Response to Humphreys

Response to Dr. Russ Humphreys' comments on on the Setterfield work as published in Starlight and Time, Appendix A


I was recently asked if I had any response to the material published in this book's appendix about my work or if anything had changed since Humphreys wrote it in 1994 (and which is still widely available). I cannot quote his material without violating copyright, but here is my response to a number of his points.

Barry Setterfield, December 5, 2009

1. Humphreys makes a great deal of the seventeenth century astronomical data, the measurements by Roemer that indicated that the speed of light may have been as much as 2.6% higher than today’s value.  It ought to be pointed out that Roemer’s value was not the only value of the speed of light obtained by that method.  Roemer’s work was the pioneering work for that method and his results were erroneous.  But statistical analysis on Roemer’s data by Goldstein showed that there was a root mean square error of 118 seconds.  This error is more than enough to cover any variation in the speed of light by that method.  However, literally hundreds of other measurements were made by other observers since Roemer using his method and consistent results were obtained. 

2. Humphreys claims that Chaffin’s own analysis of Roemer’s data, coupled with his own experiments, suggested that the experimental error of the early instruments washed out any change in the speed of light.  This effectively was the same result as Goldstein’s analysis.

3. Putting that particular method of measurement (the eclipse times of the moon Io around Jupiter) out of the picture does not change anything very much.  If you consider aberration method from the Pulkova Observatory, there is a clear decline in the speed of light over the two hundred years of their reported observations.  They were using the same method, with the same instruments and often with the same observers during this time.

4. The statement that we depended on the seventeenth and early eighteenth century data is patently untrue.  It is from the period of 1850 to 1940 that the whole discussion took place in scientific literature because every measured value was lower than the previous one.  It is these later measurements which form the basis of my early work. 

5. It should be reiterated that Roemer was just the beginning, and you can take his material completely out of the picture and you still have a consistent series of highly technical methods of measuring the speed of light over the next three hundred years, with the methods increasing in accuracy and you still cannot avoid the data that shows the speed of light to be decreasing.  This was what was being discussed so avidly in the peer-reviewed and other journals before WWII.

6. Humphreys states that there is an alleged “tendency of researchers to report an experimental result close to the results of their predecessors.”  This is called tracking.  What I want to point out is that in 1882 and 1883 three determinations involving hundreds of experiments to determine the speed of light.  This was done using three different methods.  The experimenters were Newcomb, Nyren, and Michelson.  They were working independently.  Nyren was using the aberration method.  Newcomb was using the rotating mirror method.  Michelson was using prisms.  The values obtained were as follows:  Newcomb – 299,860 km/sec; Nyren – 299,850 km/sec; Michelson – 299,854 Km/sec.  The standard deviation of these three values is only 5 km/sec.  In view of the fact that there was no collaboration among them, but each observed and published independently, the charge of tracking is clearly false.

7. In addition, regarding tracking, Michelson alone proves that this tracking procedure was not in operation.  In 1879 he obtained a value of 299,910 km/sec.  In 1883, using the same equipment, he obtained a value of 299,853 km/sec.  In 1924, using a different set of equipment, he obtained a value of 299,802 km/sec.  In 1927, using the same equipment as 1924, the value he obtained was 299,798 km/sec.  Who was he tracking?  Interestingly enough, in the last two sets observations involving literally thousands of individual experiments, using five different prisms, the final results for the five prisms were all within 1 km/sec of each other.

8. Humphreys goes on to say that the supporters of a slowing speed of light preferred to break the 160 measurements into smaller groups (according to experimental method used) and analyze each group separately.  It is true we did do this, but we ALSO analyzed the 160 data points together, as he knows.  Indeed, when the 140 best data points are chosen, where the errors in measurement are less than 0.1%, the decay is clearly in evidence.  This he could also see.  This forms the primary basis of the analysis of Alan Montgomery and Lambert Dolphin.  Their analysis has never been refuted.  It’s conclusion was that the data was handled correctly in our paper and there is no doubt but that the data shows the speed of light to be slowing over the years of those measurements.

9. Humphrreys says that “Chaffin also pointed out a clear example of ‘tracking’ cited by Richard Feynman in another area of experimental physics.  Chaffin’s work has dealt a serious blow to the cdk theory and many of its former supporters have now given up on it.”   We have just pointed out that the evidence for tracking in the speed of light measurements is nonexistent, and therefore this conclusion of Chaffin and Humphreys is incorrect. 

10. Humphreys states that “fitting a curve to the data, he extrapolated the curve back into time, giving a value for the speed of light about 6000 years ago which was millions of times greater than today’s value.”  Wieland and the editors of Ex Nihilo asked me to do this in my early work.  I was extremely hesitant as my data collection was not complete at that time in the early 1980's. Nevertheless, I tried to give some indication as to what might happen.  The data collection was not complete until the publication that we issued of August in 1987, the report for Stanford Research Institute International, which was published by Flinders University in South Australia.  There is a ‘throwaway’ graph on page 88 which shows several possible options for the speed of light in the past with our mention that these were simply possible behaviors.  We showed no preference for any of the possibilities. 

11. One final point.  Humphreys mentions that I explored some theoretical consequences, “for example proposing it as an explanation for galactic red shifts (which later turned out to be in error).”  It is true that I looked at the statement by Tom van Flandern who said in one of his publications that if the speed of light was varying over the lifetime of the universe, this could give rise to the red shift.  There was no certain mechanism behind this proposal,, and though we mentioned what he said, we did not offer any solution ourselves.  What has happened since is interesting.  In the 1990s work was done on the Zero Point Energy and its effects on atoms and the energy of light emitted from atoms.  That work has shown that if the strength of the Zero Point Energy has increased with time, the light from all atomic emitters would become bluer.  Therefore as we look back in time, a weaker ZPE would result in a red shift of light.  This Zero Point Energy also has been shown to determine the speed of light, Planck’s Constant, atomic masses, and the rate of ticking of atomic clocks.  These were all atomic constants which had been measured as varying and which had been noted in our 1987 Report.  With a change in the Zero Point Energy there is now a mechanism whereby all of these effects are explained.  At the same time, it means that the red shift is supplying data back to the origin of the cosmos, and therefore no extrapolation is needed from any data.  We have the mathematical formula for the curve.  Thus, Russ’s statement is now greatly out of date, even though the book is still being offered by the creation organizations.  His ‘analysis’ of my work is false.