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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on May 10, 2005 22:13:57 GMT -6
Recent study forces scientists to rethink basic law of physics 'Fine structure constant' is indeed a constant -- right?
Now, though, scientists are debating clues that suggest the laws of physics change over time. University of California scientists are among the major players on both sides of the debate, which threatens to shake up our basic notions of reality.
At stake is one of the fundamental values in physics: the arcane-sounding "fine structure constant," which measures how subatomic particles interact with light and with each other.
Some astrophysicists have proposed that the value of the fine structure constant, a.k.a. "alpha," has changed subtly over billions of years. They base this proposal on their work -- using telescopes like the giant Keck telescope, which sits atop a dormant Hawaiian volcano -- analyzing light from interstellar gas and galaxy-gobbling super-furnaces called quasars on the outskirts of the universe.
If they're right, then our theories of the cosmos might be due for an overhaul. One speculation is that alpha is changing over time because of now- unknown alternate dimensions. As these hidden dimensions change shape, they change the fine structure constant.
Speaking of pasting, pasted below is a relevent portion of another post currently on this message board.
"Intelligent and well informed members of the public must first wear the hat of a skeptic. Ask yourself what flaws might exist in a new hypothesis, especially if it describes a situation that you were hoping is indeed true. The viability of a theory must be considered in doubt until it has run through the gauntlet of tests demanded by the scientific method. Even after a consensus of scientists accepts the new idea, over time parts of it may be pecked away, or it could be completely dismantled."
Last Edit: May 11, 2005 10:14:51 GMT -6 by Centaur