[Paleopsych] Guardian: Why Einstein may have got it wrong

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Why Einstein may have got it wrong

    David Adam, science correspondent
    Monday April 11, 2005

    A century after Albert Einstein published his most famous ideas,
    physicists will today commemorate the occasion by trying to demolish
    one of them.

    Astronomers will tell experts gathering at Warwick University to
    celebrate the anniversary of the great man's "miracle year" that the
    speed of light - Einstein's unchanging yardstick that underpins his
    special theory of relativity - might be slowing down.

    Michael Murphy, of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University,
    said: "We are claiming something extraordinary here. The findings
    suggest there is a more fundamental theory of the way that light and
    matter interact; and that special relativity, at its foundation, is
    actually wrong."

    Einstein's insistence that the speed of light was always the same set
    up many of his big ideas and established the bedrock of modern

    Dr Murphy said: "It could turn out that special relativity is a very
    good approximation but it's missing a little bit. That little bit may
    be the doorknob to a whole new universe and a whole new set of
    fundamental laws." His team did not measure a change in the speed of
    light directly. Instead, they analysed flickering light from the
    far-distant celestial objects called quasars.

    Their light takes billions of years to travel to Earth, letting
    astronomers see the fundamental laws of the universe at work during
    its earliest days. The observations, from the massive Keck telescope
    in Hawaii, suggest the way certain wavelengths of light are absorbed
    has changed.

    If true, it means that something called the fine structure constant -
    a measure of the strength of electromagnetic force that holds atoms
    together - has changed by about 0.001% since the big bang. The speed
    of light depends on the fine structure constant. If one varies with
    time then the other probably does too, meaning Einstein got it wrong.

    If light moved faster in the early universe than now, physicists would
    have to rethink many fundamental theories. His conclusions are based
    on work carried out in 2001 with John Webb at the University of New
    South Wales in Sydney. Other astronomers disputed the findings, and a
    smaller study using a different telescope last year suggested no

    Dr Murphy's team is analysing the results from the largest experiment
    so far, using light from 143 bright stellar objects. Einstein's burst
    of creativity in 1905 stunned his contemporaries. He published three
    papers that changed the way scientists viewed the world, including the
    special theory of relativity that led to his deduction E=mc².

    The Physics2005 conference, set up by the Institute of Physics as part
    of its Einstein Year initiative, runs until Thursday.

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