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Offline Alan McDougall

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The not -so -constants- constants
« on: 17/11/2008 17:34:54 »
10 Not-so-constant constants
IN 1997 astronomer John Webb and his team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney analysed the light reaching Earth from distant quasars. On its 12-billion-year journey, the light had passed through interstellar clouds of metals such as iron, nickel and chromium, and the researchers found these atoms had absorbed some of the photons of quasar light - but not the ones they were expecting.

If the observations are correct, the only vaguely reasonable explanation is that a constant of physics called the fine structure constant, or alpha, had a different value at the time the light passed through the clouds.
But that's heresy. Alpha is an extremely important constant that determines how light interacts with matter - and it shouldn't be able to change. Its value depends on, among other things, the charge on the electron, the speed of light and Planck's constant. Could one of these really have changed?


 

Offline Soul Surfer

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The not -so -constants- constants
« Reply #1 on: 17/11/2008 19:46:38 »
The possibility that this fundamental constant may have changed is very interesting. 
Again more and more accurate observations will be needed
 

Offline Mr. Scientist

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The not -so -constants- constants
« Reply #2 on: 31/12/2008 09:50:17 »
You'd be surprised.

Due to the density of the vacuum, light itself has been proposed to be many magnitudes the speed of light perhaps even 10^50 times the speed of light. So, if we have a changing energy density in the vacuum, this would directly effect the speed of light through its ether.
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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The not -so -constants- constants
« Reply #3 on: 31/12/2008 10:00:45 »
This has been considered for many years and there are several groups of astronomers and cosmologists working on it

The Wikipedia reference  "variable speed of light" will give some good references to follow up  notably the work of J. Magueijo.
 

Offline Mr. Scientist

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The not -so -constants- constants
« Reply #4 on: 31/12/2008 11:13:39 »
A yes, he is a good author if my memory serves me right.
 

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The not -so -constants- constants
« Reply #4 on: 31/12/2008 11:13:39 »

 

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