Sobering news. The speed of light is slower than it used to be. Scientists have recently discovered that what they thought was an absolute constant in the universe is something less than concrete. They are perplexed.

How they figured out that light is slowing down is way beyond me. Quantum physics, thankfully, was not a requirement when I was trying to learn how to put words into sentences and then string those together so they made sense. As you know by now, that simple task sometimes continues to baffle me.

But through some mathematical formula requiring logarithms, calculus and other bits of magic, they've used a cosmic speedometer to clock light and found out that it's slower than it used to be.

On the bright side, slower light may explain some things that have perplexed me for quite some time. For instance, I don't see as well as I used to and, until last week when this revelation was announced, I assumed that creeping old age had weakened my eyesight. Now, I'm not so sure. Perhaps it's the light's fault. It simply does not reach as rapidly as it used to the corneas or irises or lenses, or whatever it is in my eyeball that allows me to see. Blurry vision results from the slower light rays. It could happen.

Also, the surge in homeruns in major league baseball can now be explained. Forget the juiced ball theory. Batters simply see the ball better because slower light makes it seem like it's suspended between mound and plate for a micro-milli-second longer than it did just a few years back. It is a shame that I was born in the fast-light era.

I've also noticed that fish don't bite as well as they did when I was a boy. Again, humble me, I assumed it was something I was doing wrong: wrong lure, wrong time of day, poor presentation. Not so. Fish simply can't see the bait as well because of slower light.

Even more importantly, I suspect the frequent droughts that have hit the Southwest also result from slower light rays. Remember El Niño and his little sister, La Niña? They've played havoc with our weather for several years, and the theory is that warm air somewhere in the Pacific Ocean (I think) creates weather patterns that either result in drought or rain in the Southwest. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that slower light would delay the warming trends and befuddle the weather siblings. One stays too long, the other comes in too late and our climate is screwed up for years.

Heat units have to be affected, which could account for poor crop yields. Light, which generates heat, does not get to plants in as timely a manner as it once did and production falls off.

Scientists offered no solutions to the problem of slowing light. Perhaps it needs a tune-up, cleaner burning fuel (ethanol, maybe), less pollution, which could impede its progress. Who knows? Maybe we're stuck with a continually decelerating light speed. If it gets too slow, will night last longer?

I fear that this may be only the first of many absolutes that we find to be somewhat capricious. If light is slower than it used to be, what about sound? Will jets have to travel even faster to make those sonic booms that used to rattle the pans in mom's pantry back in the 1950s? Is my apparent loss of hearing not a result of too much Grateful Dead in the '60s but simply a scientific phenomenon I can't control?

And could gravity be next? Will we have to stake corn stalks to keep them in the ground?

I need a nap.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com