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Universal "constant" actually varies with time and space (Article)

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posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 03:34 PM
Well here is another interesting article for the science minded people of ATS .

The strength of the electromagnetic interaction, one of physics's most fundamental constants, is actually very slowly changing, and has different values in different parts of the universe. This amazing find could help us find a grand unified theory of physics.

The results seem to overturn Albert Einstein's notion of equivalence, a bedrock of general relativity that says α is invariant throughout time and space. That's actually good news for some theoretical physicists, as some leading candidates for a grand unified theory require equivalence to be quietly tossed aside. One major reason for this is that certain theories require the existence of extra hidden spatial dimensions, and those dimensions would seem to require α to vary.

As always I quoted only part of the article to get You interested, the rest is in the link

Link to article :

Again I am not an expert in those things , but would this not mean that (as proposed many times before by different people) Einstein might not have been entirely right with his theories and maybe we should not dismiss other theories that are different just because they contradict Einsteins thinking ?

Edit: Edit to quote the "Physical Review Letters"

Evidence for spatial variation of the fine structure constant
Authors: J. K. Webb, J. A. King, M. T. Murphy, V. V. Flambaum, R. F. Carswell, M. B. Bainbridge
(Submitted on 23 Aug 2010)

Abstract: We previously reported observations of quasar spectra from the Keck telescope suggesting a smaller value of the fine structure constant, alpha, at high redshift. A new sample of 153 measurements from the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), probing a different direction in the universe, also depends on redshift, but in the opposite sense, that is, alpha appears on average to be larger in the past. The combined dataset is well represented by a spatial dipole, significant at the 4.1 sigma level, in the direction right ascension 17.3 +/- 0.6 hours, declination -61 +/- 9 degrees. A detailed analysis for systematics, using observations duplicated at both telescopes, reveals none which are likely to emulate this result.

Link to Physical Review Letters : (You can download the PDF on the right side)

[edit on 6-9-2010 by Thill]

posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 11:14 PM
I hated it when the article stated that considering what the data has shown, we are the only life in the universe. oh well, with the way science is speeding up we could uncover more laws of the universe and fill in any confusing detail.

posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 11:18 PM
reply to post by Thill
This is an interesting find, but

in 2007 simple flaws were identified in the analysis method of Chand et al., discrediting those results. Nevertheless, systematic uncertainties are difficult to quantify and so the Webb et al.. results still need to be checked by independent analysis, using quasar spectra from different telescopes.

The Chand et al found no differences but that was found to be flawed, so now we need to see if this latest Webb et al. finding is also found to be flawed, or if it's independently verified.

This is kind of a big deal if it's confirmed, but I have no idea if it will be confirmed or not. If it was such a simple measurement, the previous Chand et al study probably wouldn't have been found to be flawed.

[edit on 6-9-2010 by Arbitrageur]

posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 11:25 PM
Thanks Arbitrageur
, I was hoping someone more knowledgable would post. +hug+ I love you guys. Oh, thanks for posting thill, the place has been a little science dry lately.

posted on Sep, 7 2010 @ 01:11 AM
reply to post by Thill

Let's not get too excited. The io9 article you posted is far more definite about this result than the scientists themselves are. It's speaking as if a piece of officially unpublished research is already established fact. It's also oversimplified to the point of near uselessness.

Time to set things straight.

First, here's a much better article about the recent findings of Webb and his team. Read it and be better informed.

Second, these findings are so new, Webb's paper hasn't even been peer-reviewed yet. It was submitted to PRL only two weeks ago.

5 pages, 5 figures, submitted to Physical Review Letters

Submission history

From: John Webb, Mon, 23 Aug 2010 20:00:12 GMT

Third, even if the data were established, the variation Webb and his team found literally does not come within ten billion light-years of suggesting we are alone in the universe. UFO fans and science-fiction lovers have nothing to worry about.

If alpha were just 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars wouldn't be able to make carbon and oxygen, which would have made it impossible for life as we know it to exist...

...the researchers found that, 10 billion years ago, alpha seems to have been larger by about one part in 100,000 in the southern direction and smaller by one part in 100,000 in the northern direction. Source

That's a variation of only 0.002% across a globe of space 20 billion light-years in diameter!

Inside that globe lies nearly half the observable universe. And we'd have to go much farther than that--far, far beyond the limits of the observable universe--before we came to regions where life as we know it was made impossible by a change in the value of α.

So relax, everybody. There's a story here, but it is of absolutely no interest to the general public, only to physicists and cosmologists. The world as we know it has not changed one jot.


For physics buffs only

α, the fine structure constant, is the 'universal constant' referred to in the article headline. It is a rather odd and mysterious quantity. It cannot, for example, be calculated from theory; it has to be derived from measurement instead. Here is a short and straightforward explanation of what it is from the Wolfram science site. And here's a fuller explanation of how it was identified and derived.

Second, it has never really been established that the fine structure constant is actually a constant. Indeed, no-one has yet agreed on a definitive value for α. The Wikipedia article on α (the foregoing link directs you a subsection of it) is worth reading in full; it is comprehensive and not too difficult and you'll understand what the fuss is about a lot better if you do.

posted on Sep, 7 2010 @ 06:16 AM
Good to see this paper has made the rounds on other websites as well, here is a link to the ArXiv Blog over at TechnologyReview, scroll down a bit to find the entry called:

Fine Structure Constant Varies with Direction in Space, Says New Data

This means that in one direction, the fine structure constant was once smaller and in exactly the opposite direction, it was once bigger. And here we are in the middle, where the constant as it is (about 1/137.03599...)

That's a mind blowing result. One of the biggest conundrums that cosmologists face is explaining why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine tuned for life. If the fine structure constant were very different, stars and atoms wouldn't form and the universe as we know it couldn't exist. No theory explains why it takes the value it does which leaves scientists at a loss.

Mind boggling, but perhaps the constant is just a property of the whole universe, experienced differently at different locations/times.

In that sense, wouldn't it still fit into some kind of relativity theory?

Thanks for posting OP.

edit to add some more thoughts:

If the bing bang model is correct, perhaps the constant is dependent upon the relationship/ratio between the observed location/time and the location/time of the big bang.

Perhaps it is the interval/octave that dictates the discrete levels of wave functions. If Zero Point is not uniform and homogenous, then changes in the density of ZP throughout space could affect the constants value.

From the wiki:

The observed value of α is associated with the energy scale of the electron mass; the electron is a lower bound for this energy scale because it (and the positron) is the lightest charged object whose quantum loops can contribute to the running. Therefore 1/137.036 is the value of the fine structure constant at zero energy. Moreover, as the energy scale increases, the strength of the electromagnetic interaction approaches that of the other two fundamental interactions, a fact important for grand unification theories. If quantum electrodynamics were an exact theory, the fine structure constant would actually diverge at an energy known as the Landau pole. This fact makes quantum electrodynamics inconsistent beyond the perturbative expansions.

From the physlink above

Each group of spectral optical lines mentioned above has a same n - number, but different values of l and j numbers. According to P.A.M. Dirac's relativistic quantum mechanics, energy levels of a one-electron atom (hydrogen is a good example) which have the same n and j numbers will coincide exactly - but their value will be different from that predicted by the Bohr's theory by an amount that is proportional to the square of the fine-structure constant (alpha).

There have been deviations from Dirac's theory discovered in 1947. Namely, the level having l=0 does not coincide with that having l=1. This discrepancy was later named the Lamb shift (after its discoverer Willis Lamb, Jr.) and is due to the interaction of an electron with the zero-point fluctuations of the electromagnetic field.

[edit on 7-9-2010 by beebs]

posted on Sep, 7 2010 @ 08:04 PM

Originally posted by Thill
Well here is another interesting article for the science minded people of ATS .

Again I am not an expert in those things , but would this not mean that (as proposed many times before by different people) Einstein might not have been entirely right with his theories and maybe we should not dismiss other theories that are different just because they contradict Einsteins thinking ?

Edit: Edit to quote the "Physical Review Letters"

Einstein tried to reconcile his theories with theories in quantum mechanics until he died and ultimately failed.

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