[ExI] Constants...We don't need no stinkin' constants...

Dylan Distasio interzone at gmail.com
Wed Apr 29 14:51:15 UTC 2020

New findings suggest laws of nature 'downright weird,' not as constant as
previously thought
by Lachlan Gilbert, University of New South Wales

Scientists examining the light from one of the furthermost quasars in the
universe were astonished to find fluctuations in the electromagnetic force.
Credit: Shutterstock
Not only does a universal constant seem annoyingly inconstant at the outer
fringes of the cosmos, it occurs in only one direction, which is downright

Those looking forward to a day when science's Grand Unifying Theory of
Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as
astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological
constants is not so constant after all.

In a paper published in Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney
reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13
billion light years away reaffirm past studies that found tiny variations
in the fine structure constant.

UNSW Science's Professor John Webb says the fine structure constant is a
measure of electromagnetism—one of the four fundamental forces in nature
(the others are gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force).

"The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a
measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force," Professor Webb says.

"It's a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something
called Planck's constant and the electron charge, and it's a ratio of those
things. And it's the number that physicists use to measure the strength of
the electromagnetic force."

The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in
every atom of the universe—without it, all matter would fly apart. Up until
recently, it was believed to be an unchanging force throughout time and
space. But over the last two decades, Professor Webb has noticed anomalies
in the fine structure constant whereby electromagnetic force measured in
one particular direction of the universe seems ever so slightly different.

"We found a hint that that number of the fine structure constant was
different in certain regions of the universe. Not just as a function of
time, but actually also in direction in the universe, which is really quite
odd if it's correct ... but that's what we found."

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