View Full Version here: : Fine Structure Varies !
31-10-2011, 04:09 PM
I remember we did a thread about this about a year so ago (can't find it though). This is the follow-up research.
Nature's laws may vary across the Universe (http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-nature-laws-vary-universe.html)
The gist is these guys from UNSW/Swinburne/Cambridge have now doubled the number of observations and measured the value of 'alpha' (the fine structure constant) in about 300 distant galaxies over a much wider area of sky. Their finding reinforces what they came up with earlier on …
This is serious stuff if it turns out to be so.
At the very least, it shows something is afoot, which may not be able to be simply explained.
They must be pretty confident of their findings as this article says they have now published in the 'Physical Review Letters'.
31-10-2011, 04:47 PM
Some easy to read background is available on Michael Murphy's Swinburne website … (http://www.astronomy.swin.edu.au/~mmurphy/res.html)
Some interesting snippets about the accuracy of these findings …
They are being cautious however …
Recently, study of the light from over 500 supernova, indicated the universe was stretching more in one direction than another ... dark flow.
Prior to that a "preferred axis" had also been detected in the cosmic microwave background radiation.
Looks to me like the cosmological principle might be under threat.
03-11-2011, 10:13 AM
Interesting as usual Craig:thumbsup:.
I think that their sample is rather small and for me I would think we would need many more observations before any conclusions are reached.
When dealing with the universe even a sample of a billion is only a small slice.
I know the math of surveys is regarded as valid but I have never been happy with the concept that a survey of say 1000 people can reflect the views of a nation of millions... and with their survey the "nation" is of trillions.Their view that there is no fluke here hints they are already taking a view which is dangerous perhaps.
"The discovery, if confirmed, has profound implications for our understanding of space and time and violates one of the fundamental principles underlying Einstein's General Relativity theory," Dr King added. I regard as mere attention seeking:D.
"The smooth continuous change in alpha may also imply the Universe is much larger than our observable part of it, possibly infinite."
I thought this has been established that this was a "given" if one holds the "big bang" as the best theory available...
03-11-2011, 02:40 PM
I often wonder about the pressure to come up with something new exciting etc and the following article says so much about such a situation as well as the possibility that peer review is not always a guard on crap getting thru...
The pressure to sensationalize ideas must be a reality many must meet... and seeking to destroy something to place new ideas should be treated with such as possible even if it be an exception.
03-11-2011, 05:04 PM
Thanks for your comments Rob and Alex.
It seems that these researchers are being cautious about it all and are not asking anyone to jump aboard with the idea of Alpha varying. There's a good chance that the value variance is probably due to some kind of experimental or systematic error in their analysis, (I reckon). When one thinks about the kind of measurement they're doing, any intervening matter and/or its movement has to be taken into consideration and compensated for across the whole dataset.
Tricky stuff, I think.
They have their critics as well, (even though Webb says he's answered them all). Perhaps they should get someone else to reproduce their results as a next step .. which would also draw some of the 'heat' away from themselves for a while. (IMO).
Actually, along the lines of Alex's last post, (although not blatently fraudulent ... as per the article he cites), I also often wonder how scientists working on something like this manage to justify their continued work on a particular topic, especially if the results of the first part turn out merely 'null' ?
Also, it must be difficult to justify the cost involved in the next logical steps in researching a finding like the fine structure constant work. Perhaps it is simpler to put the results 'out there' and see how much excitement it generates ? I mean, that's exactly what the neutrino CERN/OPERA folk just did with their FTL experiments, eh ? I wonder whether this was all a deliberate ploy to obtain funding for the second, (recently announced), FTL/neutrino run ? (They clearly have a competing experiment .. proton tests ?? ... vying for a common resource ... I wonder whether this is becoming a way for research teams to prioritise their resources/projects ... and we're likely to see a lot more of this behaviour in the future ?)
03-11-2011, 10:01 PM
Craig I am very impressed by your response (and the incite you exhibit on all occasions) but here you show wisdom that must be admired.
You are a great scientist in my book and observer of the universe offering balance in commentary pleasing and sound.
Your questions are reasonable, valid and demanding and as such should be presented. Somehow I feel you judge all things using standards that should be usual ....and still open to the possibility that there are some things yet to be discovered.
04-11-2011, 08:14 AM
Here you go Craig
Astroron also put up a thread I remember.
04-11-2011, 08:38 AM
Whether this observation is correct or not is immaterial. More measurements should decide the outcome not conjecture.
I wonder if string theory predicts that two branes at an 'angle' can influence each other differentially depending on their 'separation' by inducing 'gradients' to affect the value of the fine structure constant. The mechanism would be differential leakage of gravitons or influence of gravitons, as the current conjecture is that gravity is so weak as it is not bound to the brane but leaks away to affect other branes?
This is purely conjecture on my part as it came from a mental image that appeared in my brain from nowhere! Quantum computing or vivid deranged imagination?
Like Mike I am very bored with the lousy weather. I even went so far as to wipe my Vista and replace it with Win7 which meant reloading all my software. The hard bit was finding all the keys. This could explain my mental state.
04-11-2011, 09:34 AM
Thanks for the compliments, Alex - that's almost inappropriate behaviour for this forum and could get you banned for life! :P :)
Thanks for digging up that link … (it kind of keeps the saga traceable … ie: if we link threads about the same research).
About the brane interpretation - sounds good to me .. only problem is that I don't think brane theory has developed to the point where anyone can do the maths to give some substance to such potential predictions ! (I might be wrong .. but from my travels/reading on the topic, I don't think so !).
As an aside, as far as your quantum computer brain idea … do you think consciousness is a determinable, inevitable outcome of evolution, or do you reckon it might just be specific to humans ? (Also, does your Jack Russell display emotions … are these also evolutionary determinables ?.. or is it just the way you relate to his actions ?)
I think another explanation might be that slight changes in the susceptibility and/or permittivity of free space during the early universe might also result in positive and negative fluctuations (in Alpha). This would also cause speed variations of light during those eras. (More conjecture, mind you .. I agree with more measurements over conjectures, though).
04-11-2011, 10:05 AM
Craig we cannot even define consciousness definitively yet let alone its core mechanisms. I prefer to think of it as an inevitable property that emerges out of complexity. The ghost in the machine is the best analogy and for centuries the devil dodgers held sway with their concept of spirit.
My dog is winging as I type as he has a plate of dry dog food to eat but he wants the chicken he knows is in the fridge. His sense of smell beats any hermetically sealed door!
As far as the properties of space varying the current unknown fudges of dark energy and dark matter are implicated in this same scenario of 'graviton leakage'.
Everyone is looking for a Test of String Theory and these musings or flights of fancy may give some sort of direction to follow.
My forte at the work I did for many years was the ability to instantly discount the myriad of possible blind alleys and point out the highways that may show promise. I do not know to this day how this talent worked. A lot of the time it saved a lot of wasted work and got our lab ahead of the rest of the world. My colleagues often commented publicly on this curious ability I seemed to have.
04-11-2011, 10:10 AM
Thanks for the compliments, Alex - that's almost inappropriate behaviour for this forum and could get you banned for life!
In my case that is a relatively short ban:D.
MMM or rather Hmmmm;) ...string theory and parallel universes etc would seem to represent conjecture in the extreme a fantasy of math and a dream without observation.
In the world (or universe..er universessss) that string theory suggest any prediction can be made but never observed leaving all things possible:shrug:. Where does this get us?
Other than that comment I wont take the bait:D
Is it a big deal if the variation is so small? 1 in 100,000 I recall? so what! round it off and find something else to play with:D... and we can only observe the observable universe different readings may be available past that (if we could make them) and they may show a different picture...we see only a very small slice of the universe and can never know if observations will continue to show the variation past our current boundary of observation......
Yes I am bored also:D.
04-11-2011, 10:23 AM
Take a look at my comment in this thread. (http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=81939)
I was quite surprised to find that gravity can be interpreted as a prediction of string theory ! As I find out more about string theory, I find that the age-old criticisms of it may well be unfounded !
04-11-2011, 10:34 AM
Hmm … yep .. I like this definition …. complexity isn't necessarily the product of Evolution and Evolutionary time scales … and its not necessarily exclusive from either. Cool.
I've noticed recently that there's something called the mirror test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test). I'm wondering whether the mighty Jack Russell would pass it as a measure of self-awareness ? (I'd reckon so).
I could have used some of this recently, myself .. sometimes I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to ignoring such strong instincts .. it seems life is more a quest of balancing instinct with learned skill, eh ?
04-11-2011, 10:41 AM
I don't believe in Alice Universes. While String theory is a wonderful example of mathematics, so is the topological description of a Klein bottle. Yet Klein bottles don't exist in our Universe.:P
Frankly String Theory has generated a lot of "predictions" that are not falsifiable.
We talk about branes that are stretched strings in Ed Witten's extra dimension of M-theory , yet strings cannot be observed as it would violate the uncertainty principle.:)
I believe QFT is still our best avenue to understand gravity.
While String theory is portrayed as the only theory of "everything" under development, QFT is still the main line of enquiry.
Refer to the attachment.
04-11-2011, 10:51 AM
I suspect you like string theory Craig ...I dont which is harsh given I dont understand it in the first place:D...however it will deliver or it wont and in time it will be useful or useless ..I wait and will be happy with either outcome.
I did follow the link you provided but was determined not to say anything and go against the flow... I never liked the movie ...too wishy washy... mere opinion but that is the one I hold.
04-11-2011, 11:08 AM
Yep .. nice diagram .. I think I can see where you're coming form … QFT has its basis in empirical experimentation (phenomenological) …. certainly has firmer ground than that of a string too small to observe and violating the UP.
04-11-2011, 11:14 AM
Steven said....I believe QFT is still our best avenue to understand gravity.
AND it seems those who address the matter agree from the little reading I have done Steven....
String theory and the folk running with it make claims that I doubt will come to anything in the passage of time.
String theory seems to contradict the principles I associate with "science" it can describe whatever it likes it whatever way it likes and so far I dont know that there is any observation made which offers support nor does it offer anything that can be disproved (tested)... as I said I really dont know.
...But for folk to think because they have seen "the movie" and then conclude the movie gives the "theory" legs is rather silly...its a movie offering little other than entertainment...not that good unless you wish to enjoy mystery and magic..
Does string theory not call heavily upon susy which is now up for a rethink??? she is now not that popular at CERN
04-11-2011, 11:19 AM
Rats overboard ! Abandoning the sinking ship already, eh ?
Its easy to avoid that which is 'risky' over proven ground theories.
Its all worthy of opinionless attention, though.
04-11-2011, 11:35 AM
I am a victim of scientific journalism Craig but unlike others I admit I really have no idea about anything and if I did take a position the probability is it would be wrong...
IF a car can happily run on three cylinders then anything must be possible...;)
I just wish/hope CERN gets more money (which I presume is probably lacking at the moment) and get on with something...anything... AND absolutely confirm something or absolutely disprove something and regain the momentum I perceive as having slowed. Not only do I want progress but I want it fast...Also its been a couple of weeks in the "life" department and nothing sensational..not good enough:rolleyes:.
04-11-2011, 12:02 PM
Steven where does dark matter and dark energy fit in this nice little closed Universe without Alice?
04-11-2011, 12:13 PM
Is there a "string" in reality. Isnt a string merely a way of representing particles as a wave function? so rather than imagining little loops or lines we are really attempting to describe a particle and how it may move etc... it is a point we seek to describe so is there a string at all:shrug:....
04-11-2011, 01:14 PM
Alex all of Physics is mere mathematical construction of theories that fit reality. Some can be felt directly. If I hit you with a rather large club the conservation of momentum holds and the damage is concomitant with the impulse F X delta time. It would be painfully obvious to you when I hit you.
If I irradiate you with very hard alpha rays you would not feel a thing. The damage these ionising particles do would only come out later as you died of some horrible debilitating cancer.
04-11-2011, 03:30 PM
Bert you have a way with words thats for sure.
Either option would be a kindness at my stage of the downhill run.
04-11-2011, 04:35 PM
We had a dark matter issue in the 19th century, it was called Neptune. Scientists then applied a perturbation theory to Newtonian physics to predict the existence of Neptune from the deviations in the theoretical orbit of Uranus.
The same principles for dark matter apply today whether it is through the escape velocities of individual galaxies in a cluster to the rotation curves of galaxies.
Dark energy is based on the type II supernova data for distances.
The point is that one of the common misconceptions of dark matter and dark energy is that they are "made up" to support existing theories. For phenomenological theories such as cosmology, dark matter and dark energy are effects that do not require an Alice Universe.
The problem is with non phenomenological theories such as QFT which need to explain what dark matter and energy actually are.
04-11-2011, 05:09 PM
Hmm … I need to correct the above statement … I meant to say QFT has its basis in non-phenomenal theories which are well supported by empirical measurements .. like QM and EM. (Getting my phenomena mixed up with mechanical things ..).
Seeing as I'm on a foot-in-mouth roll, I'll play the dummy and ask what is this Alice Theory business ? What exactly is an Alice theory ??? Is it being used in the sense of 'Alice in Wonderland' ?
04-11-2011, 05:49 PM
String Theory draws quite a bit of mathematics based on algebraic/geometric topology. Your idol Ed Witten is a major contributor in this area.
The infamous Klein bottle is also a product of topology.
An "Alice Universe" is a topological universe which has similarities to a Klein bottle.
I need to read the book "The Trouble with Physics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trouble_With_Physics)" by Lee Smolin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Smolin) which is a scathing criticism of String Theory.
As a result Smolin is public enemy No. 1 amongst String theorists.
Even Leonard Susskind has engaged in a bitter public dispute with Smolin.
04-11-2011, 06:29 PM
Very interesting ... by following the reference links in the Wiki link you posted about Smolin's book, I found Smolin's following words: (http://www.thetroublewithphysics.com/)
Methinks there's another journalism beat-up going on in the middle of this one. I'm not sure Smolin is propagating any scathing attacks ... (more reading to do on this one) ...
04-11-2011, 06:46 PM
So, 'Sir Len' (Susskind) says:
He then goes on to promote Gerard T'Hooft's view of String Theory … I should add that T'Hooft is one of Susskind's long term mates. He helped Susskind in the War against Stephen Hawking about information loss in a black Hole.
All these guys are all great scientists in my view.
Sounds like good, healthy brawling .. all necessary to make something productive of it all!
Good on 'em !
04-11-2011, 06:55 PM
Smolin was a former string theorist.
The Nobel laureate (for his work on Electroweak theory) Sheldon Lee Glashow is certainly not as conciliatory as Smolin. He refers to String Theory as a tumour and as campaigned to have String theorists banned from the Physics department at Harvard Uni.:)
04-11-2011, 07:24 PM
Isn't the Electroweak also looking 'troublesome' if symmetry doesn't turn up at the LHC/CERN?
Glashow is certainly a hard-liner ... but his objections seem to be philosophical ones ... which, as Sir Len points out, can be set aside temporarily, in order to seek the true 'value propositions' also wrapped up in String Theory. I kinda like that approach ... especially as everyone seems to acknowledge that String Theory does have a lot going for it .. in spite of the falsifiability issues .. (I mentioned in some previous thread that some tests were under development .. I wonder what the status of those are ... I'll have to do some more searching on that front).
Also, Sir Len is a Princeton man and Glashow is only a Harvard man isn't he? :P :)
PS: No !!! Sir Len is a Cornell and Stanford man ! (Wrong again, Craig ...although, the whole debate might very well have origins in which Physics departments these guys hail from.)
04-11-2011, 09:38 PM
Ok ... so for all those String Theory doubters out there ... here's a five part Youtube of Ed Witten's story behind the development of String Theory ...
Part 5/5 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEutI_JKr7A&feature=related) outlines his conclusions and personal views for why he sees String Theory as important and is well worth listening to.
Its great to see Ed in action ... it isn't very often one gets the opportunity .. a pity, really. An amazing lecture (unscripted also, I think). Not one 'err' or 'um' in the whole five parts ... I think he's going entirely from memory of the history part of it all also. Unbelievable actually !
05-11-2011, 12:53 AM
Electroweak symmetry is not a supersymmetry.
When the symmetry is broken, the massless boson or photon is formed for the electromagnetic force, where as the W and Z bosons which have mass form the weak nuclear force.
The problem with the electroweak theory is that it relies on the existence of the Higgs boson to explain why the W and Z bosons have mass.
05-11-2011, 07:38 AM
Ok .. but it seems in particle physics, one thing leads to another ?
Spontaneous symmetry breaking seems to be referred to as a 'framework' for introducing bosons into relativistic quantum field theories. As you say, its introduction in EW theory, then leads to the quandry of how massive particles come about. Is there any empirical evidence that EW symmetry is necessarily the rule (or Law) in particle physics? (I don't know the answer here .. this is just a straightforward knowledge seeking question ..)
Surely the hunt for Supersymmetry evidence is just another enquiry into whether symmetry can be viewed as one of the fundamental laws of nature (or not)? Ie: if there's more evidence of symmetry, then it moves closer to being a fundamental Law, applicable for EW Theory as well as everything else?
Also, its interesting, (from what Witten says), that the originally 'unwanted' multitude of massless particles generated by String Theory, turn out to be exactly what is necessary to explain mass, gravity etc. He also points out that String Theory 'forces' into existence a quantum field theory of gravity from the outset, and is the only theory which does that. (I presume he is referring to the native unification aspects of String Theory here).
05-11-2011, 07:52 AM
As I said at the start of this article, no-one believes us yet, and we are in for a long battle.
Some days I doubt I shall be living when the proof comes in. John K. Webb Professor of Astrophysics at University of New South Wales (http://theconversation.edu.au/institutions/university-of-new-south-wales)
05-11-2011, 09:53 AM
Other than the Cosmological Principle, which is a philosophical assertion having evidentiary/observational support at the fundamental levels, I see no particular reason for ruling out the possibility that life on Earth is due to complex non-linear interactions amongst the fundamental laws of physics. After all, life itself, follows complex process rules, so it would seem logical to speculate that its origins followed the same unpredictable processes.
In this sense, there is no need for a call of 'quirks in the laws of physics', when it comes to the origins of life here.
The particular research topic of this thread, hints at the possibility of variations in the fine structure 'constant' when viewed back in time, and across different areas of the observable universe. Measurement error has not yet been ruled out.
Interestingly, in the String Theory Youtube I posted, Witten also says that the possibility of variations in the fundamental laws of nature across the universe has some support in String Theory (due to the vast solutions available in the mathematical theory underpinning String Theory).
No 'quirkiness' is called for or required, other than as a way of explaining flawed statements/assertions/opinions/predictions, made erroneously.
05-11-2011, 10:08 AM
The "framework" for introducing bosons is the symmetry itself, not symmetry breaking.
The symmetry is defined when the properties of a dynamical system or the Lagrangian is unchanged under a mathematical transformation. For example if the Lagrangian is shifted in local space-time, bosons are created to preserve the symmetry. This however produces bosons that are massless. Breaking the symmetry gives bosons mass through the Higgs mechanism.
The symmetry is unique for the force being described. For example quantum electrodynamics, electroweak theory and Quantum chromodynamics which describe the electromagnetic, electromagnetic/weak and strong forces respectively are defined by their own symmetry group.
The empirical evidence for symmetry and symmetry breaking is indicated that many of the bosons and fermions that were undiscovered at the time had their properties predicted according to their symmetry. The predictions confirmed by experimental discovery were found to be very accurate.
It's been known since the early 20th century well before QM, that many of the laws of physics are a consequence of symmetry not around the other way. This was proven by the mathematician Emmy Noether. She incidentally helped save Einstein's and Hilbert's bacon over some of the early problems encountered in GR.
I would have thought that measurements of spectra would be fairly straightforward these days. The spectra show what they show.
Therefore, the debate goes back to the interpretation of what these variations in spectra imply.
The Cosmological Principle won't be abandoned by the scientific community in a hurry. But, if it is not backed up by all of the observational evidence it must go.
05-11-2011, 04:08 PM
Yep .. I agree
I meant experimental or systematic errors in the analysis .. not 'measurement error'. Sorry about that.
(I'm not firing on all cylinders in this thread, eh ? Too many distractions, I think (?) .. or maybe Alex's compliments have thrown me :) ! ).
05-11-2011, 04:24 PM
Yep another blooper .. I did mean symmetry ! (Man, bad day at the office !)
So, is it possible that symmetry might not necessarily be ubiquitous for all properties (in spite of symmetry predictions)? :shrug:
06-11-2011, 10:20 AM
An example is the fine structure constant itself. Quantum electrodynamics doesn't predict the value.
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