Magueijo, João C.R.

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Magueijo, João C.R.


Education: Cambridge University, Ph.D.


Office—Department of Physics, Imperial College, H/510 Huxley Bldg., South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Imperial College, London, England, began as lecturer, became professor of theoretical physics, 2006—. Visiting researcher, University of California—Berkeley and Princeton University.


Royal Society fellowship.


Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation, Perseus Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

Also author of preface to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Albert Einstein, Penguin Books, 2004. Contributor to books, including Vision of the Future: Astronomy and Earth Science, edited by J.M.T. Thompson, Cambridge University Press, 2001; Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology, and Complexity, Cambridge University Press, 2004; and Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity, edited by A. Robinson, Palazzo Editions, 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Physics Review, Brazilian Journal of Physics, International Journal of Modern Physics, Physics World, Scientific American, PhysicalReview Letters, and the Times Higher Education Supplement. Faster Than the Speed of Light has been translated into German.


In Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation physicist João C.R. Magueijo proposes a startling theory: the speed of light is not an unalterable constant, as Albert Einstein had asserted. Breaking ranks with accepted theories, Magueijo believes that the speed of light was actually faster soon after the Big Bang—the event that scientists believe created the universe—than it is today. By making this assumption, now called the varying speed of light (VSL) theory, it might become easier to resolve some of the problems with the current Big Bang Theory, as well as theoretical problems that have thus far prevented the discovery of a Grant Unified Theory that will explain how all the forces in nature operate.

Magueijo makes the case for change in the speed of light carefully. "Leaning on several well known, as well as obscure, thinkers," reported FrontWheelDrive. com contributor Brandon Pierce, "Magueijo carefully builds the foundations for a discussion of Big Bang cosmology, and then segues into the second half of the book, which is devoted to VSL theory." Labeled an iconoclastic rebel by some scientists, Magueijo has complained that many researchers and academics get bogged down by generally accepted theories, which prevents them from thinking in new ways in order to solve some of science's most puzzling predicaments. This was true even with Einstein, according to Magueijo, who told a New Scientist interviewer that Einstein's "view that mathematical beauty is important is responsible for all the string theory crap about ‘elegant’ theories. Einstein wasn't like that when he was young."

Magueijo's attitude toward the scientific community is apparent in Faster Than the Speed of Light, lending the book an aggressive tone about which many reviewers have commented. For example, a Kirkus Reviews contributor said that the author's "obvious lack of interest in pretending to be polite to those he has identified as enemies makes this one of the more scathing scientific memoirs of recent years." Booklist critic Donna Seaman similarly noted that "Magueijo is exhilaratingly frank in his condemnation of the creativity-killing politics and bureaucracy of science."

More forcefully, Catherine H. Crouch declared in Books & Culture: "The second half of Faster Than the Speed of Light is filled with griping that ranges from petty complaints to crude, infantile attacks. One of the many objects of his spleen is the process of obtaining grants for scientific research. According to Magueijo, middle-aged scientific bureaucrats, threatened by new ideas, try to frustrate the work of their few genuinely productive colleagues by burdening them with administrative duties." But although Magueijo can be opinionated, a Publishers Weekly writer asserted that "his science is lucidly rendered, and even his penchant for sturm und drang sheds light on the tensions felt by scientists incubating new ideas."

"And this is exactly how science progresses," Pierce declared. "In reality, it's experimentation and exploration. It's throwing around ideas, destroying old theories, salvaging the useful parts, and rebuilding. It's bouncing ideas off your peers, collaborating, in a process that can be just as painful as productive." "Whatever the final verdict on VSL, where experimental results will act as the ultimate referee," stated Guardian contributor Manjit Kumar, "Magueijo and his collaborators have developed a theory that is now being taken seriously, against all the odds. As the young Einstein once remarked: ‘Foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.’"



Astronomy, June, 2003, Michael S. Turner, "Dethroning Einstein?," p. 94.

Booklist, January 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation, p. 820.

Books & Culture, January-February, 2004, Catherine H. Crouch, "The Curious Case of the Exploding Universe," p. 41.

Guardian (London, England), March 29, 2003, Manjit Kumar, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light, p. 1752.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Marcia R. Franklin, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light, p. 166.

New Scientist, February 8, 2003, "Hero or Heretic?," interview with João Magueijo, pp. 46, 48-49.

Newsweek International, March 10, 2003, Fred Guterl, "Crazy Speed Demon: An Idiosyncratic Cambridge Scientist Says the Fastest Thing in the Universe Was Once Even Faster," p. 44.

New York Times Book Review, February 9, 2003, George Johnson, "E=mc2, Except When It Doesn't: A Young Portuguese Scientist Proposes a Theory that Could Shake Up Theoretical Physics," p. 9.

Portland Mercury (Portland, OR), February 6, 2003, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light.

Publishers Weekly, December 16, 2002, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light, p. 54.

Science News, April 19, 2003, review of Faster Than the Speed of Light, p. 255.

U.S. News & World Report, May 26, 2003, Robert Kunzig, "Taking a Shot at Einstein," p. 48.


Bookslut, (April, 2003), review of Faster Than the Speed of Light., (October 5, 2004), Brandon Pierce, "Frontier Cosmology."