Variations in fine-structure constant suggest laws of physics not the same everywhere

Sep 06, 2010 by Lisa Zyga report
An X-ray image of the quasar PKS 1127-145, located about 10 billion light-years from Earth. Credit: NASA.

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life. One of these fundamental constants is the fine-structure constant, or alpha, which is the coupling constant for the electromagnetic force and equal to about 1/137.0359. 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. Now, results from a new study show that alpha seems to have varied a tiny bit in different directions of the universe billions of years ago, being slightly smaller in the northern hemisphere and slightly larger in the southern hemisphere. One intriguing possible implication is that the fine-structure constant is continuously varying in space, and seems fine-tuned for life in our neighborhood of the universe.

The physicists, John Webb from the University of New South Wales and his coauthors from Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Cambridge, used data from two telescopes to uncover the spatial dependence of the fine-structure constant. Using the north-facing Keck telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the south-facing Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile, the researchers observed more than 100 quasars, which are extremely luminous and distant galaxies that are powered by massive black holes at their centers.

By measuring the quasar spectra, the researchers could gather data on the frequency of the emitted by quasars at high redshifts, corresponding to a time about 10 billion years ago. During the time the light traveled through space to reach the telescopes, some of it was absorbed at specific wavelengths by very old gas clouds that today can reveal the of the clouds.

The cloud compositions could help the scientists determine the fine-structure constant in those areas of the universe at that time, since is a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force between electrically charged particles. As the coupling constant for the electromagnetic force, it is similar to the constants for the other three known fundamental forces of nature: the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, and gravitational force. Among its important implications, alpha determines how strongly atoms hold on to their electrons.

Illustration of the dipolar variation in the fine-structure constant, alpha, across the sky, as seen by the two telescopes used in the work: the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile. Copyright Dr. Julian Berengut, UNSW, 2010. May be used with appropriate attribution.

By combining the data from the two telescopes that look in opposite directions, 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. The data for this “dipole” model of alpha has a statistical significance of about 4.1 sigma, meaning that that there is only a one in 15,000 chance that it is a random event.

At first, the data surprised Webb and his colleagues, since it seemed to contradict previous results that the scientists had published in 1999. At that time, the scientists had used the north-facing Keck telescope to find that alpha became slightly smaller the further away (and older) the quasars were. So when the scientists first looked at equally distant quasars from the using the VLT, they were surprised to find the slight increase in alpha. After eliminating any possible bias, though, they realized that they were looking at hemispherical differences of alpha.

While the data from just one telescope seemed to suggest that alpha varies in time, data from the two telescopes show that alpha also seems to vary in space. Such a discovery could have major implications, starting with shattering the basic assumption that physical laws are the same everywhere in the universe. The results also violate the Einstein Equivalence Principle, and suggest that the universe may be much larger than currently thought - or even infinite in size. Right now, the scientists want to confirm the results with other experimental methods, and see if the fine-structure constant could truly lead scientists to a very different understanding of our universe.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video shows the path of light as a beam as it travels from the quasar, through an intervening galaxy and then to the Earth where we capture it with our telescopes. The inset shows the quasar spectrum as it is redshifted (due to the expansion of the universe as it travels) and as it is imprinted with the absorption signature of the intervening galaxy.


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More information: J. K. Webb, et al. "Evidence for spatial variation of the fine structure constant." Submitted to Physical Review Letters. Available at arXiv:1008.3907v1 [astro-ph.CO]

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Modernmystic
2.1 / 5 (11) Sep 05, 2010
If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?

I remember reading this somewhere...can't remember where.
Husky
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 05, 2010
not if the universe expands beyond our event horison, iow the light will not reach us
Modernmystic
1.7 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2010
If it's infinite then exactly how does the term "expand" apply to it?

Wouldn't that imply that infinite is somehow less than infinite? How can something that extends to infinity extend further still?
Doug_Huffman
3.5 / 5 (13) Sep 05, 2010
Olbers' Paradox.

"infinite" is a clumsy word. Better in un-bounded. See de Sitter space.
yyz
5 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2010
"If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?"

A question with deep and profound implications. You're thinking of Olbers' Paradox: http://en.wikiped..._paradox
Modernmystic
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 05, 2010
Thank you Doug and yyz! That's indeed what I was trying to think of.
Ronan
5 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2010
Goodness, this is interesting. Something to think of; would a slight difference like this end up creating an overall gradient for energy flow (sort of like what would happen if you could set a pinwheel halfway over a lump of cavorite (http://www.techno...um=717); the wheel will start spinning as one side is pulled towards the Earth with greater strength than the other)? Would one side of the visible universe end up radiating more light than the other, say?
Xaero
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 05, 2010
"infinite" is a clumsy word. Better in un-bounded. See de Sitter space.

It means, it expands in 4D space, which is considered invariant here. In dense aether theory the value of structure constant increases fast with time (i.e. toward quantum scale).
tkjtkj
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2010
If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?

I remember reading this somewhere...can't remember where.


It was an observation by Professor Hawking who concluded that the Big Bang must have occurred, for had it not (infinite universe) then thermodynamic equilibrium would have been reached, with the consequence that you describe.
Did he get the Nobel for that??

Sanescience
1 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2010
A white sky in an "infinite" universe makes certain assumptions about emptiness of space and proximity of light sources that they are not blocked or otherwise red-shifted below visible wavelengths, much like the microwave background radiation left over from the big bang.

Lets say the topology of the universe is a three dimensional sphere interface in an n-dimensional multiverse. Technically in any direction the distance is "infinite" but "repeating" and may not intersect a star per-say.

tkjtkj
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2010
If it's infinite then exactly how does the term "expand" apply to it?

Wouldn't that imply that infinite is somehow less than infinite? How can something that extends to infinity extend further still?


By 'expanding' it is meant to mean that bodies are flying apart. 'Universe' does not refer to 'space' but to the objects within it.
Graeme
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2010
Since they cannot measure fine structure constant directly, presumably they are measuring the ratio of frequencies of absorption lines. Can these lines really be measured to that precision? And is the assumption that they are made by the same gas cloud valid? After all a 1 in 100,000 ratio could be caused by a different Doppler or red shift, of perhaps 3 km per second. The exact shape of the line, isotope effects or noise could also cause apparent variations in the line position.
DamienS
5 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2010
By 'expanding' it is meant to mean that bodies are flying apart.

No, the bodies have little peculiar motion. The apparent large-scale motion is ascribed to the creation and expansion of space between galaxy clusters.
chandram
1 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2010
When i happen to postulate Inconstancy of the Physical Constants as well as the Strengths of the force fields based on cosmological facts, it was considered not worth anything. When the Universe was born through Big Bang, physical conditions took time to reach a sort of steady state. The turmoil period could well as extended to about the first billion years of the 14 billion years existence. It is nice to see that things are turning out this way as Physics could not be the same under drastic changes on the cosmological scene.
Magus
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2010
Could this mean that at some distance in the universe the force of gravity is greater than the repelling force that causes the universe to expand? Thus clasping part of the universe.
Ober
4.7 / 5 (7) Sep 06, 2010
Hmmm, I find it VERY ODD that the fine structure constant is bigger in the southern hemisphere and the opposite in the northern hemisphere, and by the same amount. All this from the point of view of Earth. Does that mean Earth is special again??? I don't like theories/discoveries that make Earth SPECIAL, smells of religion.
Perhaps the difference is due to the motion of Earth and our galaxy through the universe????? Just seems too similar to a doppler shift effect of some type, and hence apparent, and not actual.
LightByter
5 / 5 (4) Sep 06, 2010
Like @Ober, I find these conclusions VERY suspicious. I have no doubt that the measurements are correct, but here we are, rotating on a random planet, orbiting at some random speed and angle around a star. That solar system is spinning at some random speed and angle around the Milky Way galaxy. That galaxy is spinning at some random speed and angle in the universe. And you’re going to tell me that there is a plane extending-out from the Earth’s equator that defines some difference in a constant that applies to the entire universe? Nope, sorry, I can’t buy it. Common sense says it MUST be related the spinning of the Earth. I don’t doubt that there may be differences in alpha, but as Webb and his colleagues stated, ” After eliminating any possible bias, though, they realized that they were looking at hemispherical differences (of alpha.)”
syd
5 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2010
The laws of physics in this dimension, are not fine tuned to us, were fine tuned to them. Maybe they are fine tuned to an abstract observer in another D, and cyclicly our observations are manifested in theirs. Arnt we lifeforms the interface between
DamienS
4.6 / 5 (9) Sep 06, 2010
Like @Ober, I find these conclusions VERY suspicious. I have no doubt that the measurements are correct, but here we are, rotating on a random planet, orbiting at some random speed and angle around a star. That solar system is spinning at some random speed and angle around the Milky Way galaxy. That galaxy is spinning at some random speed and angle in the universe. And you’re going to tell me that there is a plane extending-out from the Earth’s equator that defines some difference in a constant that applies to the entire universe? Nope, sorry, I can’t buy it.

As every point in spacetime is moving away from every other, then you could say that the Earth is at the center of the universe (just like every other point in the universe).
MrPressure
Sep 06, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
LightByter
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010
As every point in spacetime is moving away from every other, then you could say that the Earth is at the center of the universe (just like every other point in the universe).

Absolutely!
rushty
Sep 06, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Starblade_Enkai
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010
Perhaps the reason the fine structure constant is different has to do with OUR velocity, WRT to the expansion of the universe. If at each point in the universe there was a corresponding 'rest' velocity, where the fine structure constant would be perceived to be equal in all directions, and any deviation from this velocity gave the appearance of a polar fine structure constant, that would be quite interesting, to say the least.
Kedas
5 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2010
Hmmm, I find it VERY ODD that the fine structure constant is bigger in the southern hemisphere and the opposite in the northern hemisphere, and by the same amount. All this from the point of view of Earth. Does that mean Earth is special again??? I don't like theories/discoveries that make Earth SPECIAL, smells of religion.
Perhaps the difference is due to the motion of Earth and our galaxy through the universe????? Just seems too similar to a doppler shift effect of some type, and hence apparent, and not actual.


if it is for example linear changing over space then no matter where earth is located you will find one side opposite to the other, so nothing special for us. :-)
flying_finn
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010
I read of red shift observations constantly. What of blue shift? Or are we indeed the center of the universe?
thingumbobesquire
1 / 5 (3) Sep 06, 2010
This brings to mind another cosmological anomaly: the apparent birefingence of electromagnetic propagation.
Sirinx
Sep 06, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Sirinx
1 / 5 (11) Sep 06, 2010
As every point in spacetime is moving away from every other, then you could say that the Earth is at the center of the universe (just like every other point in the universe).
At the water surface the wavelength of ripples decreases with distance from every source.

http://www.aether...ples.jpg

This dispersion creates an illusion, space-time formed with water surface (mem)brane expands with distance from observer (in increased speed, BWT).

Does it mean, every such source is just at the centre of water surface?
Sirinx
1 / 5 (8) Sep 06, 2010
It was an observation by Professor Hawking who concluded that the Big Bang must have occurred, for had it not (infinite universe) then thermodynamic equilibrium would have been reached, with the consequence that you describe. Did he get the Nobel for that??
Nope, he was awarded the Dirac Medal and Prize of the BIP for another research, instead. He is theoretical physicist - after all, he cannot do any observations due his ALS.
mrN
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010
"If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?"

A question with deep and profound implications. You're thinking of Olbers' Paradox: http://en.wikiped..._paradox


Yes the Paradox... But if space between all diffrent parts of universe expands faster then speed of light sky would be black as it is. And as we know the Universe is expanding exponentially.

It even might be that dark energy someday will tear virtual particles from collision course and half life of those particles makes them real particles with mass slowing down expansion again. You know the BB II :)

Btw. As far as i have heard Universe is flat due to study of background radiation.

http://www.youtub...vlS8PLIo
daywalk3r
3.7 / 5 (19) Sep 06, 2010
One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life.
That's almost like saying the weather on the South pole was fine-tuned for icebergs. And this being the first sencence of the prologue..

Obviously, the icebergs are there because of the weather, and not the other way around. As much as life is naturaly fine-tuned to the constants (and variables) of it's environment.
Sirinx
1 / 5 (10) Sep 06, 2010
Sharks cannot swim in freshwater, as they have no swim bladder. Marine water is fine-tuned for them....
MaxwellsDemon
4.8 / 5 (6) Sep 06, 2010
One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life.

That’s leading statement. The logical answer (the anthropic principle) is that if the universe weren’t suitable for life, then there would be no life to ask the question. In other words, the sky isn’t ‘fine-tuned’ for clouds; there are clouds because the sky happens to be in a condition favorable to cloud formation.
After eliminating any possible bias, though, they realized that they were looking at hemispherical differences of alpha.

If only I had a nickel for every scientist who has ever claimed to have ‘eliminated any possible bias…’

They’re measuring absorption lines of clouds they [i]think[/i] are all 10 billion light-years away to a precision that they [i]think[/i] is well under 1 part in 100,000. Let’s see if these observations can be verified by at least one more team before we conclude that the entire universe is wonky.
Temple
5 / 5 (6) Sep 06, 2010
I suspect few physicists would think that the fine structure constant (or many/any of the dimensionless constants required by the standard model) is anything more than a 'placeholder' for the effects of some as-yet-undiscovered or unexplained physical phenomenon.

I imagine that some day down the road, we'll find that there is no fine structure constant of the universe. Rather, it is the naturally occurring result of fundamental laws of physics.

I further suspect that those laws of physics do indeed apply everywhere and everywhen, but that the variables (ones we may not even know exist yet) going into those equations are slightly different throughout the universe, thus resulting in a different calculated value of what we currently call the fine structure constant.
Xaero
1 / 5 (8) Sep 06, 2010
I imagine that some day down the road, we'll find that there is no fine structure constant of the universe. Rather, it is the naturally occurring result of fundamental laws of physics
We already know about it. The fine structure constant is a running constant, and thus isn't actually constant, see NIST where you can read:

"Thus alpha depends upon the energy at which it is measured, increasing with increasing energy, and is considered an effective or running coupling constant. Indeed, due to e+e- and other vacuum polarization processes, at an energy corresponding to the mass of the W boson (approximately 81 GeV, equivalent to a distance of approximately 2 x 10^-18 m), alpha (mW) is approximately 1/128 compared with its zero-energy value of approximately 1/137. Thus the famous number 1/137 is not unique or even especially fundamental."

http://physics.ni...pha.html
Xaero
Sep 06, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
frajo
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 06, 2010
One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life.
That's leading statement. The logical answer (the anthropic principle) is that if the universe weren't suitable for life, then there would be no life to ask the question. In other words, the sky isn't "fine-tuned" for clouds; there are clouds because the sky happens to be in a condition favorable to cloud formation.
While the first remark indeed describes the anthropic principle the second is different.
We know the physical reasons for the values of the physical attributes of the sky without resorting to human existence.
But we don't know the physical reasons for the value of the "fine-structure constant". The existence of humans is not the reason for the value of the "fine-structure constant"; it's only a reason for knowing it.
eachus
not rated yet Sep 06, 2010
Did he get the Nobel for that?


I was just thinking about a discussion many years ago with another astrophysicist. We agreed that if gamma ray bursts turned out to be exploding quantum black holes, Hawking would win the next Physics Nobel prize, but it wouldn't happen without evidence that quantum black holes exist.

I still think that some gamma ray bursts could be quantum black holes decaying. If so they are a very small fraction of the total, and very few quantum black holes were created in first few seconds of the universe.
MaxwellsDemon
5 / 5 (3) Sep 06, 2010
It was just an analogy frajo: if we were cloud-kind and not humankind, the wrong question to ask would be "why does nature seem fine-tuned for the existence of us cloud-folk?" It's irking to see misleading statements like this in contemporary science journalism, especially when this kind of phrasing error reinforces the ignorant position of the "intelligent design" crowd, who will read that headline and later argue: "even today, scientists wonder why the constants of the universe seem to be fine-tuned for life...as if by the hand of some intelligent designer...OMG!!!"

And we may not know the physical reasons for the value of the fine structure constant (yet), but the anthropic principle still applies because if it were much different we wouldn't be around to ask the question.
Soul_Viewer
5 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2010
why dont you look for articles (papers) that talks about the topic, or fundamental constants per example:
http://arxiv.org/.../0512256 ,,,
http://arxiv.org/.../0110060 ,,,

syd
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 06, 2010


Isnt life fine tuned to the natural laws and not the other way around, our existence condensed around a matrix that already existed
Xaero
Sep 06, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jsa09
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 06, 2010
If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?


That old chestnut. It presupposes so many things as to make a mockery of the question. In most directions the light emitted could be so far away that the smallest speck of dust could interrupt our reception. It is apparent that the further away the light source the more red shifted it tends to be. The red shift end of the spectrum is the lower energy end of the spectrum. Light sources could be so far away that there energy level becomes negligible. Combine these two ideas with the possibility that parts of the sky may well be opaque, dust clouds are observed in space and there may well be large dust clouds at great distance. Only further observation will tell.
stealthc
2 / 5 (4) Sep 06, 2010
Hmmm, I find it VERY ODD that the fine structure constant is bigger in the southern hemisphere and the opposite in the northern hemisphere, and by the same amount. All this from the point of view of Earth. Does that mean Earth is special again??? I don't like theories/discoveries that make Earth SPECIAL, smells of religion.
Perhaps the difference is due to the motion of Earth and our galaxy through the universe????? Just seems too similar to a doppler shift effect of some type, and hence apparent, and not actual.


no, not special, but these measurements surely seem as though they are "relative" to one's perspective does it not? I mean, perhaps these readings are thrown off by our motion through space, or the motion of space itself relative to us?
Shootist
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 06, 2010
Sharks cannot swim in freshwater, as they have no swim bladder. Marine water is fine-tuned for them....


World’s Most Dangerous Shark Caught in Potomac River

http://www.indypo...c-river/
trekgeek1
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 07, 2010
" 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."

I love this part: ".. as we know it..". What about life as we don't know it? We assume that our biology is the only path to sentience. In some parallel universe, some aliens are arguing about "if alpha were 4% different, silica based lifeforms wouldn't exist". I always imagine a hostess factory with twinkies talking about how if the machines were tuned differently there wouldn't be twinkies. Elsewhere, in another factory, Ho-ho's are saying the same thing. (It's a silly metaphor, but I use it often for younger audiences.)
Skeptic_Heretic
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2010
One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life.
This is not a controversial question in cosmology. This is a question often posed by idiots to cosmologists.
hodzaa
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2010
This is a question often posed by idiots to cosmologists.

Can you explain after then, why cosmologists like A. Linde, R.H. Dicke or Lee Smolin are developing theories targeting this question and wasting money of taxpayers for it - if this answer is already clear for you, anonymous troll from PhysOrg?

http://en.wikiped...Universe
Skeptic_Heretic
2 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2010
This is a question often posed by idiots to cosmologists.

Can you explain after then, why cosmologists like A. Linde, R.H. Dicke or Lee Smolin are developing theories targeting this question and wasting money of taxpayers for it - if this answer is already clear for you, anonymous troll from PhysOrg?

http://en.wikiped...Universe
If you understand what fine tuning is you wouldn't be asking. Those gentlemen you name are not trying to understand fine-tuning, they're trying to understand what governs the values we understand within reality.

Fine Tuning is modifying the constants of a model in order to match observation. The Universe is not a model, it is not fine tuned, it simply is.

Your source only lists Dicke from what I see. Where did you determine you should integrate the other two names?
hodzaa
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 07, 2010
Your source only lists Dicke from what I see.


"..physicist Andrei Linde, postulates that our universe is one of many that grew from a multiverse consisting of vacuum that had not yet decayed to its ground state...It further supposes that each bubble universe may have different physical constants."
Skeptic_Heretic
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 07, 2010
Your source only lists Dicke from what I see.


"..physicist Andrei Linde, postulates that our universe is one of many that grew from a multiverse consisting of vacuum that had not yet decayed to its ground state...It further supposes that each bubble universe may have different physical constants."
Where do the words "fine-tuning" come into play here?

When you say that the Universe is fine tuned for life, you're implying that an intelligence is playing with the constants of reality in order to purposefully create life. That's garbage thinking. The Universe is as it is and life comes about following the "rules" of existence. The rules don't change to create life.

This is an ID argument, which is simply silly creationism with a minor scientific tilt. Even lawyers and judges don't get suckered into this stance.
hodzaa
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2010
When you say that the Universe is fine tuned for life, you're implying that an intelligence is playing
OK, we can say, the existence of life is very sensitive to exact values of certain constants. It doesn't imply the existence of some creator.

Actually the same physicists, who are fighting against creator are saying, the LHC can create a new universes... If it can, then the our Universe could be created in the same way without problem...;-)

http://www.scisco...282.html

Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
OK, we can say, the existence of life is very sensitive to exact values of certain constants. It doesn't imply the existence of some creator.
No we can't because we have no other examples of life to test against.

When you only have 1 of something there is no way to determine the conditions under which it cannot exist with certainty unless you can replicate those conditions.

Saying life wouldn't arise in any other universe is ridiculous. Saying that this universe is built for life is also ridiculous by logical reduction.

Life exists here because it does. You don't have enough evidence to say anything else as you do not have multiple universes that you can compare and contrast with ours.

Corollary to that, fine-tuning is still a methodology of physical modeling, nothing more. The Universe is not and cannot be fine tuned to the extent of our knowledge.
yyz
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
Um....a couple of points. The article deals with measurements of the fine-structure constant, "alpha", rather than the fine-tuned universe (anthropic principle) : http://en.wikiped...constant ) is no longer "wasting" the taxpayers money on anything these days, as he passed away THIRTEEN years ago. Where have you been? (Just a post from another PhysOrg troll with ONE account). LOL
yyz
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
Wooops, my edit screwed up my post. Try second part again:

Bob Dicke (a great scientist btw: http://en.wikiped...H._Dicke ) is no longer "wasting" the taxpayers money on anything these days, as he passed away THIRTEEN years ago. Where have you been? (Just a post from another PhysOrg troll with ONE account). LOL
Sirinx
1 / 5 (6) Sep 08, 2010
No we can't because we have no other examples of life to test against.
It's not just about sensitivity of life, but about element formation. For instance, if structure would change by 4%, stellar fusion would not produce carbon, so that carbon-based life would be impossible. If structure constant would bellow > 0.1, stellar fusion would be impossible. So we can be pretty sure, structure constant doesn't change at large distances even without direct evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 08, 2010
It's not just about sensitivity of life, but about element formation. For instance, if structure would change by 4%, stellar fusion would not produce carbon, so that carbon-based life would be impossible. If structure constant would bellow > 0.1, stellar fusion would be impossible. So we can be pretty sure, structure constant doesn't change at large distances even without direct evidence of extraterrestrial life.
No we can't. Our observational reference is very limited. Just outside of our observable universe there could be changes in the constants, or pockets of primordial existence that we cannot directly detect. You're making huge assumptions with no evidence.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (9) Sep 08, 2010
So another screen name Zephir? Seriously guy, it must get awful tired logging in and out of 14 accounts all day.
Because what we observed so far is just a very subtle change structure constant in the 1:100 000 range. If I would say, it can change more, you would be first, who would scream, I'm doing huge assumptions with no evidence.

Yes, because again you're making assertions with NO EVIDENCE.

This is the problem Zephir, when you have no evidence you can't make assertions of fact. Sometimes you'll find facts that make your prior statement incorrect, and at that time you MUST RECANT. Sometimes you'll find evidence that strengthens your argument, in which case you can make further assertions.

This is how discussions work. You must have evidence to begin pronouncing fact. If your evidence isn't solid, someone will call you on it. It isn't censorship, it isn't trolling, it isn't being mean. It is peer-review.
Thrasymachus
2.2 / 5 (13) Sep 09, 2010
You idiot, he didn't state a fact, he stated a possibility, one which no one has any evidence as to its probability. You don't need any evidence besides logic to articulate possibilities. You need evidence to decide how likely those possibilities are.
Thrasymachus
2.2 / 5 (13) Sep 09, 2010
The point he was making is that observable variations in the fine structure constant give no information about possible variations of that constant outside the observable part of our universe. Neither do we have any evidence for a divine watchmaker that exists outside (or within) our universe. Speculation about what is in principle undiscoverable is useless.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2010
It wasn't his point and it's not true - in latest observations the variations in the fine structure constant are of dipole character, which indicates asymmetry of this constant outside of observable universe scope.

No, that was exactly my point and you don't seem to get it.

Do you just have some sort of deep loathing of me that prevents you from recognizing what is actually said to you?
Here it is in kindergarten form.
Fact - We have not and cannot observe the entire universe.
Fact - if you do not observe the entirety of a system you cannot make statements about the nature of the system with absolute certainty
Fact - saying otherwise is a violation of known observation
Fact - without knowing the entirety of the Universe we cannot say that the entire universe adheres to a standard set of rules
Supposition - our assumption that the universe is defined homogenously may be incorrect.

Get it now?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2010
that was exactly my point
You haven't mentioned any dipole character and any other reasoning of your stance, after all. You're making huge assumptions with no evidence.

My reasoning is one post above.

Go ahead and show me which statement is an assumption. There's 1 up there, and it is logically evidenced through lack of knowledge.

This is why the science community tells you to fuck off. You don't care to use the three magic words that all scientists will use many times over their career: "I was wrong."

Try it sometime, maybe you'll recognize that when you're wrong, the best thing to do is go find out the actual information. That is what science is. It is the philosophy of discovery. Don't like it? Then I'll borrow a line from the former editor of New Science.

At New Science we think science is interesting, if you disagree...fuck off.
Thrasymachus
1 / 5 (9) Sep 09, 2010
And now you're making stuff up.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2010
And now you're making stuff up.

I'm assuming that was addressed to Mr. Dipole character.
Thrasymachus
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 09, 2010
And now you're making stuff up.

I'm assuming that was addressed to Mr. Dipole character.

Indeed. I typed it up, but it wouldn't let me post it right away. When I came back, I just hit submit without looking at the other stuff that'd been posted.
jsa09
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2010
BY the time I have read all the comments above I had forgotten what the article was about. Opps. letting my short term memory problems get mixed up with my long term memory problems.

The constant mentioned is a number generated by mixing a number of values that may not necessarily go well together. BY that I mean the constant mentioned does not change unless one of the values added together to make the constant as changed.

Which leads me to my query which value/values that are added together to make that universal constant have changed in this instance?
DamienS
5 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2010
Here's another interesting twist, if this dipole alignment is true and not a measurement artefact, it also appears to be in rough alignment with another recently (provisionally) discovered cosmic phenomenon - dark flow. Of course, neither may exist, but if they are proved so, it could really shake up cosmology in the coming years. Great stuff.
otto1932
5 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2010
If the universe is infinite then expansion could be a localized phenomenon, nicht wahr? The acceleration rate at least could not be infinite-
seb
not rated yet Sep 11, 2010
If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?


If it's infinite then exactly how does the term "expand" apply to it?

Wouldn't that imply that infinite is somehow less than infinite? How can something that extends to infinity extend further still?


As far as I understand.. "infinite" or "finite" can't be applied to the universe, only in the spacetime structure contained within it.. The universe itself expands outside of this framework

Plus last I heard it was found to be expanding at an increasing rate, and that at some point light just doesn't reach us (yet).. Then there's all the non-light generating objects and stellar clouds and whatnot that would absorb and block light, or bend it away (and some gets bent towards us), etc..

otto1932
5 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2010
If the universe is infinite then expansion could be a localized phenomenon, nicht wahr?
Yes, but by now, from our local perspective the universe expansion appears exactly like it would appear faked with infinite universe. For example it seems, we are exactly at the center of cosmic void. This is too improbable for to be explained in other way, then with dispersion of light. It much more probable, it's a similar illusion, like the observation of foggy landscape, where you're always at the center of visible area, wherever you're moving on.

Dense aether theory considers, universe is completely random outside of our dimensional scale - because this is, what the absence of any other postulates means. Not zero, infinity or any other particular number. Random - it means atemporal and without any apparent trend, without origin, future and past.
Uh, anybody have a real answer to my question?
MatthiasF
5 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2010
There is no real answer to your question. We don't know much about the universe, since we've barely left our world. Any theory today is based off a single perspective and wild conjecture backed up by fancy mathematics.
frajo
5 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2010
If the universe is infinite then expansion could be a localized phenomenon, nicht wahr?
Richtig. But at present we can only speculate.
The acceleration rate at least could not be infinite-
The currently preferred inflation hypothesis is close to that.
otto1932
5 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2010
If the universe is infinite then expansion could be a localized phenomenon, nicht wahr?
Richtig. But at present we can only speculate.
The acceleration rate at least could not be infinite-
The currently preferred inflation hypothesis is close to that.
We're not in inflation mode tho, are we? I was referring to dark energy.
BillFox
not rated yet Sep 12, 2010
Perhaps the reason the fine structure constant is different has to do with OUR velocity, WRT to the expansion of the universe. If at each point in the universe there was a corresponding 'rest' velocity, where the fine structure constant would be perceived to be equal in all directions, and any deviation from this velocity gave the appearance of a polar fine structure constant, that would be quite interesting, to say the least.


Interesting idea, however earth's relative velocity to these areas will varry corresponding to our rotation around the sun. If the idea was to be tested, it would be most observable from a planet who's orbit is significantly faster, slower or further from the sun.
chandram
1 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2010
My earlier comments made some days back seem to have been deleted from site. May be the same fate awaits to this one too. Physics as we understand today was evolved only in the past 500 years or so while the humans existed for over 40000 years and the universe existed for the past nearly 13 billion years. Can you logically expect today's Physics to hold closer to the birth of the Universe at Big Bang amongst great turmoil with extreme physical parameters compared to the recent past and present say. All physical constants as called today may have varied over the years , more so in the first half billion years and still more so closer to Big bang.Even the gravity , strong nuclear, electromagnetic and weak nuclear fields emerged sequentially out of the Unified field, as per the demands of the logical evolution of the universe, as demanded by nature if we may say so. The logic of evolution can not be considered purely random. I for one will strongly disagree with Prof. Hawking!
pywakit
not rated yet Sep 15, 2010
If the universe were infinite in size wouldn't the sky be white instead of black as there would be photons coming in from every direction as everywhere along our line of sight would have a star shining, or would have been shining?

I remember reading this somewhere...can't remember where.


Although this is an intriguing 'discovery', the fact remains that within the vast reaches of the Hubble Volume ... our 'visible' universe, the known laws of physics DO apply where ever we look.

Space has 'properties'. It is imbued with energy. This is a proven, scientific reality. My guess is that any minor variations in the 'alpha' are ironed out by space. Were this not the case, then we would not observe the universe as we do.

To answer your question ... "Why is the night sky not white, if space is infinite?"

The answer lies in Einstein's 'uniformity of space'. Other than minor variations, space is the SAME everywhere. More ....
pywakit
not rated yet Sep 15, 2010
An intriguing discovery. Yet it is clear that everywhere we look in the Hubble Volume, the laws of physics are the same.

Per Einstein, Space is Uniform. It has energy, and specific properties. Space probably 'irons out' any initial variations in the alpha following a BB event.

Re: The paradox of infinite space. Why isn't the sky white at night?

Simple answer. Again, Space is uniform. All finite volumes of matter/energy ... such as our Hubble Volume ... MUST operate in exactly the same manner, due to the UNIVERSAL properties of space.

And each and every one MUST be a 'closed loop'. This is the simplified process ...

BB, inflation, creation of matter. Gravity begins it's work creating black holes. Black holes grow and merge over eons and eons. Eventually they merge to one final black hole containing nearly all the matter/energy released from the BB.

At this point, space collapses into the black hole, dragging EVERY last escaping photon with it.

BB repeats.
pywakit
not rated yet Sep 15, 2010
Black holes can overcome the accelerating expansion of space for 2 reasons. They are not tethered in place, and as they consolidate ( merge ) there is less and less gravitational 'confusion'. No longer is all the matter being 'tugged' in all directions.

Black holes are free to chase each other down, always moving toward the strongest remaining gravitational mass, subject only to angular momentum.

And the 33 pairs of dancing ( merging ) black holes discovered last year provide us with ample evidence that gravity eventually overcomes angular momentum.

Furthermore, black holes accrete mass far faster than they 'evaporate it' ... if they even do. So my apologies to Hawking.

Happily, M-theory not required. Just existing physics.
Damien_O_Brien
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
well in this case if the scientists have detected electrically charged particles why are they not working on making some type of engine to utalise these here particals to travel through space?
tho i do find it interesting that it has taken this long for them to find out that the gravity aint the same every where i would of thought that this would be obvious

also i cant see how they might have this right i have found a large flaw in the observation, that they are measuring the fluctuation in gravity but these could just as well be only fluctuations in earth temperature, clouds or even heat distortion from the sun or even radiation clouds/pockets in space that are throwing the hole thing out?
i just cant see how this test they are doing will be correct.

@Modernmystic the reason the sky aint wight is if the universe was infinite in size light would not be able to travel the vast distance that it would have to travel to reach out system
syd
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
Fact - We have not and cannot observe the entire universe.

This may sound on the border of pseudo-science, but if all matter in the universe was entangled in its birth, then it is possible to get an abstract reading by way of "potential similarity" between the greater universe and our own biological systems/thoughts. In theory this algorithm could be de-coded and expressed in a usable form ??
jsa09
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
Still think that the observers of this changed value for Fine-structure constant in different directions should be able to narrow the field a bit more.

The fine structure constant known as Alpha is just simple mathematical relationship between a bunch of other so-called constants. If Alpha changes then one or more of the building blocks as changed and to measure Alpha you need the others. So my question is which values has changed?

Here are some of the constants we need to determine to calculate Alpha. http://en.wikiped...constant

1) the elementary charge;
2) the reduced Planck constant;
3) the speed of light in vacuum;
4) the electric constant or permittivity of free space;
5) the magnetic constant or permeability of free space;
6) the Coulomb constant

To change Alpha then one or more of these has changed.

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