Laws of physics vary throughout the universe, new study suggests

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by Musika, Apr 20, 2018.

  1. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

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    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100909004112.htm

    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.

    Actually it's not new. Its 8 years old. The article says the results are in the process of being peer reviewed.

    Just wondering is anything contrary or conclusive has been arrived at in the interim.
     
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  3. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    So much for the fine-tuning argument.
     
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  5. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    Check out this article: http://www.bretthall.org/errors-and-uncertainties.html
    Go down toward the bottom, find a paragraph beginning with: "So is the 5-sigma standard fool proof?"
    Read it and the following two paragraphs. In short - it fizzled out. The fine-structure constant remains constant - within current limits of resolution at least.
    [Better add here this negative outcome re varying alpha has nothing to do with the fact alpha is a 'running constant' that does vary with energy - but only significantly at very high energies as in particle collider collisions etc.]
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
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  7. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    Meaning what? You made a judgement alpha does indeed vary and ran with it? And how would that have impact on fine tuning exactly?
     
  8. Xelor Registered Senior Member

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    Me thinks someone (I'm not saying who) wants clicks. "Laws of physics vary throughout the universe" is one hell of a sensational headline statement. It's on the order of saying "the Pope is Catholic, except when he isn't." Be that as it may.....

    The article got published. The paper has been cited several times in subsequent work, so it's clear that the rest of the physics community has found the study's methodology sound (enough) to, in turn, do what scientists do -- take the results and figure out whether they are "real" or whether they derive from some sort of "anomaly" that wasn't previously noticed and/or that was but that was not understood to have had impact on the current phenomenon/behavior under consideration.

    Below are more "large observational studies of Quasar (QSO) absorption lines [claiming] that the fine structure constant could vary over the sky."
    1. "Spatial variation in the fine-structure constant—New results from VLT/UVES"
    2. "Is there further evidence for spatial variation of fundamental constants?"
    3. "Is there a spatial gradient in values of the fine-structure constant?"
    4. "Updated constraints on spatial variations of the fine-structure constant. "

    The researchers note that their findings "suggest a violation of the Einstein Equivalence Principle, and could infer a very large or infinite universe, within which our ‘local’ Hubble volume represents a tiny fraction, with correspondingly small variations in the physical constants." It got published with the following caveats that make clear the authors are far less convinced than you, OP-er, that "the laws of physics vary throughout the universe."
      • "To explain our results in terms of systematics will require at least 2 different and finely tuned effects. Future similar measurements targeting the apparent pole and anti-pole directions will maximise detection sensitivity, and further observations duplicated on 2 independent telescopes will better constrain systematics."
      • "An independent technique is required to check these results."
    It seems at least one group of researchers have developed "an independent technique" for doing so; however, I don't know whether other researchers (including the authors of the four listed papers above) have conjured and applied that model and/or other "independent techniques" to check the results. I have, however, attempted with this post to give you something of a "jump start" that you can use to determine "what's what" as goes the current understanding about about the variability/consistency of the laws of physics.
     
  9. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

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    It's another argument against the universe being designed for life. We just happened to arise in a part of it where that's possible. It's like the multi-verse argument against fine-tuning, but observable. If correct.
     
  10. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    One main problem with such a deduction is that, even given the very small tentative variations were/are valid, it implicitly assumes our universe is vastly larger than the observable one. In order for a more or less linear extrapolation of the putative 'spatial alpha gradient' to yield drastic variations in alpha elsewhere. We just don't know the true extent of our universe, nor have any clue as to how a possible spatial variation in alpha would be distributed in the very large.
     
  11. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes I suppose you would be right, IF this variation is confirmed, which seems doubtful at this point. So probably a bit premature to go in to bat with your creationist adversaries with this argument.

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    (But I've always thought that design argument spurious as a matter of principle anyway. Just because something is arranged in one way out of millions of possibilities does not mean it must have designed that way. Only one arrangement can be realised and one is just as likely as another.)
     
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  12. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    Without some some credible evidence or at least a plausible theory, it does not seem reasonable to speculate or assume that the laws of physics are different elsewhere in the universe.
     
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I wouldn't be that dismissive. After all it was a serious piece of work and it does not look as if it has been definitively shown to be in error - though that must be the more likely eventual finding, I suppose.

    And you certainly don't need a theory before a piece of observational evidence is taken seriously.
     
  14. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    Well it goes against the spirit of the Cosmological Principle (look it up), at least as most understand it. Speculative fractal universe theories or rather conjectures that might 'naturally' accommodate randomly varying alpha have all but been put to rest. By more recent deep space surveys that indicate no sign of further hierarchical structures beyond a few hundred light years in extent - with maybe one or two exceptions. A spatially varying alpha implies some special kind of scalar field that for no known reason lazily varies on truly enormous scales.

    At any rate, there certainly remains a severe fine-tuning problem just wrt our particular universe coming about at all:
    https://accelconf.web.cern.ch/accelconf/e06/PAPERS/THESPA01.PDF
     
  15. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    In last post, 'a few hundred light years' should have read 'a few hundred million light years'.
     
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    But then the Cosmological Principle is just an assumption deriving from current Big Bang theory and Ockham's Razor (i.e the absence, hitherto, of evidence against it), isn't it? I note Popper thought it a "dogma" that should not have been proposed".

    But I'm teasing, a bit, I admit.

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  17. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    Sure. In fierce competition with much more venerable alternatives - e.g.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down
    Ditto.

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  18. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    I read the article linked in the OP and one thing that struck me as odd, besides the title, is that it is using light from distant quasars.

    So, I did a quick google: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-ab&ei=8LfdWqTMD8njjwT_jhU&q=quasar quantum gravity&oq=quasar quantum gr&gs_l=psy-ab.3.1.33i160k1l2.1738846.1753002.0.1757548.15.15.0.0.0.0.290.1472.14j0j1.15.0..2..0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.15.1462...0j35i39k1j0i131k1j0i67k1j0i131i67k1j0i10k1j0i22i30k1.0.PavINgVGHX8

    Immediately, it invoked the thought of M-Theory which has yet to be experimentally proven. So, yeah, the title stands I think when you get near the gravity involved in quasars and black holes. As I don't think anyone has been inside either of them before, It's just unknown.

    :EDIT:
    This might be relevant.

     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
  19. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    No.As that OP linked 2010 article shows in leading illustration, varying alpha would show as a shift in the relative position of spectral lines. Immune to either cosmological or gravitational redshift. Since many quasars at opposite sides of the sky were surveyed, and over the same band of distances from us, any inexplicable peculiarity from one or two quasars would be weeded out as a statistical fluke.
    Further, the light detected doesn't come from close to or within any quasar central BH supposed event horizon, but much further out where physics is well known and not in serious dispute.
     
  20. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Question: Should we be surprised that the laws of physics are variably dependent on local conditions?
    Different conditions have proven that physical expressions change, for instance with temparature. H2O is a perfect example. It can be gaseous, liquid, or solid, dependent on local conditions but the (specific) mathematics associated with those states are well known and do not indicate that the associated mathematical functions are different regardless of the physical behavior or interactions. We are just used to the mathematical functions in our patch of the universe, but we have no real clue about the physical mathematics in say, a black hole.
     
  21. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    Won't try to translate each statement there into something more coherent. Will say that H2O example is off the mark. Local phase changes being dependent on local thermal energy density have no relevance to any possible long-range spatial variation of the fundamental 'constants', such as a varying alpha. An appropriate analogy might be startling evidence that IR spectral signature of distant H2O molecules varied with direction in the sky. Signifying altered molecular bond strengths. Would. Might.
     
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  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    So, "would" that be a form of refraction or "might" it result from the Doppler effect?
     
  23. Q-reeus Valued Senior Member

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    In principle, H2O altered via minutely altered alpha would refract light minutely differently, in addition to minute variations in emission/absorption lines. In principle.
    No. As mentioned before, redshift simply stretches all spectral lines by the same factor, whereas varying alpha would alter both the absolute and the relative locations and amplitudes.
     

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