Does an Observer Centric Infinite Speed of Light Allow For Triangulation?

Jason Lisle has proposed that the so-called Distant Starlight Problem [ note that is theological and not a scientific problem ] can be solved by accepting that the speed of light is infinite in one direction and half the measured speed when moving directly away, his rendition of an Anisotropic Synchrony Convention. He states

Of all the infinite possible synchrony conventions, only ASC does not require knowledge of the distance to the source to record the time of any event. Since the surface of simultaneity is essentially identical with the past light cone, events happen as they are seen.

Under ASC, the speed of light as a function of direction relative to the observer (θ) is given by cθ = c/(1-cos(θ)), where θ = 0 indicates the direction directly toward the observer. I presume he is taking a limit for the denominator, so that the equation is not undefined.

Under ASC, the one-way speed of light when directed toward observers on earth is axiomatically infinite, even though the round-trip speed of light remains 3 × 108 m/s. Thus, the light from stars that are created on the fourth day will reach the earth essentially instantaneously.

My understanding of Lisle is that while his focus is on Earth, every point in the entirety of the universe observes any given event as it happens, as per his equation. Two remotely situated observers immediately detect incoming light or gravitational waves from any position in deep space, irrespective of distance traversed.

Lisle’s following assertions seem uncontroversial:

  1. It is not feasible to measure the one way speed of light.
  2. All methods of synchronizing clocks, such as slow separation or sending of a signal, are equivalent.
  3. Selection of a convention is a mapping function, and thus arbitrary.

Where Jason Lisle’s convention is distinct in its orientation to observers. As far as I can tell, discussion and experimentation around the isotropy of the speed of light concerns differences that may exist with respect to direction in a given frame. This is not Lisle’s interpretation. According to him, two gun slingers who face each other with dueling laser guns will have light propagating towards both targets at infinite speed, while that same light will be propagating away from the laser guns at half the round trip speed of light, although none of this could be measured.

Gravitational waves are clearer in that they travel at the speed of light, but without concerns for line of sight or obstructions, the processes which produce them are short and sharp compared to those for light, and detection facilities must put effort into precise timekeeping in the course of their investigations.

Should gravitational wave events impinge on the earth from anywhere on a three dimensional axis. if those waves propagate at infinite speed, they will arrive instantaneously at each detector station. All observatory stations will timestamp any events with the same pattern irrespective of direction. It does not matter if the stations were synchronized under assumptions of ESC, ASC, or set using timex watches from Walmart. What matters for this point is not the accuracy of triangulation, just that the pattern of timestamps would be identical regardless of the direction of the source on the celestial dome. Therefore, under ASC, triangulation is impossible. Note that this same consideration does not apply if light is asymmetrical in a fixed direction. This is not an argument that two way speed of light must equal the one way, only that at a given time there must be directionality if timestamps are to be consistent with direction of propagation.

I am emphatically not objecting to the idea that the speed of light can be different by direction. Rather, it is to note that Jason Lisle, in setting the speed of light to be in respect to the observer rather than a given frame, is positing that the speed of light is infinite from any direction, and therefore differential times of arrival cannot be used to determine direction. If a person looks up at a clear night sky, she will see constant light from stars from every bearing. According to Lisle’s convention, the light from all these stars has arrived instantaneously. Thus, the speed of light has nothing to do with direction in an inertial frame. Light travels at different speeds for two facing observers with dueling laser guns even if they are close together in the same inertial frame.

Of course, I’m going somewhere with all this. My questions for Lisle would be, one, if light is instantaneous to the observer from all directions, how could the time interval for timestamps vary by direction? Two, if the intervals for the timestamps are in fact identical regardless of direction, how would it be possible to triangulate the gravitational wave source? This is practical matter of real world operation, not just a coordinate system convention. I would suggest that Lisle’s ASC predicts that triangulation is not possible, and the fact that triangulation has been done falsifies his observer centric version of light travel anisotropy.

I am no physicist. If I am just not getting it, I would be happy to have an explanation of how instantaneous light travel from every direction is compatible with time stamped triangulation.

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Lisle’s idea has lots of absurd consequences. For example, it would mean that radio communications from the Apollo lunar lander travelled both at infinite speed towards observers on Earth and at c/2 away from observers on the moon.

I wonder how Lisle thinks light determines how fast to go? If someone mounts a laser pointing away from them, the light supposedly is travelling at c/2. If they then walk round the room until the laser is pointing at them, does the light speed up?


Except as you pointed out above, the speed of light under ASC is NOT infinite in any direction. Do we have observers of gravitational waves also posted at their origin as well as earth? How would they report their information back to us if we did?

If you are granting point #3 above, then you realize all you have to do to switch between coordinate systems is the mathematical equivalent of a unit conversion. That should change absolutely nothing about any physical reasoning involved.

What you’re saying is not entirely clear. Perhaps you could clean up your phrasing. In what direction is the speed of light infinite? Is it just the case for all light directed toward the Earth? But what would account for the 1.5-second delay in radio signals experienced by astronauts on the moon, and the 1.5-second delay experienced by mission controllers at NASA? Shouldn’t there have been a 3-second delay in one direction and a 0-second delay in the other?

And how does this theory account for all the events we can see in space that would require millions of years to happen, from supernova remnants to colliding galaxies?


If two gamma blaster gunslingers meet at high noon on main street, and fire at the same instant in their frame of reference, the wave packet will meet in the middle. Under regular ESC, that would be a defined time and location in space-time. There light would be propagating at c, and notions of events and velocity seem pretty straightforward.

Under Lisle’s version of ASC, what determines the speed of light at this point-like meeting region of space-time - infinity in both directions or c/2 in both directions? Are two opposite coordinate conventions mapping the same space? Does it make any difference if there is only one gunslinger drunkenly firing off blasts - what is the speed of light if there is no observer? As there could be an observer or interaction at any given location in the universe, under ASC there would require an infinitude of coordinate systems without any defined speed of light at any given point.

I actually think John Hartnett explains this idea better. Under relativity, the one-way speed of light has no physical meaning. So the claim that the universe cannot be young by appealing to the one-way speed of light is just a fundamental misunderstanding of physics.

What had me thinking about the ASC again was the recent paper on time dilation of high-redshift quasars, due to stretching of emittted signals as the universe expands. This confirms earlier observations based on supernova..

This seems to pose a difficulty for ASC. These time dilation observations are consistent with light travelling through a universe expanding over billions of years. If light is being observed instantaneously as it is being emitted from distant quasars and supernova, it would not experience that expansion and no time dilation should be observed.


So you are abandoning Lyle, because what he proposes is meaningless, and adopting a different defense of a YEC universe? OK. It still sounds funny. If we have synchronized clocks at different locations and we measure the speed of light that way, there are two alternatives: either the speed of light is what we measure or the clocks have drifted apart since they were synchronized. Which would be consistent with relativity?

Also, Hartnett’s defense still seems vulnerable to the various observed events that show millions of years of interaction. Would you agree?

Light from distant stars wouldn’t be as affected by the gravity of nearer ones if it were travelling at infinite speed, so the fact that we see multiple copies of stars due to gravitational lensing is another strike against Lisle’s idea.


Clocks lose their synchronization if they move relative to one another. That’s a feature of relativity theory and is the reason why the one-way speed of light cannot be measured.

Hartnett is agreeing with Lisle, I just think Hartnett explains it better than Lisle sometimes does. People tend to interpret Lisle as you have done, which is that he thinks the one-way speed of light actually exists and is infinite. Lisle has explained over and over again that it’s just a coordinate system and the one-way speed of light is an arbitrary feature of the coordinate system, citing Einstein (a citation which I can provide, I’ve looked it up). But people continue to think as if Lisle is suggesting that the coordinate system has some physical interpretation which leads to problems.

The fact is all versions of relativity theory have counterintuitive interpretations. Einstein’s version implies that the speed of light remains the same even if the source of the light is moving relative to the observer, which is counterintuitive. We would expect the speed of something to be affected by the motion of it’s starting point as well as its own speed. Lorentz’s version entails length contraction at relativistic speeds, objects changing their spatial dimensions simply because they are moving relative to the absolute reference frame. The evidence we have does not admit of an intuitive physics. So anybody who knows physics is not going to be impressed with these types of objections, unless they are just being dishonest.

Sure you could convert between radians and degrees, and that would not alter the physical location of an object. The coordinates of a star will be given in degrees, arc minutes, and arc seconds, and those are just arbitrary units which trace back to Babylon and are not a physical reality. Yet, those coordinates still allow a telescope to be aimed to bring a star into a field of view. One cannot just leave the telescope fixed, and arbitrarily select another coordinate system, and voila, there appears the star. And triangulation links direction to the speed of light, no matter how or even if the clocks are synchronized.

Under ASC, the speed of light IS infinite in any direction, because there is potentially an observer in every given point in the universe, so relative to the direction towards each point, Lisle’s equation is c/(1-cos(θ)). This applies to all incoming light from all directions to every observer or interaction in space. It also means that observers in galaxies which are 14 billion light years in one direction from earth, would also see the light from galaxies which are 14 billion light years in the opposite direction from our vantage, for a total of 28 billion light years. So the question becomes, why cannot we see that far from earth?

We do not need information from the origin, we are just interested in direction, and for that we only need clocks that timestamp propagation here on earth. For that to work, the order of the timestamps must discriminate by direction, but ASC sets all clocks the same regardless of the direction. All three stations have a direct line of sight to the source, therefore under ASC all three stations together must detect the wave instantaneously. This has nothing to do with synchronization; whatever the pattern is for one direction, it will be for all directions. Therefore the pattern of timestamps would be useless for triangulation.


we find that an observer-centric anisotropic synchrony convention eliminates the distant starlight problem by reducing radially inward-directed light travel-time in the reference frame of the observer to zero.


If we select ASC, then we have declared that light is essentially infinitely fast when moving directly toward the observer, and ½c when moving directly away.


Therefore, when we look at any region of the universe, we are seeing it at an age of roughly 6,000 years. That being the case, we should expect to see indications of the youth of the universe (in contrast to billions of years) at all distances. We should expect to find processes that cannot be easily extrapolated into a billions-of-years hypothetical past, and which consequently place an upper limit on the age of the process that is far less than big bang models would predict.

Unfortunately for Lisle, we do see indications of great age and processes that appear to have taken place over billions of years. The stellar main sequence is one example. Cosmic background radiation is another. Lisle, being an astronomer, cannot be unaware of such things. His ASC is sleight-of-hand, and he cannot possibly be unaware of it.


Probably the most interesting example of this is SN Refsdal, which made its appearance in 2014. This observation featured a gravitationally lensed supernova which simultaneously displayed images of different stages of the event. By analyzing the foreground lens galaxy, astronomers were able to predict the time and place of a subsequent appearance.

A free-form prediction for the reappearance of supernova Refsdal in the Hubble Frontier Fields cluster

This improved accuracy allows us to estimate when the Refsdal SN will appear within the other lensed images of the spiral galaxy to an accuracy of ∼7 per cent. … it will be at the same phase as it was when it was originally discovered, offering a unique opportunity to study the early phases of this SN and to examine the consistency of the mass model and the cosmological model that have an impact on the time delay prediction.

Veratasium has a nice YouTube featuring this supernova.

That images of this event arrived at different times, however, does not in iteself immediately falsify Lisle’s ASC. His response seems to be that the light which is gravitationally lensed was initially emitted and traveled at an angle, before it was bent and subsequently picked up the pace and propagated at infinite speed direct to the observer. He maintains that the off axis travel portion would represent slower than infinity light speed. I cannot say If he has actually run the numbers with the distances and angles involved, but it does highlight an ambiguity in his theory. It seems to superimpose a Euclidean flat geometry to the actual curved universe that is shaped by mass and energy, as is described by general relativity and actually responsible for the gravitational lensing by the foreground galaxies.

In lisle’s equation, θ = 0 indicates the direction directly toward the observer, but what is direct? General relativity predicts light will travel in a straight line as determined by the curvature of space itself. Thus we say that light bends even though it is straight just as we say the sun sets even though it is stationary. Like the bendy looking routes taken by airlines, the path of light is actually a straight path on a geodesic. I would ask Lisle what he means by direct to the observer?

You cannot falsify the ASC anymore than you can falsify the Prime Meridian running through Greenwich. They are arbitrary choices of coordinate system, which you still appear not to understand.

You claiming that there’s a problem because observers can exist anywhere in the universe and therefore the speed of light is infinite in every direction, is like saying that every longitude is zero because the Prime Meridian could be anywhere.

ASC is more like using rectangular co-ordinates for the earth’s surface and then announcing that the Antarctic coastline is longer than the equator.


Maybe the (Ant)arctic circle would longer than the equator? Coastlines can unexpectedly long if the measuring stick is very presice.

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Yeah. I got it. I get it. How could I not? Every article on ASC ever says it like every second line.

I’m not saying that the coordinate origin could be anywhere. I’m saying that the coordinate origins are multiple and everywhere, even in a given inertial frame.

From Lisle’s paper

In particular, we find that an observer-centric anisotropic synchrony convention eliminates the distant starlight problem by reducing radially inward-directed light travel-time in the reference frame of the observer to zero

That means every observer is its own frame, right down to the cones and rods in your eyeballs; unlike special relativity there is no larger reference frame or inertial frame. To say that the speed of light is infinite towards every observer is then equivalent to saying that the speed of light is infinite towards every direction.

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I also can’t prove we aren’t all living in the Matrix. That doesn’t mean there are any good reasons to entertain that hypothesis in the first place. It’s purely ad-hoc special pleading to avoid uncomfortable facts.

“No your honor my client didn’t steal any candy because if we adopt this new and ridiculous interpretation of reality that he posits, the candy isn’t actually real and neither are his hands, and you can’t prove that it isn’t true!”


The (Ant)arctic circle would be the same length as the equator. The coastline would be longer for the reason you imply.

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So far, there has been no response on the particular point in the original post. Gravitational wave detectors all make independent, direct line of sight observations. Under Lisle’s ASC, the speed of light as a function of direction relative to the observer (θ) is given by cθ = c/(1-cos(θ)), where θ = 0 indicates the direction directly toward the observer. By this formula, they will each observe a wave instantaneously, no matter where in the sky the event took place. Ursa Major - instantaneous. Southern Cross - instantaneous. Orion - instantaneous. It does not matter what arbitrary - pick any one you want - coordinate system was presumed in synchronizing the clocks at each station to begin with. The point is that under Lisle’s formula for the speed of light, the clocks will not register different patterns of time offsets depending on the direction of the wave, because the wave is instantaneous from any direction given the direct line of sight. Once the clocks are set, by Lisle’s formula they will always have the same respective delays, which renders triangulation meaningless.