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Keep watching the skies!

Stranger Things, Horatio.  Stranger Things. 

A team of astrophysicists based in Australia and England has uncovered evidence that the laws of physics are different in different parts of the universe

The report describes how one of the supposed fundamental constants of Nature appears not to be constant after all. Instead, this 'magic number' known as the fine-structure constant -- 'alpha' for short -- appears to vary throughout the universe.

"After measuring alpha in around 300 distant galaxies, a consistency emerged: this magic number, which tells us the strength of electromagnetism, is not the same everywhere as it is here on Earth, and seems to vary continuously along a preferred axis through the universe," Professor John Webb from the University of New South Wales said.

Skiffy Connections?

If the laws of physics turn out to be merely 'local by-laws', it might be that whilst our observable part of the universe favours the existence of life and human beings, other far more distant regions may exist where different laws preclude the formation of life, at least as we know it."

And if we have a far future intergalactic space opera (with Space Princesses, of course) what happens to the electromagnetic equipment on the ship?  Are neural impulses electromagnetic?  Any physicists out there?  

Add this to the dark energy and "lithium-free bubble" comments earlier, our local neighborhood begins to look a lot more user friendly than the rest of the Stuff out there. 



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 13th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
Empire of the East
Remember in the Empire of the East when the incredibly powerful demon -born of a fusion explosion that kills a city- leaves the Earth, gets a whiff of what's beyond the Moon and scoots back to Earth?
Sep. 13th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)
Haldane is getting a really good belly laugh.
Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
--J. B. S. Haldane, 1927 in "Possible Worlds and Other Papers" p227
Sep. 13th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
I just love God's sense of humor.
Sep. 13th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
Is there a point where a statistician will look at the odds of an event (say, the appearence of life) as too high to be produced by random interactions?
Sep. 14th, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
Re: Statistics
You raise an interesting point. Those events for which the probabilities are low are precisely those that we would suppose to be chance; whereas those which happen with high probability are more likely to be not disposed by chance. It is only that chance is not a cause of anything and chance is the intersection of two or more determined sequences.

This may be worth a post. I must think on't.
Sep. 13th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
Hmm. It even appears to be asymmetric, which would preclude its being a time factor.
Sep. 17th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
conservation of momentum
If it's true (which I doubt), then a change in physical laws with respect to position implies violation of linear momentum, as the great Emmy Noether explained. This would be cool, and also a little disturbing.

Okay, science fiction writers, get to work!
Sep. 14th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
Interesting if true. Could this be an artifact of differences between the Keck and VLT telescopes, or could they be measuring something other than alpha which varies? But if a suppposedly fundamental constant really does vary -- wow.
Sep. 14th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't it be funny if most of our complicated theoretical bandaids boiled down to us assuming a constant where there wasn't one? Sort of like trying to measure distance by how long it takes to drive....
Sep. 14th, 2010 03:01 am (UTC)
I have to wonder if we still need "dark matter" and "dark energy". I've always been fundamentally unsatisfied with both those concepts.

But I also have to say: the axis of variation just happens to pass right through the Earth? Are these guys sure they haven't just measured the Earth's movement through the cosmos?
Sep. 14th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC)
Good question
That was my first thought: how is measurement of the constant influenced by the vorticity of the telescope (The SH spins clockwise, the NH anticlockwise), if at all? There's also a magnetic polarity difference, though I can't imagine how that would affect anything.

This is either a silly mistake or the beginning of something huge.

Cool id, by the way!
Oct. 1st, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
And the Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles types are going to glom onto this as PROOF! so hard...

Expect AIG, Creation Science Institute, et al, to rub our faces in this for a while.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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