual" determination of α, wouldn't this result be of interest to physicists?

Regards,
Buzz

PeterDonis said:
Hi Peter:

Thank you for the reference. I did previously look at this Wikipedia article but skipped over the discussion about the Josephson junction since it was way over my head. After your citing the reference I found some more detailed references with somewhat understandable discussions. I was able to satisfy myself that a voltage value could be determined without any knowledge of values for α, e, h, and c. From this I concluded that the value of e could be determined using the Michelson method without any knowledge of values for the other 3 constants.

Regards,
Buzz

Buzz Bloom said:
If h, e, and c, can be measured independently of knowing the value of α,
They can't. Or, more precisely, there's a hidden assumption somewhere in any experiment that purports to measure them. For example, if you try to measure the speed of light you'll need a meter rule somewhere and its length depends on the strength of the interaction between atoms, which depends on e. I seem to recall @Dale worked this out in more detail recently, but I can't find the post at the moment.

Buzz Bloom
Buzz Bloom said:
I was able to satisfy myself that a voltage value could be determined without any knowledge of values for α, e, h, and c.

How?

Buzz Bloom said:
I was able to satisfy myself that a voltage value could be determined without any knowledge of values for α, e, h, and c.

The fact that you can make a particular measurement without knowing the value of ##\alpha## does not mean that the process you are measuring does not depend on the value of ##\alpha##. This confusion seems to be a crucial one for you in this discussion.

PeterDonis said:
How?
Hi Peter:

Here is the URLs for the articles I was using for a reference.
Figure 1 in the 2nd reference has the following caption.
Fig. 1.One-volt NIST Josephson Junction array standard having 3020 junctions. The chip was designed and built by staff of the Electromagnetic Technology Division in Boulder in the cryoelectronic fabrication laboratory. It operates at liquid-helium temperatures; microwave energy is fed to four chains of junctions through the finguide structure at the left. The thin tapered structures at the end of each chain are terminations to prevent reflection of energy back up the chain.​
My understanding from what I perused (as best I could) is that NIST has produced (1991) a stable 1 volt standard apparatus.
In 1991 NIST conducted the first JVS laboratory comparison experiment using transportable 10 V Zener standards, in which five other U.S.industrial and military laboratories participated [22]. Such comparisons are now carried out regularly under the auspices of the National Conference of Standards Laboratories, an industry trade association, with support from NIST as necessary.​
I conclude (perhaps erroneously) that this apparatus could be used to establish a Michelson setup with a controlled voltage to determine the value of e.

Regards,
Buzz

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Buzz Bloom said:
My understanding from what I perused (as best I could) is that NIST has produced (1991) a stable 1 volt standard apparatus.

Ok, but does the behavior of this apparatus depend on the value of ##\alpha##? (Hint: the answer is yes.)

Dale
PeterDonis said:
The fact that you can make a particular measurement without knowing the value of α\alpha does not mean that the process you are measuring does not depend on the value of α\alpha. This confusion seems to be a crucial one for you in this discussion.
Hi Peter:

Thanks for the post. I need to digest this quote for a while before I can determine if I can correctly understand its implications.

Regards,
Buzz

PeterDonis said:
Ok, but does the behavior of this apparatus depend on the value of α\alpha? (Hint: the answer is yes.)
Hi Peter:

I accept that your quote is correct, and that this means that the thought experiments I have been considering are flawed since it must be the case that efforts to measure a value for any of the four constants have hidden dependencies of the value of one or more other constants. I accept that for the present I am not able to understand the nature of these hidden dependencies. Thank you for making this clear to me.

Regards,
Buzz

Buzz Bloom said:
it must be the case that efforts to measure a value for any of the four constants has hidden dependencies of the value of one or more other constants

It's not that: it's that there is really only one constant here, ##\alpha##. That is the only value with physical meaning in the set you give. The others are just choices of units.

Thinking about concrete examples might help. Consider the following collection of devices:

A standard 1 Volt Josephson junction array as described in your links.

A cesium clock such as those used in the SI definition of the second.

An oil drop experiment.

A photoelectric effect experiment.

(We could add more, but this should be enough for the point I'm going to make.)

You can think of these devices as devices for "measuring" physical constants like e or c or h. And you can think of then combining the results using the formula given earlier in this thread to "calculate" a value for ##\alpha##. But that gets things backwards. Actually, all of these experiments are experiments for measuring the value of ##\alpha##: more precisely, the value of ##\alpha## (and the values of other dimensionless constants--for example, the effect of gravity of the oil drop affects the result of the oil drop experiment, and ##\alpha## doesn't describe anything about gravity) governs the relationship between what is observed in all of these different devices. Different choices of units are just different ways of expressing that relationship, depending on which device we want to focus on.

Now let's go back to the original question in this thread: how would we tell if the values of any of these constants have changed over time? The point is that any such change won't just change one of these devices; it will change all of them. More precisely, if you just look at one of these devices, there is no way to tell if its behavior has "changed" over time. Suppose I told you that the value of a Volt was different a billion years ago. You interpret that as saying that the behavior of a standard Josephson junction array was different a billion years ago. But how would you tell? If all you look at is standard Josephson junction arrays, there is no way to tell. Those arrays define what you mean by a Volt. You have to look at multiple devices and the relationship between them to tell if anything has "changed"; and changes in those relationships are changes in ##\alpha## (and other dimensionless constants involved with whatever other interactions are present). There is no way to isolate the changes to just e, c, or h, because there is no way to tell that something changed by just looking at one device.

Buzz Bloom said:
I would much appreciate your explanation about how the energy E of a photon is measured, and why this measurement depends on knowing the speed of light.
This one is very easy in SI units. In SI units the energy of a photon is measured in joules. 1 J is a derived unit which is equal to 1 kg m^2/s^2. So the meter is part of any measurement of energy in SI units. In SI units the meter is defined in terms of c. So to measure the energy of a photon in SI units does require knowing c in SI units also.

Note: this argument is specific to SI units and may not apply in other unit systems. That is the point, the dimensionful constants give you information about your unit system, not about physics.

Buzz Bloom said:
Millikan’s experiment ... which seems to be measuring e without requiring knowledge of c.
It is not an issue of the experiment, it is an issue of the units.

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PeterDonis said:
There is no way to isolate the changes to just e, c, or h, because there is no way to tell that something changed by just looking at one device.
Dale said:
It is not an issue of the experiment, it is an issue of the units.

Hi Peter and Dale:

I think I may have come to an understanding of these above quotes, particularly with respect to c.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_System_of_Units#Base_units
Second (Current as of 1967): The duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.
Meter (Current as of 1983): The distance traveled by light in vacuum in 1/299792458 second.​
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_light
The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted c, is a universal physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its exact value is 299,792,458 meters per second.​

This means that by definition the value of c (using any units) cannot change. In effect c is defined as 1 light-second per second. If it should (hypothetically) happen that the number of seconds (or picoseconds) it takes light to travel (in vacuum) over an actual specific physical distance is measured to have changed, c would not change. What would then change is the actually physical distance corresponding to a meter. What I would guess would likely happen then is that the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM, Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) and the International Committee for Weights and/or Measures (CIPM, Comité International des Poids et Mesures) would redefine the meter independently of the speed of light, since (by the hypothetical assumption of its change) the current definition would no longer be stable.

It the above a correct interpretation of the top two quotes?

Another possible interpretation would be that the speed of light cannot change because if it did, the actual lengths of physical things would also change so that the the number of seconds for light to travel the physical distance would remain unchanged. I find this interpretation too difficult conceptually for me to absorb.

I found the following quote from Dale at
https://www.physicsforums.com/threa...-meters-per-second.279798/page-3#post-2011753 .
I wanted to work out what would be the experimental result if the speed of light doubled but the fine structure constant was unchanged.​
Assuming α changes due to the change in c, but no other "constants" change (e and h), would this change in α change the time measured by the cesium clock which would make the measured time for light to travel the physical distance to be unchanged?

Regards,
Buzz

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Buzz Bloom said:
This means that by definition the value of c (using any units) cannot change.

No, it just means the value of ##c## in SI units cannot change, because it's not measured any more, it's defined to be a specific number.

Buzz Bloom said:
In effect c is defined as 1 light-second per second.

No, it isn't, because in those units, the numerical value of ##c## is ##1##, not ##299,792,458##. The only thing such units have in common with SI units is that the value of ##c## is defined, not measured.

Buzz Bloom said:
If it should (hypothetically) happen that the number of seconds (or picoseconds) it takes light to travel (in vacuum) over an actual specific physical distance is measured to have changed

How would you measure this?

Buzz Bloom said:
I wanted to work out what would be the experimental result if the speed of light doubled but the fine structure constant was unchanged.

You still don't appear to grasp the fundamental point: the fine structure constant is the one with physical meaning. If the fine structure constant is unchanged, all experimental results are unchanged. The only way for experimental results to change is if the fine structure constant changes.

Buzz Bloom said:
Assuming α changes due to the change in c

But you just said the fine structure constant was unchanged. That's inconsistent with this sentence.

Also, again, you are missing the point that has already been made several times: if the fine structure constant changes, it is not "due to" a change in c, e, or h. Which of c, e, and h change if the fine structure constant changes is a matter of choice of units, not physics. The physics is all in the fine structure constant.

I think you are confusing yourself more and more instead of improving your understanding. I strongly suggest taking a step back and thinking carefully about the two sentences in italics above. Any time you find yourself saying or thinking something that is not consistent with those two sentences, you are doing it wrong and need to stop.

PeterDonis said:
if the fine structure constant changes, it is not "due to" a change in c, e, or h. Which of c, e, and h change if the fine structure constant changes is a matter of choice of units, not physics. The physics is all in the fine structure constant.
Hi Peter:

I would very much like to understand the meaning of this quote. I do not want to introduce philosophy, so I will just mention briefly what I perceive to be the problem with my mental ability to understand this quote. It seems to have logical implications that contradict my philosophical view of reality.

PeterDonis said:
No, it just means the value of c in SI units cannot change, because it's not measured any more, it's defined to be a specific number.
I was assuming that any alternate system of defining units would relate to SI units by constants. For example, in cgs units, 1 centimeter = 1/100 of a meter, and 1 gram = 1/1000 of a kilogram. Also in British Imperial units, 1 foot = 0.3048 meters, and 1 pound = 0.45359237 kilograms. If this is a generally correct assumption, then using any unit from a system of units with this kind of definition relative to SI units would leave the value of c unchanged.

PeterDonis said:
How would you measure this?
I assume a suitable device which measures the time difference in picoseconds (ps) between two signals, where these ps units are carefully controlled to be in terms of the cesium definition of a second. I assume a straight underground tunnel which contains as close to a vacuum as practically possible. The length of the tunnel is assumed to be unchanging over time. There is an apparatus at one end which emits a laser pulse when a button is pushed by an experimenter outside of the tunnel. The button push also starts the counting of picoseconds by a suitable digital counter. The apparatus also includes a radar pulse detector which stops the counter when it detects a pulse. At the other end of the tunnel is a mirror that reflects the radar pulse from the emitter back to the detector. The use of this apparatus is repeated from time to time to measure the time (in picoseconds) it takes for a pulse to move from the emitter to the mirror to the detector. There may also be auxiliary devices to detect possible disturbances that would effect the time measurement, for example, a device for detecting seismological disturbances due to earthquakes.

PeterDonis said:
But you just said the fine structure constant was unchanged. That's inconsistent with this sentence.
The quote I posted in #29 was an answer by Dale to a similar but different question (in which α did not change) posted in a different thread which I cited. I quoted it because @Dale's answer suggested to me that he was likely to be able to answer the different question (where α did change) which I asked in that context.

Regards,
Buzz

Buzz Bloom said:
I was assuming that any alternate system of defining units would relate to SI units by constants.

You assume incorrectly. SI units define a meter as the distance light travels in 9192631770/299792458 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom. Other systems of units do not define their unit of distance this way, so their relationship to SI units might not be constant. For example, the original definition of the meter was, IIRC, 1/40,000,000 of the polar circumference of the Earth. But the Earth's polar circumference changes over time by small amounts for various reasons; as it does, the relationship of a meter defined this way to the current SI meter changes. The same would be true for other distance units defined in terms of some physical object, or by some other method that did not involve the propagation of light.

Buzz Bloom said:
If this is a generally correct assumption, then using any unit from a system of units with this kind of definition relative to SI units would leave the value of c unchanged.

No, it wouldn't, because 299,792,458 is a different number from 1. So 299,792,458 meters per second is not the same, numerically, as 1 light-second per second. They both describe the same speed, but they're not numerically the same; they are different choices of units. Just as, for example, 100 kilometers per hour and 62.137 miles per hour both describe the same speed, but they're not numerically the same; they are different choices of units.

In other words, "the value of c" means "the number we use to describe the speed of light". So 299,792,458 is not the same value of c as 1. I don't see why that is difficult to grasp; it seems to me that you are making this much more difficult than it needs to be by overthinking and confusing yourself. The value of c is not the same as the general method by which c is defined.
Buzz Bloom said:
The length of the tunnel is assumed to be unchanging over time

Why would you assume that? It seems obvious that the length of the tunnel could change for all sorts of reasons. (Maybe the temperature was slightly different; maybe there was a small tectonic shift; etc., etc.) If this is the only measuring device you have, you have no way of telling whether changes in your readings are due to an actual change in a physical constant, or just to changes in the tunnel.

Buzz Bloom said:
There may also be auxiliary devices to detect possible disturbances that would effect the time measurement, for example, a device for detecting seismological disturbances due to earthquakes.

And how do you know you are detecting all possible disturbances? You can't.

This is why I said that physical constants like ##\alpha## tell you about the relationships between different measurements made in different ways. You can't tell if ##\alpha## changed just from a single kind of measurement, because you can't distinguish changes in the physical constant from changes in the measuring apparatus.

Buzz Bloom said:
The quote I posted in #29 was an answer by Dale to a similar but different question (in which α did not change) posted in a different thread which I cited. I quoted it because @Dale's answer suggested to me that he was likely to be able to answer the different question (where α did change) which I asked in that context.

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. You said in one sentence that ##\alpha## was assumed to be unchanged, and in the very next sentence, with no signal of any change in context, that ##\alpha## was assumed to change. That doesn't make sense.

PeterDonis said:
Hi Peter:

I would be happy to do what you suggest if I could. The problem is doing so would leave me with no coherent view of reality since I am unable to grasp the reasons for the first quoted statement from my post #31 for which I have failed to grasp it meaning. In particular I do not grasp the meaning of "physics" in this context. What comes to mind from this is that α represents something that has meaning in the field of physics (i.e., physical reality) while c does not. I do not think this is what you intend that quite to mean.

The examples you have given in response to my posts suggest another possible interpretation to this quoted statement. It would help if I might understand the boundaries of the following premises.
1) No measurement involving units (e.g. c) can be made with "sufficient" accuracy because the measuring apparatus and/or the environment in which the measurements are made may always introduce unsatisfactory errors/uncertainties.
2) It is possible for measurements of unitless values (e.g. α) to avoid this limitation because many (most, all?) of the sources of error/uncertainties are related to units.​

Regards,
Buzz

Buzz Bloom said:
In particular I do not grasp the meaning of "physics" in this context.

When we say the physics is all in the fine structure constant, we mean what I said in my first italicized statement:

PeterDonis said:
The only way for experimental results to change is if the fine structure constant changes.

So if you are thinking of experimental results changing with the fine structure constant remaining unchanged, you are doing it wrong and need to stop.

Buzz Bloom said:
The examples you have given in response to my posts suggest another possible interpretation to this quoted statement.

Uncertainties in measurement are a different issue and you should ignore them for this discussion. Trying to include them will only confuse you further.

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