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Scientists might be about to completely upend our entire understanding of the universe.
A theory about the speed of light that has long been considered radical and, if proved correct, could potentially alter some of our most basic understanding of the universe is now ready to be tested in an experiment.
The theory challenges one of the most basic ideas of the universe: that the speed of light is fundamental and never changes. That central idea holds together some of the most important concepts in physics, and our understanding of the cosmos, such as general relativity and the way the universe expanded after the Big Bang.
But the theory suggests that actually in the very early universe, light might have travelled much faster than its current speed. The speed of light – 186,282 miles per second – has always been seen not only as a constant but as the maximum speed of anything in the universe.
Now the scientists behind it hope that they can prove it, by studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB). That’s the “afterglow” of radiation that was emitted shortly after the Big Bang and that serves as a kind of picture of the early universe.