The beginning of this rather long and intellectually uncomfortable thread is an anomaly discovered by Rupert Sheldrake wherein he found that the speed of light dropped ever so slightly, (by about 20 kilometers per second) between 1928 and 1945, and then in 1948, it suddenly popped back up again, and metrologists (metrology is the science of measuring constants) began getting the same increased speeds from different pieces of equipment around the world.
The statement was uttered at a TedXWhiteChapel event on January 12th, 2013, entitled, Visions for Transition, Challenging Existing Paradigms and redefining values. The since banned TedX Talk had approximately 35 thousand views when it was removed from Ted's youtube account, now it has cleared over a million. In it Sheldrake summarizes arguments from his newest book, Science Set Free. It focuses on dogmas within science that purportedly stymie innovation and choke out scientific thinking. To date Ted's Scientific Advisors question whether or not this particular talk "was a fair description of scientific assumptions."
On March 14th, after claiming Sheldrake's speech had "several major factual errors," Ted publishes a blog titled "open to discussion" wherein they cross out their initial statement, post instead Sheldrake's rebuttal to it, admit to using "clumsy language" in this original explanation, re-affirm their decision to keep the Talk by Sheldrake off their Youtube account, and ask the public to join the conversation on the line between science and pseudoscience and how far TED and TEDx should go in giving exposure to unorthodox ideas.
Ted explained their clumsiness as a consequence of feeling hurried by an in-pour of people up in arms over their alleged censorship of Graham Hancock's talk on Ayahuasca, which was also removed from Youtube, and took place at the same TedXWhitechapel event.
On March 18th, Ted posts, "Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake a fresh take". The blog cites both talks as, "so radical and far-removed from mainstream scientific thinking that we think it’s right for us to give these talks a clear health warning." Also adding the concern that since, "TED and TEDx are brands that are trusted in schools and in homes. We don’t want to hear from a parent whose kid went off to South America to drink ayahuasca because TED said it was OK."
On March 19th, Ted posts, "The Debate about Rupert Sheldrake's Talk" where they explain, "We’re not censoring the talks. Instead we’re placing them here, where they can be framed to highlight both their provocative ideas and the factual problems with their arguments. See both talks after the jump." The jump, in this case, is the need to scroll down, and here is a vimeo account that requires a login. The discussion took place over a few weeks and then closed; Sheldrake provides a summary opinion on his website.
Sheldrake claims his TedX talk was initially removed because of Ted being contact by materialist bloggers Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers, whom he referred to as, "militant atheists". Ted's Scientific Advisors stand on the position that they question whether the Talk "was a fair description of scientific assumptions," and state they "believe there is little evidence for some of Sheldrake’s more radical claims, such as his theory of morphic resonance, and claim that the speed of light has been changing."
Ted is right in updating there statement to report that there is little evidence to suggest morphic resonance (though it is possibly indicated by the learned behavior of rats), or that the speed of light is changing. However, a very important consideration here is that saying there is very little evidence to suggest morphic resonance, and a fluctuation of the speed of light is true, necessarily contains an admission of an amount of evidence. Some evidence is a different line than the original position, which accused Sheldrake of basing his argument on "several major factual errors" (see crossed out lines for original position). In five days Ted's opinion of Sheldrake's arguments shifted from "major factual errors" to "very little evidence".
Sheldrake suggests data on morphic resonance is reproducible, and pre-averaged measurements indicating variations of the speed of light are existent, though publicly unobtainable. Sheldrake vies for transparency in this latter domain. As to the former, some evidence supporting morphic resonance has appeared in peer reviewed journals, namely the British Journal of Psychology and Journal of Experimental Biology.
Sheldrake's assertions that Physicists routinely consider the speed of light to be a constant when in fact it may not be, and that the speed of light dropped 20 kilometers per second in 1928, were true, on both accounts. An article in Scientific American from January 12, since taken down, stated, “Physicists routinely assume that quantities such as the speed of light are constant.” The Physicist Sean Carroll, argued against Sheldrakes claim on variations of the Speed of Light, but Sheldrake pointed out, if you go to Florida State's website, (which was cited by Carroll according to Sheldrake, as evidence that this particular claim was false), and scroll down to the measurements of the speed of light, and look for the speed of light in 1928, you will see it is indeed 20 km/s slower than the previous year. Certainly Florida State University was neither mentioned by Rupert Sheldrake in his talk, nor is an absolute source of information. The detracting article written by Carroll and referenced by Ted could not be located.
Sheldrake stated openly he is willing to collaborate with other biologists and physicists who have interest in further exploration as to the scientific veracity of his theories. With that said, what follows is largely a reproduction of the ideas expressed by Rupert Sheldrake in that Ted Talk.
The oddity mentioned at the opening of the article, that the speed of Light dropped by 20 kilometers per second in 1928, brought Sheldrake on a journey to question both the The Speed of Light (Referred to as C, as in E=MC2), and other fundamental constants, namely gravity, or Big G, otherwise known as Newton's Universal Gravitational Constant. The first which sheds light on conditions surrounding the state of the mass of a Kilogram, the second which does the same on the state of the distance of a Meter. Read my article on the origins of the meter and the kilogram.
Enquiry into these allegedly Fundamental Constants brought Sheldrake face to face with a Metrologist from the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, UK, whom Sheldrake reports as saying the following about The Speed of Light:
Allow Rupert to guide you in his own words through the conversation where the above quote took place...
"I want to spend a few moments on the constants of Nature. Because these are again, assumed to be constant. Things like the gravitational constant, the speed of light, are called the fundamental constants. Are they really constant? Well. When I got interested in this question I tried to find out. They are given in physics handbooks. Handbooks in physics list the existing fundamental constants. Tell you there value. But I wanted to see if they'd changed so I got the old volumes of physical handbooks, I went to the patent office library here in London. They were the only place I could find that kept the old volumes."
"Normally people throw them away when the new values come out, they throw away the old ones. What I found was that the speed of light dropped between 1928 and 1945 by about 20 kilometers per second. It's a huge drop because they are given within decimal points of error. And yet all over the world it dropped, and they were all getting values very similar to each other, with tiny errors, and then in 1948 it went up again. Then people started getting very similar values again. I was very intrigued by this and I couldn't make sense of it so I went to see the head of metrology at the National Physical laboratory in Teddington. Metrology is the science in which people measure constants."
Sheldrake reenacted the brief conversation between him and the metrologist at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, England for his TedXWhitechapel audience.
Sheldrake: What do you make of this drop in the speed of light between 1928 and 1945?
Metrologist: Oh dear you've uncovered the most embarrassing episode in the history of our science.
Sheldrake: Well could the speed of light have actually dropped? That would have amazing implications if so.
Metrologist: No, no, of course it couldn't have actually dropped. It's a constant!
Sheldrake: Oh well then how do you explain everyone was finding it going much slower for that period? Is it because they were fudging their results to get what they thought other people would be getting and the whole thing was just produced in the minds of physicists?
Metrologist: We don't like to use the word fudge.
Sheldrake: Well what do you prefer?
Metrologist: Well, we prefer to call it intellectual phase-locking.
Sheldrake: Well if it was going on then how can I be so sure it's not going on today and that the present value isn't produced by intellectual phase locking?
Metrologist: Oh we know that's not the case.
Sheldrake: How do we know?
Metrologist: Well. We've solved the problem.
Sheldrake: Well how?
Metrologist: Well we fixed the speed of light by definition in 1972.
Sheldrake: But it might still change.
Metrologist: Yes, but we'd never know it because we've defined the meter in terms of the speed of light. So the units would change with it. [Sheldrake conveyed that he seemed quite pleased with himself here.]
Sheldrake: Well then what about Big G? Newton's universal gravitational constant? That's varied by more that 1.3% in recent years. And it seems to vary in place to place and from time to time.
Metrologist: Well those are just errors.
Sheldrake: Well what if it's really changing? I mean perhaps it is really changing?
[Rupert concludes the anecdote to address the process of metrology as a whole.]
"I looked at how they do it. What happens is they measure it in different labs. They get different measurements on different days. And then they average them. And then other labs around the world do the same and they come out usually with a rather different average. And then the international committee on metrology meets every ten years or so and average the ones from labs around the world to come up with the value of Big G."
"But what if G were actually fluctuating? What if it changed? There's already evidence actually to suggest it changes throughout the day and throughout the year. What if the earth as it moves through the galactic environment went through patches of dark matter or other environmental factors that could alter it? Maybe they all change together. What if these errors are going up together and down together?"
"For more than ten years now I've been trying to persuade metrologists to look at the raw data. In fact, I've been trying to persuade them to put it online on the internet with the dates and the actual measurements and see if they're correlated. To see if they are all up at one time and down at another."
"If so they might be fluctuating together and that would tell us something very very interesting. But no one has done this they haven't done it because G's a constant. There is no point in looking for changes. You see here is a very simple example of where a dogmatic assumption actually inhibits enquiry. I myself think that the constants may vary quite considerably, well within narrow limits, but they may all be varying. And I think the day will come when scientific journals like Nature have a weekly report on the constants like stock market reports in newspapers, you know, 'This week Big G was slightly up, The Charge on the Electron was down, the Speed of Light held steady.' So that's one area where thinking less dogmatically could open things up."
Rupert Sheldrake's Ted Talk on the fluctuations of the allegedly Fundamental Constants of Nature was banned from the Ted Talk platform, and deemed unscientific by its community. Although for me and many other inquiring people, it left a series intellectual wake in its trail. If the speed of light is not constant, and the force of gravity is not constant, then it will seriously expand the scientific community of our earth to investigate these nuances, and make our best attempt to classify them, or possibly deduce patterns from them.
Unfortunately , these somewhat unsettling words from a professional Metrologist at the National Physical Laboratory of Teddington, "Yes, but we'd never know it because we've defined the meter in terms of the speed of light. So the units would change with it," if true, indicate that we are in an intellectual phase lock in terms of the Speed of Light, and won't be able to know if it speeds up or slows down, again, as it did between 1928-1945.
Much like a sea captain might navigate ts vessel, with acceleration or deceleration, it seems strangely plausible that the earth might increase or decrease its gravitational and photonic forces, (That is Big G and C) as necessary, and within physical narrow limits, in order to better navigating spaceship earth through the galactic sea of particulate matter and other cosmic environs.
Regardless of whether or not that is true, Sheldrake has indeed ferreted out a scientific inconsistency. Just to completely underscore this Catch 22: according to Sheldrake Metrologists pegged the measurement of the speed of light to meters in 1972. The speed of light was now a certain number of meters. To complete the other half of the double-bind, in 1983, at the 17th CPGM (Bureau of Weights and Measures), meters were defined in terms of the length light travels in roughly a 300 millionth of second.
Just to clock that in again: A meter is defined as the distance light travels during 1/299,492,458 of a second. The speed of light is defined as traveling 299,492,458 meters per second. This is the closed loop.
So, if the Speed of Light as Sheldrake suspects, were to drop again, as evidenced between 1928 and 1945 thanks to Sheldrakes work of compiling old physics textbooks, we wouldn't know.
If you can, take an earnest moment to consider a few of the implication if the force of gravity and the speed of light were in flux, for starters, your weight could change, and you wouldn't know, and for astronomers, stars could be closer than we think and we wouldn't know that either. Let us not be over-reaching with our desire to feel we know things are such and such a way. Let us, like all good scientists, test our theories and adjust our worldviews as necessary according to statistically provable intelligence.
There should be no room for making sure data fits within worldviews. Like any good Scientist, I leave it up to you to interpret the data (or what remains of it) and the inferences that can be drawn therein. Embedded below is his banned Ted Talk, which also includes a brief outline of his theory on morphogenic fields, and morphic memory, and then shifts to the subject matter of this article. Most notable, is the yarn Rupert pulled in acquiring otherwise inaccessible data that amounted to greater clarity surrounding the definitions of measurement, namely with respect to the measurements of The Speed of Light, and the force of gravity or "Big G" (Newton's Universal Law of Gravity).