1. Standard memberPalynka
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    01 Sep '10 15:35
    http://www.economist.com/node/16930866

    "In a paper just submitted to Physical Review Letters, a team led by John Webb and Julian King from the University of New South Wales in Australia present evidence that the fine-structure constant may not actually be constant after all. Rather, it seems to vary from place to place within the universe."

    Would be nice to hear some comments by the resident physicists on this. For example, would you say this suggests that the laws of physics vary across the universe or is it more likely we're missing some other unidentified variable?
  2. silicon valley
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    01 Sep '10 18:34
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-structure_constant#Is_the_fine_structure_constant_truly_constant.3F
  3. silicon valley
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    01 Sep '10 19:29
    OMG! 😲

    Intelligent Design! 😲


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-structure_constant#Anthropic_explanation

    Anthropic explanation

    The anthropic principle is a controversial explanation of why the fine-structure constant takes on the value it does: stable matter, and therefore life and intelligent beings, could not exist if its value were much different. For instance, were α to change by 4%, stellar fusion would not produce carbon, so that carbon-based life would be impossible. If α were > 0.1, stellar fusion would be impossible and no place in the universe would be warm enough for life.[32]

    The fine structure constant plays a central role in John Barrow's and Frank Tipler's broad-ranging discussion of astrophysics, cosmology, quantum physics, teleology, and the anthropic principle.[33]
  4. Standard memberPalynka
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    02 Sep '10 10:27
    Nobody?
  5. Germany
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    02 Sep '10 11:06
    The paper submitted to PRL is available for free here:

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1008/1008.3907v1.pdf

    Just skimmed through it, seemed like an interesting find but the authors acknowledge others need to verify their findings before we really start to question the constant-ness of the fine structure constant.
  6. Standard memberPalynka
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    02 Sep '10 11:21
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    The paper submitted to PRL is available for free here:

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1008/1008.3907v1.pdf

    Just skimmed through it, seemed like an interesting find but the authors acknowledge others need to verify their findings before we really start to question the constant-ness of the fine structure constant.
    Thanks for the link, KN.

    I agree it needs validation but still if it checks out then the implications would be remarkable...
  7. Joined
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    02 Sep '10 17:50
    Originally posted by Palynka
    http://www.economist.com/node/16930866

    "In a paper just submitted to Physical Review Letters, a team led by John Webb and Julian King from the University of New South Wales in Australia present evidence that the fine-structure constant may not actually be constant after all. Rather, it seems to vary from place to place within the universe."

    Would be ni ...[text shortened]... vary across the universe or is it more likely we're missing some other unidentified variable?
    “…would you say this suggests that the laws of physics vary across the universe…”

    The answer to his question would inevitably be “no” if there is a logical paradox in the laws of physics varying across the universe. Assuming the is such a logical paradox in the laws of physics varying across the universe, if something that we thought was a constant turns out to not be constant (and I am not suggesting it will) then that would simply mean what we thought was a constant isn’t; that is all. It would not imply that the laws of physics varying across the universe although it might imply that we thought was the true laws of physics is not quite right and we need to modify our theories.

    Before we can assess whether there is a logical paradox in the laws of physics varying across the universe we need to define what we mean by “the laws of physics” and, in particular, we need a definition that distinguishes what we mean by general “laws” from observed physical behaviour that we can gain from everyday personal experience such as “if I drop my cup then it will probably break”. So this is the definition I give:

    1, A law of physics is a rule of physical behaviour/property that holds true for all frames of reference.

    Note that if I “drop my cup” in a weightless environment of space then my cup will probably not break so therefore, according to 1, that is NOT a law of physics as required because this would mean that it would not apply to frames of reference within such space.
    Now to see if there is a logical paradox in the laws of physics varying across the universe:

    2, to say that the laws of physics vary across the universe is to say the laws of physics are different in one volume of space from another volume of space.

    3, if the laws of physics are different in one volume of space V from another volume of space V2 then the laws of physics around the origin of a frame of reference within V will be different from the laws of physics around the origin of a frame of reference within V2 and therefore the law of physics would NOT hold true for all frames of reference.

    4, from I, and 3, we can deduce that if a “law of physics” are different in one volume of space from another volume of space then, by definition of “law of physics” given in 1, it is not a law of physics.

    5, From 2, and 4, we can deduce that to say that the laws of physics vary across the universe is to say the laws of physics do NOT hold true for all frames of reference.

    6, from 5 and 1, we can deduce that we can deduce that to say that the laws of physics vary across the universe is to say that the laws of physics are not the laws of physics; and that is a logical contradiction.

    So, therefore, to say that the laws of physics vary across the universe is a logical self-contradiction.
  8. Subscribersonhouse
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    02 Sep '10 17:53
    Originally posted by Andrew Hamilton
    “…would you say this suggests that the laws of physics vary across the universe…”

    The answer to his question would inevitably be “no” if there is a logical paradox in the laws of physics varying across the universe. Assuming the is such a logical paradox in the laws of physics varying across the universe, if something that we thought was a constan ...[text shortened]... efore, to say that the laws of physics vary across the universe is a logical self-contradiction.
    And if true, then what? How will it change anything here on Earth or anywhere in our space, like the solar system, sending probes to Alpha Centauri or the Voyagers already 16 billion Km away from Earth?
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