Scientists propose a variable law of physics

The path of light as a beam as it travels from the quasar, through an intervening galaxy and then to the Earth where it’s captured with telescopes.

The laws of physics in our own part of the universe are geared towards life – but in the rest of the universe things might be very different, forcing a rethink of the way we understand fundamental physical forces, according to Australian and U.K. research.

The research, presented at the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM 2010) in Lisbon, Portugal, examines the fine structure constant, a measure of the electromagnetic force that binds electrons to their nuclei in atoms.

Classical physics assumes that this constant, called alpha, is just that – constant. But research led by John Webb from the University of New South Wales in Sydney has suggested that this constant varies slightly over time.

Different direction, different constant

Webb and colleagues present surprising and controversial new research in Physical Review Letters, showing that the fine structure constant varies even more depending on which direction of space you look into.

The team used the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and the twin Keck telescopes in Hawaii to look at the way light from around 300 galaxies roughly 12 billion light years away is absorbed by atoms in interstellar gas clouds between us and the distant galaxies.

The telescopes are in different hemispheres, and so point in opposite directions into space.

Read more here Scientists propose a variable law of physics | COSMOS magazine.

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