The Fine-Structure Constant Alpha
Laws of physics vary throughout the universe, new study suggests
from the story:
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.
I am amazed how the hydrogen absorption line is the basis of yet another very important thing!
In physics, the fine-structure constant, also known as Sommerfeld's constant, commonly denoted by α (the Greek letter alpha), is a dimensionless physical constant characterizing the strength of the electromagnetic interaction between elementary charged particles.
While there are multiple physical interpretations for α, it received its name from Arnold Sommerfeld introducing it (1916) in extending the Bohr model of the atom: α quantifies the gap in the fine structure of the spectral lines of the hydrogen atom, which had been precisely measured by Michelson and Morley.
I found the source titled:
Indications of a spatial variation of the fine structure constant
excerpt from the source document===
We previously reported Keck telescope observations suggesting a smaller value of the fine structure constant, alpha, at high redshift. New Very Large Telescope (VLT) data, probing a different direction in the universe, shows an inverse evolution; alpha increases at high redshift. Although the pattern could be due to as yet undetected systematic effects, with the systematics as presently understood the combined dataset fits a spatial dipole, significant at the 4.2-sigma level, in the direction right ascension 17.5 +/- 0.9 hours, declination -58 +/- 9 degrees. The independent VLT and Keck samples give consistent dipole directions and amplitudes, as do high and low redshift samples. A search for systematics, using observations duplicated at both telescopes, reveals none so far which emulate this result.
I read some doubt:
'although the pattern could be due to as yet undetected systematic effects'
The 'high redshift' is always the neutral hydrogen absorption line.
This constant involves elementary charged particles but this is a neutral atom.
They observe an increase in alpha after this wavelength has been shifted by innumerable atoms across intergalactic space as it accumulated to 'high redshift'.
I am suspicious about their conclusion this is a 'spatial variation' or perhaps this might be possible given the number of atoms encountered. I don't know the test conditions for M&M.
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