Gravitational Waves and Problems

Barry Setterfield, May 2016

John Hartnett has stated that the published results of some astronomers proves that the speed of light must have been constant over time. These astronomers claim to have discovered gravitational waves from what they assume is the merger of two distant black holes. Hartnett makes this claim because the relativistic equations used in the group’s analysis have a value for the speed of light that is equal to its current speed. If the speed of light was different at any time during this presumed merger, he claims that they would not get the results they did. In addition to the responses already given, there are eight specific problems, any one of which could invalidate Hartnett’s claim. Taken together they make his claim completely devoid of merit.

As a brief recapitulation of what happened, on Thursday 11th February, 2016, a paper was published, co-authored by a large group of scientists, announcing the discovery of set of gravitational waves that came from a distant astronomical event. The rationale behind the experiment was to prove that Albert Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves made by his General Theory of Relativity in 1915 was correct, and the theory thereby verified. This team had been searching for such a signal for over a decade without success using the LIGO instrument arrangement.  The long period without any success in detection of such waves was proving to be problematic.

The LIGO instrumentation comprised two linked stations, one in the state of Louisiana and the other in the state of Washington, USA. Any wave or signal, traveling at the speed of light, would take about 10 milliseconds to get from one station to the other. Therefore all signals more than 10 milliseconds apart were to be ignored. Finally on 14th September, 2015, a very similar signal was indeed received by the two stations 10 milliseconds apart. The two stations received signals with similar profiles which lasted for just one fifth of a second in each case. It was claimed, on the basis of extensive computer modeling, that the signal resulted from the merger of two black holes whose masses were 36 and 29 times the mass of the sun respectively. Einstinian equations from general relativity were used to get this result

Since gravitational waves have been sought for over a decade without success, much is hanging on this isolated result. Nevertheless, it has been hailed as a major breakthrough. But some legitimate doubts remain. The following eight points need to be noted.

1. The Equipment: The mirrors in the equipment are in an L-shaped arrangement called an interferometer.  The mirrors are 4 km apart and bounce a laser beam back and forth between them. The mirrors involved have a surface polished to an accuracy of 25 nanometers or 25 billionths of a meter; that is 25 x 10-9 meters. But the expected variation in the signal over a distance of 4 km for these gravitational waves is very significantly smaller. It is of the order of about 10-18 meters -- that is one billionth of a billionth of a meter, or about one hundred billionth of the diameter of a hydrogen atom! The operators obviously feel that the shifts they measure in the interference fringes from the light waves bounced between the mirrors overcome this problem. Nevertheless there are some who have questioned the ability of the equipment to perform at the required level, and/or the ability of the operators to sort out a multitude of spurious signals of the same order of magnitude. An interesting short article regarding this is available on the net.

2. Other Methods of Detection: There is a much more accurate means of detecting any gravitational wave phenomena which actually pass by. In contrast to the $1 billion LIGO equipment, the NANOGrav detectors use the extremely precise pulses of radiation from 54 Pulsars throughout our galaxy. The light from any two pulsars acts like the 2.5 km long arms on each LIGO detector, but the arms are now over 3000 light years long. These precisely timed flashes of radiation have the possibility of revealing gravitational waves. If such a wave actually transits our galaxy at the present speed of light, it would be expected to stretch and squash space-time and so distort the pulsar signals and interfere with their precise timing of arrival.

The prediction was that the presumed ongoing mergers of black holes should provide plenty of examples of gravitational waves. However, none were detected and the suspected background from ongoing events has continued to be absent. While a variety of explanations have been offered, the proof for the existence of gravitational waves is lacking from this most sensitive array of detectors, as indicated in the article, "Hunt Continues for Gravitational Waves from Black Hole Megamergers." It is unlikely that LIGO has been successful where NANOGrav has failed. Additional evidence is needed before the claimed result is in fact verified. Given this, Hartnett’s conclusion appears to be premature at best.

3. Confirmatory Observations: In most scientific experiments, it is expected that results are either replicated using similar equipment or confirmed using a different method. In this case, some evidence emerged from a different method of measurement that may have confirmed that some event did indeed occur. The data in question comes from the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) satellite which monitors the whole sky for X-ray and Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs).  A one-second burst of hard X-rays was recorded from the same segment of the sky just 0.4 seconds after the LIGO equipment picked up their signal.

 However, the authors of the article go on to state that “The detection of an electromagnetic counterpart to a merger of stellar black holes would be a surprising event. … Models for short GRBs from compact binary progenitors always involve a neutron star, with short GRBs more easily produced from two neutron stars, unless any black hole companion has a high spin.” Regardless, the LIGO team decided that two black holes were involved, discarding either the option of two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole. If it were not two black holes of the precise masses mentioned above, their equations would not work.  Something is wrong with this picture. There are two choices. 1). The LIGO team is incorrect and it was not the merger of two black holes but two neutron stars, as Fermi indicates.  2). If the LIGO team is correct and two black holes were involved, then the Fermi GBM signal was entirely spurious. But if the second option is adhered to, then we only have one gravitational wave event recorded, without any confirmation, out of a whole decade of searching using different instrumentation. In either case, Hartnett’s claim, that a change in the speed of light is negated, stands on an insecure base

4. Mathematical Problems:  Mathematical papers discussing General Relativity, black holes, event horizons, singularities, gravitational waves and so on, employ a peculiar mathematical device.  At the head of these papers it is usually stated explicitly that, in their math, they are putting c=G=h=k=1, where cis the speed of light, h is Planck’s constant, G is the Newtonian gravitational constant, and k is Boltzmann’s constant.  This procedure is called “geometrizing the variables.” This approach is erroneous because, as Heaston has pointed out, along with Rydin and Crothers, and others, the quantity c (the speed of light) has different powers or exponents as the math is worked through. But putting c=1 effectively means that those powers are ignored in the calculation since the quantity one raised to any power will always remain just one. Rydin and Crothers discuss some of this in their paper, "New Developments: The Big Bang -- In Controversy."

This erroneous approach has caused several problems. The first is that this procedure has led directly to the singularity currently described as a Black Hole. If that erroneous approach is not adopted, then Heaston, Rydin and others have shown that a limit is reached where the central mass has to convert to energy well before a Black Hole singularity is attained. In other words, the standard model of a Black Hole is simply the result of mathematics and not observation.  In terms of basic physics, it cannot form if the equations are followed through correctly; it only forms if the variables are geometrized. Again, black hole formation is a purely artificial mathematical device which has no parallel in the real world as shown by Rydin in his article, "The Mantra of Theoretical Physics: Relativity Reigns."   R. J. Heaston's “Predictions of the Heaston Equations and the 21st Century Physics Paradigm”, presented at the 15th Annual Conference of the NPA (7 – 11 April, 2008, at Uni. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, Vol. 5, No 1, pp. 93 – 99, 2008) also deals with this issue, as does another article by Rydin.

In view of these facts, it is apparent that the standard model for a black hole comes from an incorrect math procedure and so does not exist in reality. (For an alternate explanation regarding the centers of galaxies, please see the section on black holes in the online astronomy course.) In addition, the Rydin and Crothers article shows whole general relativity concept is flawed. But the same math and concepts were used to calculate what happens as two black holes approach each other, and thus that calculation is flawed as well.  What the LIGO team has found is that one solution exists to the set of erroneous equations which fits the experimental data. But that in no way implies it is the only possible explanation.

An important admission was also made by James Hough from the University of Glascow, UK, who stated that LIGO’s discovery ”is the only direct evidence we have for the existence of any black holes.”  He notes that astronomers had previously obtained only indirect evidence in the form of X-rays from matter falling into other black holes and the distortion of the orbits of stars at galactic centres. Therefore Hartnett’s claim about this isolated experimental result, which is based on incorrect math, is open to severe doubt.

5. Other Problems: In geometrizing the variables, the Theory of Relativity has effectively made it mandatory that all these constants remain linked if not fixed.  To satisfy the mathematical formulation of the theory, if h varies in any way, it must do so such that c, G and k vary in a proportional manner. If they don’t, then the equations are no longer valid. Since the basic postulate is that lightspeed remains absolutely fixed, then it is a system that does not allow for any possibility of variation in the constants.

Suppose these physical constants did vary in a way compatible with geometrizing the variables. It can then be shown that energy would not be conserved. But, the law of conservation of energy is basic in nature. This energy conservation was certainly a problem for Einstein and his elaborate tensor equations. As Rydin mentions in his "New Developments" paper, to overcome the difficulty, Einstein “invented his pseudo-tensor, which he said ‘expresses the law of conservation of momentum and of energy for the gravitational field’. First, it is not a tensor, and therefore not in keeping with his theory that all equations be tensor in nature. Second, he concocted his pseudo-tensor in such a way that it behaves like a tensor in only one particular situation, that in which he could contrive gravitational waves with speed c.” For this reason, relativists claim that gravitational waves cannot move at any speed other than the speed of light. If they did, relativity would be proven incorrect. The LIGO results therefore bolster their confidence, even though the equations are faulty. In view of this it might be asked what the situation is in the real universe? For example, can we actually measure the speed of gravity?

6. The Speed of Gravity: Physicists claim that the gravitational influence of black holes causes bodies in their vicinity to orbit them at a high speed. Yet it is also claimed that the escape velocity for a black hole is the speed of light. In other words, even light cannot get out of a black hole (which is the reason for its name). But if the gravitational field of a black hole causes objects to orbit it at high speed, this means that gravity must travel significantly faster than light, otherwise gravity would not escape either. The brilliant astronomer and expert in Celestial Mechanics, Tom Van Flandern, pointed this out in a series of published papers starting with “The Speed of Gravity: What the Experiments Say” in Physics Letters A 250:1-11 (1998), and continuing on through 2002 with a joint paper with J. P. Vigier ‘Experimental Repeal of the Speed Limit for Gravitational, Electrodynamic, and Quantum Field Interactions’ in Foundations of Physics 32:1031-1068 where criticisms and questions were answered.

Van Flandern began by pointing out that the light which arrives on earth from the sun comes from a position in the sky that is measurably different to the sun’s true location. It is easily shown that the earth is accelerating to a point in space that is about 20 arc-seconds in front of the visible sun. That is the point where the light from the sun will come from in 8.3 minutes into the future. It takes light 8.3 minutes to get from the sun to the earth and this results in the aberration angle of 20 arc-seconds. But the speed at which the gravitational pull from the sun is accelerating the earth must be very much faster as there is no appreciable aberration angle. In fact, Van Flandern showed that if gravity propagated between the sun and earth at the speed of light, this would cause the pull of the sun to be acting at an angle to Earth rather than towards the center of the system, and the orbit would be disrupted. He demonstrated that, under these conditions, the earth would double its distance from the sun in about 1200 years. Obviously this is not happening. 

This is prima facie evidence that gravity does not travel at the speed of light.  The orbital calculations of Newton, Lorentz and Eddington all implicitly accepted the fact that there is no appreciable aberration angle for gravity, while Laplace calculated gravity to have a speed at least 108 times the speed of light.  Van Flandern used the orbital information about a binary pulsar system PSR1534+12 and calculated that the speed of gravity as revealed by this physical system must be at least 2 x 1010 times the current speed of light.

This result sparked a controversy that resulted in another experiment. The speed of gravity was claimed to be measured by monitoring the radio wave signals from a quasar going through Jupiter’s gravitational field in January 2003. Astronomers determined it to be the speed of light to within 20%. Some doubted initially, and the doubts were later verified. It is now generally conceded that what was actually measured was the speed of radio signals in a path distorted by Jupiter’s gravitational field. The speed of gravity is not the speed of light, and van Flandern’s calculation of its much faster speed still stands. Even the initial report of the experiment mentioned a doubt.

So once again, observational reality shows that general relativity, as currently formulated, needs to be re-considered, and with it Hartnett’s conclusions, especially if the speed of gravity and the speed of light are two measurably different things.

7. The Global Positioning System (GPS):  The accumulation of all these facts, along with those presented by Rydin and Crothers in "New Developments: The Big Bang in Controversy," severely erode the base of general relativity. Yet General Relativity is still widely accepted as a fact. When asked why, many will respond that the GPS satellites only work because of relativity and that is sufficient proof of its accuracy. But all is not as it seems. Ron Hatch in his work on the GPS programming admits that they discarded general relativity except for one item, namely the slower running of atomic clocks when they are deeper in the gravitational field, that is, closer to the planet. [See the Ron Hatch presentations on youtube). This is explained in his paper “Contesting and testing infinitesimal Lorentz Transformations and the associated equivalence principle,” [Physics Essays 23 (2010),  p.137.]

It might be argued that Ron Hatch is trying to promote his own ideas and material at the expense of Einstein. However, astronomer Tom Van Flandern’s analysis of the situation agrees with Hatch’s. The following comments have been made about the Global Positioning System by Tom Bethell in regard to van Flandern's work:

At high altitude, where the GPS clocks orbit the Earth, it is known that the clocks run roughly 46,000 nanoseconds (one-billionth of a second) a day faster than at ground level, because the gravitational field is thinner 20,000 kilometers above the Earth. The orbiting clocks also pass through that field at a rate of three kilometers per second--their orbital speed. For that reason, they tick 7,000 nanoseconds a day slower than stationary clocks.

To offset these two effects, the GPS engineers reset the clock rates, slowing them down before launch by 39,000 nanoseconds a day. They then proceed to tick in orbit at the same rate as ground clocks, and the system ‘works.’ Ground observers can indeed pin-point their position to a high degree of precision. In (Einstein) theory, however, it was expected that because the orbiting clocks all move rapidly and with varying speeds relative to any ground observer (who may be anywhere on the Earth's surface), and since in Einstein's theory the relevant speed is always speed relative to the observer, it was expected that continuously varying relativistic corrections would have to be made to clock rates. This in turn would have introduced an unworkable complexity into the GPS. But these corrections were not made. Yet ‘the system manages to work, even though they use no relativistic corrections after launch,’ Van Flandern said. ‘They have basically blown off Einstein’. [bold added]

It should be noted that even the two corrections of 46,000 nanoseconds and 7,000 nanoseconds can be explained independently of general relativity. Since the GPS is not a proof of general relativity as claimed,  one must question the validity of the concept Hartnett is using to support his claim that the speed of light is not changing.

8. Other Models:

In the foregoing comments, we have argued from within the base of general relativity itself and pointed out its internal flaws. However, Hartnett also ignores the fact that in an early version of relativity, Einstein himself considered a varying speed of light as a major component of his developing theories. An outline of that situation can be found in the book by German physicist Alexander Unzicker entitled Einstein’s Lost Key and summarized on Amazon.

With this piece of background information largely ignored or hidden away in archives, it is little wonder that many of today’s scientists while being single-mindedly locked into Einstein’s relativity,  are not open to his mindset. They have not adopted the broad-minded exploratory perspective that Einstein himself had and, as a result, are effectively stifling further investigation into the natural order around us.  This lesson alone should be sufficient to cause Hartnett to seriously reconsider his opposition, and open his mind to explore new options.

In addition, Hartnett  makes another mistake. He states that the approach adopted with the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) Plasma Model and its changing physical constants is inconsistent with relativity and so must be wrong.  That is the wrong approach.  A model first must be judged regarding its own internal consistency.  It must also be judged on observational data.  Instead, Hartnett is attempting to judge the ZPE/Plasma model on the basis of the spurious mathematics involved in the current application of General Relativity.  Using a theoretical concept to judge a different model is not the way to go about things.

A colleague gave an excellent analogy of what Hartnett is trying to do, and in so doing reveals his erroneous methodology. Our colleague takes Hartnett’s comments about “assuming normal physics” as implying that SED physics and ZPE concepts are not “normal”, and put it this way:

“If I want to evaluate a front wheel drive car, and in order to test it I replace the front axle with parts from a rear wheel drive car, "assuming normal cars," then I am not really testing the car. I may be testing part of it, mixed with parts of another car - and even though both cars may work individually, the mixture does not do anything! The test or evaluation is thus invalidated. Likewise, evaluating or analyzing a model while leaving out parts of the model is not really analyzing that model, but rather a different or distorted model.”

That is what Hartnett is doing with the Plasma-ZPE Model.

An ongoing reassessment of relativity by a number of scientists involves removing both the restrictive postulates of a constant speed of light and the absence of an absolute reference frame for motion in the universe. Physical phenomena have shown both that the speed of light is variable and that there is an absolute reference frame for motion in the universe. The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) provides that absolute reference frame, as pointed out by Harwit in Astrophysical Concepts, p.178 (Springer, 2nd edition).  He salvages what he can for relativity by stating that it will apply at the atomic level but not at a macroscopic level.

Finally, as far as the speed of light and other atomic constants are concerned, their values have been determined by thousands of measurements made by well-known physicists over a long period, (300 years in the case of light). All the associated constants are varying in such a way that their synchronous trends point to an overarching mechanism, in which energy is conserved. This is explicable when a build-up with time in the vacuum Zero Point Energy (ZPE) is considered as an outcome of universal expansion. When this approach is adopted, the physically verified predictions of relativity can be replicated without the restrictive postulates of Einstein, as shown in "ZPE and Relativity."

This cohesive approach also allows for alternate explanations for the LIGO results, for black holes and gravitational waves, and all of which completely negate Hartnett’s assertions.