New findings suggest laws of nature not as constant as previously thought

University of New South Wales

Those looking forward to a day when science’s Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.

In a paper published in prestigious journal Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13 billion light years away reaffirm past studies that have measured tiny variations in the fine structure constant.

UNSW Science’s Professor John Webb says the fine structure constant is a measure of electromagnetism – one of the four fundamental forces in nature (the others are gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force).

“The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force,” Professor Webb says.

“It’s a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Planck’s constant and the electron charge, and it’s a ratio of those things. And it’s the number that physicists use to measure the strength of the electromagnetic force.”

The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in every atom of the universe – without it, all matter would fly apart. Up until recently, it was believed to be an unchanging force throughout time and space. But over the last two decades, Professor Webb has noticed anomalies in the fine structure constant whereby electromagnetic force measured in one particular direction of the universe seems ever so slightly different.

“We found a hint that that number of the fine structure constant was different in certain regions of the universe. Not just as a function of time, but actually also in direction in the universe, which is really quite odd if it’s correct…but that’s what we found.”

LOOKING FOR CLUES

Ever the sceptic, when Professor Webb first came across these early signs of slightly weaker and stronger measurements of the electromagnetic force, he thought it could be a fault of the equipment, or of his calculations or some other error that had led to the unusual readings. It was while looking at some of the most distant quasars – massive celestial bodies emitting exceptionally high energy – at the edges of the universe that these anomalies were first observed using the world’s most powerful telescopes.

“The most distant quasars that we know of are about 12 to 13 billion light years from us,” Professor Webb says.

“So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, you’re studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets.”

He says that in the current study, the team looked at one such quasar that enabled them to probe back to when the universe was only a billion years old which had never been done before. The team made four measurements of the fine constant along the one line of sight to this quasar. Individually, the four measurements didn’t provide any conclusive answer as to whether or not there were perceptible changes in the electromagnetic force. However, when combined with lots of other measurements between us and distant quasars made by other scientists and unrelated to this study, the differences in the fine structure constant became evident.

A WEIRD UNIVERSE

“And it seems to be supporting this idea that there could be a directionality in the universe, which is very weird indeed,” Professor Webb says.

“So the universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physics – one that is the same, statistically, in all directions. But in fact, there could be some direction or preferred direction in the universe where the laws of physics change, but not in the perpendicular direction. In other words, the universe in some sense, has a dipole structure to it.

“In one particular direction, we can look back 12 billion light years and measure electromagnetism when the universe was very young. Putting all the data together, electromagnetism seems to gradually increase the further we look, while towards the opposite direction, it gradually decreases. In other directions in the cosmos, the fine structure constant remains just that – constant. These new very distant measurements have pushed our observations further than has ever been reached before.”

In other words, in what was thought to be an arbitrarily random spread of galaxies, quasars, black holes, stars, gas clouds and planets – with life flourishing in at least one tiny niche of it – the universe suddenly appears to have the equivalent of a north and a south. Professor Webb is still open to the idea that somehow these measurements made at different stages using different technologies and from different locations on Earth are actually a massive coincidence.

“This is something that is taken very seriously and is regarded, quite correctly with scepticism, even by me, even though I did the first work on it with my students. But it’s something you’ve got to test because it’s possible we do live in a weird universe.”

But adding to the side of the argument that says these findings are more than just coincidence, a team in the US working completely independently and unknown to Professor Webb’s, made observations about X-rays that seemed to align with the idea that the universe has some sort of directionality.

“I didn’t know anything about this paper until it appeared in the literature,” he says.

“And they’re not testing the laws of physics, they’re testing the properties, the X-ray properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and cosmological distances from Earth. They also found that the properties of the universe in this sense are not isotropic and there’s a preferred direction. And lo and behold, their direction coincides with ours.”

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING

While still wanting to see more rigorous testing of ideas that electromagnetism may fluctuate in certain areas of the universe to give it a form of directionality, Professor Webb says if these findings continue to be confirmed, they may help explain why our universe is the way it is, and why there is life in it at all.

“For a long time, it has been thought that the laws of nature appear perfectly tuned to set the conditions for life to flourish. The strength of the electromagnetic force is one of those quantities. If it were only a few per cent different to the value we measure on Earth, the chemical evolution of the universe would be completely different and life may never have got going. It raises a tantalising question: does this ‘Goldilocks’ situation, where fundamental physical quantities like the fine structure constant are ‘just right’ to favour our existence, apply throughout the entire universe?”

If there is a directionality in the universe, Professor Webb argues, and if electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos, the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision.

“Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions,” he says.

“That standard model itself is built upon Einstein’s theory of gravity, which itself explicitly assumes constancy of the laws of Nature. If such fundamental principles turn out to be only good approximations, the doors are open to some very exciting, new ideas in physics.”

Professor Webb’s team believe this is the first step towards a far larger study exploring many directions in the universe, using data coming from new instruments on the world’s largest telescopes. New technologies are now emerging to provide higher quality data, and new artificial intelligence analysis methods will help to automate measurements and carry them out more rapidly and with greater precision.

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From EurekAlert!

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131 thoughts on “New findings suggest laws of nature not as constant as previously thought

  1. People want to believe. However, science is, with cause, a philosophy and practice in the near-frame.

    • Our limited history of measurement of the gravitational constant is also points to it not being constant either. The constancy of all the “constants” is nothing but a simplistic assumption.

      It would be much more logical to question these assumptions of constancy than to start inventing all the black matter, energy and fairy dust holding the universe together and spuriously hypothesising lumps of it wherever you need to make you equations work.

      At least there are some out there ready to question the orthodoxy instead of making up fairly tales.

      • What about the supposed theory that simply looking at something changes it?

        I am in awe of people like Professor Webb but really quite pleased I am only a simple peasant! 🤔

        • “What about the supposed theory that simply looking at something changes it?”

          I can top that. As engineering students at Purdue, my friend Kurt Sacksteder and I discovered that the very act of our answering a professor’s question to the class automatically made that answer wrong (even if it had been right up to that point). The “Kelly-Sacksteder Effect” was so consistent that we stopped answering questions in class for fear of destroying the universe.

          • Your story reminds me of Murphy’s Constant. Murphy’s Constant is the number you multiply your answer by to get the answer in the back of the book–not that all answers in the back of the book are automatically correct.

            Jim

      • It would be much more logical to question these assumptions of constancy than to start inventing all the black matter, energy and fairy dust holding the universe together and spuriously hypothesising lumps of it wherever you need to make you equations work.

        Occam rules.
        And so does Kuhn. One keeps adding parameters until a paradigm shift allows a new simpler way to look at things.

        The whole point of Science and especially physics is to apply the principle of time and space invariant Natural Laws – theAeterna Veritas – and then ‘discover’ them – or rather invent them – to fit the known ‘facts’.

        Bit of a bugger if they have to be time or space variant. Almost as bad as Einstein bending space to allow for matter, or was it the bending of space that caused matter? Awfully hard to say with these Boffins, which came first, the Boffin or the Egg?…

    • To all atheists & agnostics who think this validates their position: you just discovered that all science is premised upon ideas that are false or, at best, serious over-simplified and your response is to have greater confidence in science? That’s the epitome of blind faith.

      In other words, not only did the universe have to be finely-tuned for life, it had to be finely-tuned IN THE RIGHT PLACE AND TIME! And you think that’s MORE proof of randomness? At best, you’ve added another variable, which makes chance even LESS likely as you’d have to multiply the pre-existing chance of randomly-generated life by the chance of this new variable, thereby DECREASING the probability of your explanation. Literally, there are only three possible explanations of life: 1) universal laws require it (which no one believes), 2) chance created it, or 3) intelligence created it. How does adding new variables help the 2nd hypothesis? News flash: it doesn’t. It’s not more spins of the wheel or rolls of the dice, it’s yet another variable (at least) that has to be fine-tuned. Give up! Logic and the evidence require #3 as the only REASONABLE explanation.

      • “Literally, there are only three possible explanations of life: 1) universal laws require it (which no one believes). . .”

        First of all, ‘belief’ is not a part of the scientific method.

        Second of all, I think your number 1 is quite plausible. Given the right materials, and the right inputs of energy, I suspect nature has a tendency toward increasing complexity, ultimately resulting in life. It doesn’t require any variety of Creationism.

      • The position of this atheist is validated by this and this alone: the entire absence of ANY evidence whatsoever to support the existence of a conscious creator. The difficulty of explaining the nature of the universe, or the fact of its complexity – to put it another way – proves nothing in the direction you have in mind. You’ve started with your own, very personal belief/perspective on the world – supported by what precisely I have to ask – and seem to believe that the complications we perceive from our very limited capacity are some kind of evidence that supports your position. There is no such dependence/connection. That things aren’t quite as we expected is not evidence of a creator; it’s evidence of the limits of our understanding/knowledge and intellectual capacity. Basically your premise translates into: we don’t understand it, or we’ve been surprised by this, therefore a supernatural explanation must be the answer. Absurd. As are the external foundations of religious belief. The internal (within the mind) is where the explanation lies.

        There is nothing out there that we are yet aware of that conclusively or even tentatively supports your position in any way. All that we see and understand at present is devoid of supernatural content and is gradually being explained inch by inch by evidence and logic. That process is ongoing. Anyone who thought we’d reached the end of the learning process didn’t understand the concept of the evolution of knowledge, or was arrogant or ignorant. We will continue to encounter surprises, to learn that parts of our previous understanding were faulty, for as long as we inhabit this planet. It’s the nature of authentic progress.

        Religion keeps its grip unfortunately but the history of humankind is marked by an ever increasing reliance on logic and evidence, and the abandonment of superstition. If we are to continue to advance as a species then that progress must continue.

        As for the necessity of the various balances for the existence of life as we know it, that only applies to . . .life as we know it. Other balances would almost certainly produce other life solutions, or none. The universe doesn’t need us. It does not exist as a platform for humans or any kind of life. It exists because it exists, and surely always has.

        As for directionality and variations in constants, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we learn in time that the universe is rotating and has directional momentum. In fact I’d be exceedingly surprised if it didn’t have both. . The notion that the universe is where it all ends, marks the limits of space, seems bizarre to me. In limitless space and time (a convenient construct built on fixed – fairly – qualities of matter) there’ll be room for a few more universes and perhaps bigger structures still, in the same way that planetary systems turn within solar systems which turn withing galaxies which turn within our universe . . . And time, again: it has no objective existence in my view. All we have is never-ending ongoing action according to the laws of cause and effect (we probably have a bit to learn about them too) within infinite space. . .

        There will be typos.

    • Scientific theories rise and fall on the judgements of experiment.

      Philosophy is axiomatic.

      Science is not philosophy.

  2. Since this Fine Structure Constant study is from the University of New South Wales, my immediate hypothesis is that the South Magnetic Pole must be wandering all around their facilities, in some way fooz’ling all their measurements.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it..

    • ha ha ha Remember the Univ. of S. Wales study of a calved Antarctic iceberg a few years back that was bigger than a breadbox or something and that because it was such an immense new iceberg, this proved that CO2 was driving climate, the Antarctic ice sheet was at risk of imminent collapse, humanity was doomed, and dogs and cats would soon be living together? I might not be remembering all the details correctly, but it was something like that.

      I think those USW scientists have been huffing Antarctic ozone.

      • Sorry for replying to my own post, but I realize that the tone of my previous post is unfair to the scientist mentioned in this article, who may be positing a legitimate question/issue. And besides, those cryo-babies[1] I mentioned may have been from a university in Old Wales in the mother country, not New South Wales in Australia. Although I may have mis-remembered the origins of their credentials, I have no apology for them. I will endeavor to persevere to be more careful when I’m tempted to post snark in the future. Good snark, like good science, must be exact, painfully honest and accurate, and match up with known evidence.

        [1] Cryo-baby – a person with an irrational fear of melting glaciers and icecaps which causes him or her to run around crying and screaming and throwing a temper-tantrum. Hi Griff.

  3. I put it all down to excess CO2 from car engines. Humans are damaging the Universe.

    Save the Fine Constant!!!

  4. You might not read this, and if you did you might not understand it. So let me help. If the Universe has a North and South, we need to know. If humans are going to survive we will have to leave Earth. Our Sun will get bigger and hotter as it ages, sucking the Earth into it ( so much for the save the planet kook’s ) so when we leave, we have to go in the right direction !!!!

  5. “That standard model itself is built upon Einstein’s theory of gravity”. They hit the nail on the head. Any model which is built upon Einstein’s theory of gravity is junk science. Therefore the standard model is junk science. Astrophysics is in just as bad a state as climate science is in.

    • Riiiight… And you have discovered that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is wrong…why?

      • A theory of gravity is only that, until it is proven correct to the exclusion of competing theories.

  6. I feel blessed and amazed by this article. Blessed that I can log in to WUWT and find utterly absorbing and challenging material like this (Anthony, I wonder if you really understood the scale of the public service you were undertaking when you first began this brilliant blog); and amazement that, during the time that these quasars began emitting light, the material for a planet began to coalesce some 12 to 13 billion light years away, that eventually life began on that newly-formed planet and some four billion years later it had evolved to the stage where creatures could build instruments to detect these esoteric changes.

    Now that really is worth thinking about.

    • John,
      I couldn’t agree more, both about WUWT and the wonder and mystery of the universe we find ourselves inhabiting. During the present time of fear and uncertainty they are both more important than ever.

      I just watched a new two hour documentary about Mars from National Geographic. It’s definitely worth watching – it has many new images of Mars that I had never seen before and which are truly extraordinary. It also previews Mars 2020 which will – hopefully – have the best chance of finding signs of ancient life on Mars. Truly, despite the virus, we live in wonderful times.
      Another big plus: despite being on National Geographic there wasn’t a hint of any climate change nonsense!
      Chris

      • “Another big plus: despite being on National Geographic there wasn’t a hint of any climate change nonsense!”

        I’m not sure that means they have lost their zealotry for human-caused climate change, it probably just means they can’t make a case for CO2 putting any warmth into the atmosphere of Mars, so they can’t make a comparison between Mars and the Earth in that sense.

        I had to cancel my subscription to National Geographic many moons ago because they just went on and on about the fake crisis of human-caused climate change. I couldn’t take it anymore.

        • …and yet here we are with a brand new “viral pandemic” making accurate assessments, producing and providing accurate testing equipment, moving to Stage II on a “safe & efficacious” vaccine all within mere months of the virus’s discovery!

          It’s so refreshing to see the most revered scientists in the world swallow their pride and be forced to question every bold assertion they’ve ever made. However, their massively inflated egos will still fly high outside of the scientific community because 99.99% world’s people will never hear of science’s lack of absolute authority in knowledge…especially when it pertains to political policies and motivations.

    • John V. Wright
      April 28, 2020 at 11:00 pm

      Yes John, well said.
      Anthony has done us a great service over all these years and it’s nice to have some relief from news of Covid-19 and AGW for a change.

      Something pleasant and truly exciting to muse on for a change.

      I hope the string theory and dark matter/energy enthusiasts take note of this and consider that they too might just possibly be wrong. Surely having to constantly add these band-aids to their Grand Theories to make everything fit suggests that just maybe the underlying theories could be wrong.

      Michael Mann and colleagues take note.

      • Good scientists take it for granted that they could always be wrong.
        Great scientists work to prove it. (Before someone else can.)

  7. If they want to put something on a tee shirt evidently you can put Pi there. Pi contains the number sequence describing every phenomena possible in the universe.

    • Well, say, the Euler number, “e” is deeply connected to pi, but quite a different number in itself, it’s pretty good too! And how about that “golden ratio” thing some people get all gaga about?

      Now, I surmise that if this physics thing, the ‘fine structure constant’, were *exactly* a multiple of pi (or something) that would surely get people going! As it is, the ‘Constant’ is apparently roughly (but not exactly) equal to 137. No one knows how to derive the exact number from pi, or from anything that basic in math. So, rather than just accept it as a found constant in nature, people theorize about it varying slightly over time — makes it seem less arbitrary, I guess.

    • I was led to believe by “The Science” that CO2 was responsible for every phenomenon in the universe 😮

  8. Okay, a science article about fundamental physics should never describe electrons as “whizzing around” the nucleus.

    That said, it seems space is “scrunching” and relaxing in a way we normally attribute to matter and curvature. It seems even space that is devoid of matter and energy can be curved more than expected (currently explained as dark matter) and some space is curved less than expected (currently explained as dark energy).

    It seems “nothing” has structure we are not currently equipped to describe and we play with constants to work it back in. It will be an exciting day when we learn how that structure chnges.

    • “It seems even space that is devoid of matter and energy can be curved more than expected (currently explained as dark matter) and some space is curved less than expected (currently explained as dark energy).”

      That is a very interesting observation, kind of like saying that Dark Matter and Dark Energy are opposite sides of the same coin.

  9. Having at least 3 unknowns a major problem to work out what’s changing the results. Is it a problem relative to our point of observation or just some dark secret? (half pun intended).

  10. I am amazed there is still any doubt about the golden constant, it was known a while back? It is clearly 42 as documented and confirmed, when the number of turtles “all the way down” was counted, coming to 42, with each turtle being just 42x larger than the preceding one. 🙂

    • You have the saying wrong.
      It is Models all the way down..

      All human knowledge is models. The world we think we live in, is a model. Science is a set of models oft the model we think we live in.
      Meanwhile Whatever Is The Case, is what it is, and cares not.

  11. In common with transmission lines, space has something called characteristic impedance. Because there’s no material in space, it doesn’t suffer from the kinds of effects that beset signals in physical media and the atmosphere. Suppose that assumption is wrong though.

    I wonder if dark matter, whatever that is, can affect the transmission of signals. There is this thing called group velocity which has the effect of smearing modulated signals and reducing the bandwidth of a path. Could it be that, over light year distances, it is impossible to send information at any useful bit rate? Is SETI barking up the wrong tree? Anyway, the concept of aether appears not to be as dead as I was led to believe when I was a pup.

    • If we could somehow send a signal with faster than light group velocity, I suppose the bandwidth would be zero on that as well. So you could have unlimited speed of signal translation, but with zero bandwidth mind you?

      That could even be a really lame ‘superhero’ mind power, sending zero information infinitely fast..

  12. Actually, the world isn’t sitting on the back of a giant Turtle, and I don’t care that it is written that way in Pratchett’s Discworld stories. The real story is that if the laboratory rats, those Secret Masters of our world, say that the meaning of the universe is “42” then it must be so! Say, maybe they have reasons for fomenting alarm and busting the world’s economy too?

  13. Since the constancy c of the speed of light in a vacuum results from the principle of causality, I hope it still holds here on Earth, otherwise the causality principle collapses and some might be tempted to argue that the lockdown could have had an effect on events which occurred before it was applied.

    /s

  14. There are two things that worry me about this kind of result. First that it is essentially based on a meta analysis, combining many different studies. It is well known that ‘significant’ findings from those usually turn out to be spurious. The second is the result itself. Why are these changes always so small? Why always a 0.00… % change and not a nice juicy 5% one; after all 13 billion years is 95% of the life time of the universe. It’s as if Nature is playing peek-a-boo with us: I am changeable but you will never be able to tell it. I do believe that Nature is subtle, even devious, but it is not malicious. I therefore don’t buy it (yet).

    • Historically, this is how we discover new phenomena and develop rules to model them. Newton’s world was easily observable with simple equipment. It took until the late 1800’s for precise data of things not quite following Newton’s laws to be available to lead to the next, more refined set of rules. Now we are observing exceptions to those laws. As with relativity and quantum theory, the changes decsribed were not huge, but the implications behind them were. Who will be the next Einstein and Plank to develop the new set of rules?

    • Ed Zuiderwijk

      And how about the quote:

      “The most distant quasars that we know of are about 12 to 13 billion light years from us,” Professor Webb says.

      Are “about”! I would, in his shoes, be amazed that the values for c were so damn close. Maybe the temperature varied by half a degree in his laboratory or his observatory. Are these optical telescopes? Was the earth moving toward or away from the quasar on its orbit during observation?…

      The Central Party Climatariat has put me into deep scepticism mode from which I may never return!

      • And if “constants” aren’t, how do we know they are 13 billion light years away? After all, the distance measurement is based on a red-shift theory that relies on the constancy of the speed of light through empty space. We can not even begin to construct a telescope with a large enough baseline to measure interstellar space with parallax angles. The one pixel on the display that represents a star is only 10-23 arcseconds displaced between measurements 6 months apart (2 AU baseline) and our equipment is only able to discern ~20 orders of magnitude less.

        • superscript didn’t work. that was maybe better expressed as 10E-23 as it is on calculators.

    • “I do believe that Nature is subtle, even devious, but it is not malicious.”

      That’s what Nature wants you to think.

  15. The electromagnetic signal, radio, x-rays, light or whatever modern telescopes are detecting, after travelling through a constantly varying space-time properties (creation and drifting of galaxies, dark matter, black holes, if there are such things) for 11-12 billions of light years, was exposed to numerous phase shifts between it’s components, e.g. em signal ‘colour’ aberration. What is currently observed is most unlikely to be an ‘unadulterated’ signal that left this by now long gone primordial quasar.

    • Yes,
      Remembering how not too long ago the observatory in Antarctica had evidence of polarization in the CBR. Then, I think someone demonstrated that dust could produce the same results

  16. This is no surprise to me, I don’t like the currently failing explanation for red-shift IE Doppler effect. Red shift could also be due to the permeability of free space not being a constant over time and/or space. I think this is a much more likely explanation. If the fine constant is not a constant then from what I understand the permeability of free space isn’t either.

  17. Everything in the Universe is spinning. Everything seems to have angular momentum.

    So why the surprise that the Universe itself has an axis? So it came into being with angular momentum, what’s strange about that?

    It’s spinning relative to something outside (potential universe, for instance) and thus the universe has a notable direction – the axis.
    It’s probably spinning in the dimension of time too. That explains why we get 1, 2, 3 (or 3, 2, 1) and not 1, 2, a, b, hatstand.

    • M Courtney. Brilliant! I’d never thought of this, but it certainly has to be one of the most obvious truths about the Universe. Everything is spinning, from atoms (even electrons) to star systems, to galaxies to clusters of galaxies… I’ve never heard mention whether there is a preferred ‘direction’ of spin, probably not or we would be out of some form of mechanical balance (large rotating machines in a plant need foundations designed to prevent the machine from flipping itself over).

      I think in light of this wonderful observation of MC, that the entire universe itself most probably is spinning, with an angular momentum equal to the mathematical sum (+/-) of individual spinning parts. Indeed, how can the idea of an axis of the universe not been an early thought.

      When I first heard about the search for other intelligent life in the universe and heard that researchers were surprised that planets rotating around stars were commonplace, I was surprised that they were surprised. Niels Bohr came up with the structure of the atom when he dreamed about the solar system.

      • it also helps explain why amino acids above the universal equator are “right-handed”.

        (we reside below the universal equator)

    • In reply to:

      “Everything seems to have angular momentum.”

      Why? What generates Angular Momentum? And what is spinning?

      The Spiral Galaxy Angular Momentum Paradox

      The Big Bang theory assumes angular momentum (how fast a galaxy rotations) is made physically by the velocity difference of gas clouds when the spiral galaxy first forms.

      As there is a physical limit to how fast and how slow a gas cloud could statistically move in relation to another…

      Think of the Big bang mechanism which just creates a large number of clouds of gas. Those clouds must form the galaxies. But there are two different main type of galaxies: Spiral and Elliptical. Why one rather than the other?

      What we would expect if differential gas cloud speed determined galaxy angular momentum is that all spiral galaxies spin rate would be similar and there would be a sharp drop off in spin rates slower or faster than the average spin rate which would in turn be would be determined by the average difference in torque generated when the galaxy formed.

      What is found observationally is….

      Spiral galaxies as they become more massive,…

      … they are gaining, angular momentum from some unknown force or mechanism that increases angular momentum in proportion to the galaxy’s mass.

      As Disney notes in his and other’s paper, the big bang theory cannot produce the angular momentum observed in large spiral galaxies and cannot produce increasing angular momentum with increasing galaxy mass.

      http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0811/0811.1554.pdf

      Galaxies are Simpler than Expected
      Galaxies are complex systems the evolution of which apparently results from the interplay of dynamics, star formation, chemical enrichment, and feedback from supernova explosions and supermassive black holes1.

      The hierarchical theory of galaxy formation holds that galaxies are assembled from smaller pieces, through numerous mergers of cold dark matter2,3,4. The properties of an individual galaxy should be controlled by six independent parameters including mass, angular-momentum, baryon-fraction, age and size, as well as by the accidents of its recent haphazard merger history.

      Here we report that a sample of galaxies that were first detected through their neutral hydrogen radio-frequency emission, and are thus free of optical selection effects, shows five independent correlations among six independent observables, despite having a ….

      … This implies that the structure of these galaxies must be controlled by a single parameter, although we cannot identify this parameter from our dataset. Such a degree of organization appears to be at odds with hierarchical galaxy formation, a central tenet of the cold dark matter paradigm in cosmology6.

      …Consider spin alone, which is thought to be the result of early tidal torquing. Simulations produce spins, independent of mass, with a log-normal distribution. Higher-spin discs naturally cannot contract as far; thus, to a much greater extent than for low-spin discs, their dynamics is controlled by their dark halos, so it is unexpected to see the nearly constant dynamical-mass/luminosity ratio that we and others14 actually observe.

      What I am trying to explain below is a couple of big picture results of the astronomical galaxy surveys.

      What we have found is 70% of the galaxies that are close enough to determine galaxy type are spiral and there was no change in the ratio of spiral galaxies to elliptical galaxies.

      This was a surprise. What was expected, as we assume spiral galaxies are growing and gaining mass by mergers, is a gradually change from the spiral galaxy type (Milky Way) to elliptical. That mechanism should produce a single most likely angular momentum for all spiral galaxies regardless of mass.

      Elliptical galaxies has stars that revolve in all directions about the galaxy center in an elliptical manner.

      There is a complete range in sizes in spiral galaxies with a high mass cut-off.

      Comment: The big discovery in Astronomy is that there is a complex object is that is found in every galaxy that cannot be made by collapsing gas clouds and nucleosynthesis.

      The number of these objects scales with galaxy mass.

      • William, 90% theory can’t produce such certainty and such a detailed biography of the Universe. We have been observing a 13Blybp(?) universe for 100 years, with more serious observation tech only a few decades old. Dark Matter and Dark Energy are speculative patches that were vulcanized on to preserve deficient theory (think epicycles and phlogiston).

        We only think that the quasars we see are the farthest away or even far away at all. Could we see one 26Bly away if it were there. Perhaps all that Dark Matter limits the view. We can’t logically add a patch where we need it and then forget about it.

        Its all very interesting this cosmology stuff and I believe we should do it, but this is going to be a long term project before we can feel we’ve aced it. The one thing we do know with most certainty is stuff spins – electrons, atoms, stars and their planets, galaxies of stars, including your elliptical galaxies, and a reasonable speculation would be that such a Universe would likely spin, too. It would all come to an end if it stopped spinning.

        • Was thinking the same thing. In your case, the universe is 26 BY old. Then observing something 12 BY away is looking at the universe only half its lifetime ago, not at the beginning. I suspect one day not too far off, we will have the telescope/energy sensing equipment to do just that.

          The “everything spins” concept also seems to be not unreasonable.

      • My theory is that each galaxy within the universe would be subject to fluid dynamics and the ideal gas law. As such, these galaxies would be subject to different spin rates and different shapes depending on the gaseous content when formed. Just my two cents.

    • Almost certainly true, and it should have been an obvious possibility to any thinking individual. The time dimension part? Don’t think so. Space + action covers it all imv. I believe that time has no objective existence. It’s a device of our devising for making sense of things; to give order to everyday life.

  18. How refreshing. A scientist notices something but is skeptical of their findings.

    Contrast that with the “scientists” who claim to have detected a 0.01K increase in the deep ocean and know it’s true.

  19. But, but, but, ACCEPTED SCIENCE!!! A survey of streetsweepers said that 97% think constants are constant.

    We have much to learn. Only idiots and Mickey Mann think they know it all, but that is being redundant.

    • In a limited frame of reference (i.e. scientific), they can be reasonably estimated as “constant” or rather characterized by a single, repeatable probabilistic distribution.

  20. The second is the result itself. Why are these changes always so small? Why always a 0.00… % change and not a nice juicy 5% one; after all 13 billion years is 95% of the life time of the universe.

    Because if it were 5% we would have noticed it years ago.
    Next?

  21. I may have missed it, but what is that particular direction?
    How does it compare with our movement relative to the CMBR?

  22. Well. I’m certainly glad I’m stupid, because otherwise I’d be obsessing about things like the inconstancy of the electromagnetic constant. What I like to do when problems like this arise is say, God did it. There you go. (Incidentally, God is very tolerant of my imperfections, but he’s pretty annoyed with yours. So wise up.)

    I have actually read and can derive (as it takes only high school Math) the Special Theory of Relativity. That’s the one where, if you assume the speed of light is constant in a vacuum to all observers, that length, mass and time are all relative. Cool. But so what? Because, let me tell you, the greatest scientific discoveries in human history were made by Isaac Newton. I took Engineering, and spent hundreds of hours learning to manipulate the Laws of Gravity ( often using Calculus, which is another of Newton’s achievements), and none fooling around with anything Einstein did other than Brownian motion.

    And anyway, a strictly physical universe just doesn’t do it for me. If the universe is physical, there is no free will. Nobody on this Earth cannot believe in free will. Even people who think that they don’t believe in free will are compelled by the nature of life to actually believe in it.

    • Hormones drive most of our more interesting behavior and consequential actions. Not a lot of free will involved. Mortal threats also tend to evoke non-voluntary action and behavior. Expending 25% of available life asleep isn’t optional either. First time I fell in love it was love at first sight and I didn’t consciously do any choosing whatsoever, this girl had a key to my genetic programming and my body automatically recognized her key and chose without conferring with me, and that was the end of that. Not exactly predestination. Occasionally I get to make some consequential deliberative choices, but it’s a roll of the dice every time. Free will and the Law of Unintended Consequences do not play well together. Add Murphy’s Law and you can see the problem with thinking free will is a major player in the cosmos at large.

    • The “universe” may well be physical, or at least we can infer from signals of assumed/asserted fidelity. The near-frame may well be physical. Our bodies may well be physical and subject to constraint. Our consciousness, however, cannot be discerned to originate or be expressed in this physical vessel.

    • Ian,
      “…none fooling around with anything Einstein did…”
      Nonsense. You have to take into account relativistic effects to accurately track satellites, calculate your position using GPS signals, etc. There are engineers and scientists that “fool around with” Einstein’s work on a regular basis because it’s the only way they can get the results they need. Not to put down Newton, of course, the man was a certified genius the likes of which are extremely rare in human history, but give Einstein his due.

  23. ” … Professor Webb’s team believe this is the first step towards a far larger study exploring many directions in the universe, using data coming from new instruments on the world’s largest telescopes. New technologies are now emerging to provide higher quality data, and new artificial intelligence analysis methods will help to automate measurements and carry them out more rapidly and with greater precision.”

    Besides everything else he may well have discovered a whole new cosmological mechanism with which to pay for hot dinners. You don’t see that very often. And the article made no mention of dark E or m … not seen that since 1998.

  24. From the article: “Those looking forward to a day when science’s Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.”

    I love this stuff!

    THIS is science.

  25. The fine structure constant has some another interesting properties.

    It’s also the ratio of 2 impedance’s, Zo/Zp, where Zo is the impedance of free space given as sqrt(u0/e0) and Zp is the resonant impedance of the LC equivalent circuit for a photon storing energy E=hv and given as Zp=2h/q^2. An EE might also recognize the fine structures reciprocal, Zp/Zo , as the Q of a resonant circuit whose resonant impedance is Zp and whose load impedance is Zo.

    When you equate E=hv to the energy stored in a capacitor given as q^2/2C, the C of the free space occupied by the photon is 1/a times too large, conversely, the L is 1/a times too small. Recognizing that u0 and e0 are immutable and L and C are functions of u0, e0 and the geometry, the only way to achieve the required L and C is to locally warp half of the geometry occupied by a photon by 1/a and the other half by a. The fine structure constant is now representative of a scalar matric of space-time curvature that warps the space-time occupied by a photon so that it may conform to Maxwell’s equations. Otherwise, the energy, wavelength and geometry of a photon combined with the L and C of the containing free space geometry are inconsistent with each other and do not conform to Maxwell’s equations.

    This makes the fine structure the connection between curvature (gravity) and charge and once this is understood, warp drive using specfically crafted EM fields becomes practical.

      • Actually no. It does require significant high voltage power, but nothing beyond current capabilities. A craft predicted by my hypothesis will have the EM signature of a low frequency photon while the craft ‘hides’ in the boundary between the more curved space-time and the less curved space-time characteristic of a photon.

        My hypothesis that all of existence is manifested by space-time curvature leads to a photon’s propulsion method being a manifestation of an Alcubierre Warp Drive and that’s what we need to mimic at the macroscopic scale. Any matter enclosed by the exactly flat space-time boundary between the curved and uncurved space-time becomes isolated from the space-time it’s traveling through, i.e. it becomes inertia less mass, which you can almost consider as the craft existing in its own sub-space. What makes it a bit tricky is that in a photon, this boundary is a point, and for a craft, that point needs to be stretched out into a surface that encloses it. One possibility is a superconducting skin.

        • co2, quite interesting. Is there any way to experiment w/that idea? A superconducting enclosure should be possible (but requiring extreme chilling).

          • beng135

            Yes. Producing and validating the resulting fields is easier than applying those fields as a propulsion method.

            Space-time resonates as a transmission line with a characteristic 377 ohm impedance which is what Maxwell’s equations describe as fundamental to propagating planar EM energy. I’ve discovered a second resonance impedance at 377/a (about 51K ohms), where a is the fine structure constant. This is the resonant impedance of photons based on their energy given by E=hv. Putting energy into space-time at this resonant impedance doesn’t propagate as planar EM, but builds into a standing EM wave manifesting curvature fields, i.e. photons, which propagate by freefall in a curvature field. This can be tested with a laser interferometer setup to distinguish a physical difference between planar EM and photons by detecting the predicted local changes in curvature. Note that wave/particle duality allows either to be modeled as the other, but the predicted locally curved space-time of a photon required for the 51K resonance, but not for the 377 ohm resonance, should be detectable for large wavelength photons as compared to the same wavelength planar EM wave.

  26. E=MC’2
    Speed of light being the definitive , not the variable .
    Light speed is a snail , Scotty and Capt. Kirk know that .

  27. Is there some reason to not believe that some 13 billion years ago constants may have had different forces acting on them causing different values? Good to be sceptical.

    • If you accept the expansion theory as being true, I guess this becomes the question everyone should have asked…

  28. Does anybody understand how they measured the fine structure constant? They seem to provide no description.

    • I suspect they’re measuring the relative relationships in the fine structure of the line spectra for Hydrogen. Since the fine structure constant shows up in quantifying the energy levels in Hydrogen, a different fine structure constant will result in differently spaced lines.

      • Most likely. However, they were “looking at some of the most distant quasars” – or, equivalently, some of the most powerful quasars. Four measurements total, of most extreme environments. Too weak a foundation for far-reaching proposals. It feels like asking for more grants.

  29. “Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions,” he says.

    Wouldn’t we only expect that to be true if Earth were smack dab in the center of the universe?
    Surely the odds against that must be… astronomical?

    • Nick,

      Technically, all places in the Universe appear from their location to be in its center and relatively speaking, they are. This is because we don’t actually see the Universe, and what we observe are slices of it’s Electromagnetic history. Everywhere in the now Universe is at the end of current history and in each speed of light limited viewport, the past extends radially away as each observation point will concurrently view a different slice of the Universes Electromagnetic history. All possible viewports appear to be centered in a sphere of time which is actually a spherical projection of a 4-d space-time manifold, where the radius of the projection is time.

      • or not.
        All pretended “symmetries” are idealizations.
        They may hold on small scales.
        They never hold on cosmological scales.
        Don’t be an idealist.
        You’d be de-illusioned once.

    • Booming voice with shaking/closed fist — “You don’t know the powwweeer of the dark flow.”

  30. ““So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, you’re studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets.””

    Discovering you are wrong about a long believed constant and still parrot the same old crap about pretending to even have a remove idea of how old the universe is, or how large it is.

    Press releases from 20 years ago, are scientific facts today, ugh Science was taken over by institutions and since around the 1970s has been on a steady decline.

    • Mark- Helsinki. It comes from fatigue that not a lot of anything fundamental has been discovered in about a century. Dark matter, dark energy, strings and things are the product of this idleness. Lord Kelvin wasn’t very far out in is thought that all that remained for science was “cleaning up” the odd controversy, and refinements. Einstein followed, of course, and K was criticized because of this quick ‘refutation’ however Kelvin would have been pretty much right on if he had waited 7 to 10 years.

      At the end of the nineteenth century it was said that a bright person could easily read the entire scientific literature from Biology to Physics, Chemistry, medicine and the rest. What a delicious thought; what a nutritious thought.

      The number of papers now is about 50 million! So much chaff and small potatoes. Most of this is after the first couple of decades of the twentieth century!

      A study by pharma reseach company Amgen looking to gear up for new drug development selected 53 breakthrough cancer treatment studies and found only 6 could be replicated. Recent studies of climate topics found egregiously poor research design (ocean biology research, in particular – marinating creatures in strong acids was common), improper statistical methods, data selection biases, unsupported conclusions drawn.

      https://duncan.hull.name/2010/07/15/fifty-million/

      https://www.salon.com/2013/09/01/is_cancer_research_facing_a_crisis/

      I better not add more links, Mods treat me fairly severely even with no links. But think of how research is hampered with a largely worthless tonnage of papers to sift through by postmodern, mostly under educated practioners that flooded into universities over the 30yrs+ or so of university, diversity perversity instead of simple merit.

  31. >>
    “It’s a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Planck’s constant and the electron charge, and it’s a ratio of those things. . . .”
    <<

    Something called Planck’s constant? How about just Planck’s constant?

    Dr. Leon Lederman on page 147 of his book, “The God Particle” tells this story about Planck:

    Once, when he (Max Planck) forgot which room he was supposed to lecture in, he stopped by the department office and asked, “Please tell me in which room does Professor Planck lecture today?” He was told sternly, “Don’t go there, young fellow. You are much too young to understand the lectures of our learned Professor Planck.”

    Jim

  32. Looking at a single paradox that goes nowhere is boring.

    Also this calculation and subject is complicate which makes it difficult to explain to a general audience.

    Astronomy is chock full of very simple physical in your face paradoxes and dead science. Astronomy also has a hard paradox.

    Astronomy is what happens when the first guess is incorrect and then we math up and have 40 years of fun creating new physics to keep the dead theory going. Eventually there are so many paradox that Forest Gump would find the ‘solution’.

    An example of a simple in your face paradox, in the Big Bang theory,….

    Is the fact the Big Bang theory cannot provide a physical explain as to why Quasars which we assume are separated by billions of light years, can line up.

    There must be something physical that is causing the quasars and the spiral galaxies’ axises to line up.

    And the quasars must be close together not billion of light years in separation to enable the force to cause the alignment. There is no force that reach across billion of light years and cause the quasars and galaxies to axises to line up.

    http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1438/
    Spooky Alignment of Quasars Across Billions of Light-years

    “The first odd thing we noticed was that some of the quasars’ rotation axes were aligned with each other — despite the fact that these quasars are separated by billions of light-years,” said Hutsemékers.

    The team then went further and looked to see if the rotation axes were linked, not just to each other, but also to the structure of the Universe on large scales at that time.

    When astronomers look at the distribution of galaxies on scales of billions of light-years they find that they are not evenly distributed.

    They form a cosmic web of filaments and clumps around huge voids where galaxies are scarce. This intriguing and beautiful arrangement of material is known as large-scale structure.

    This is another paradox. There is evidence of cold gas that appears to have been created by the quasar which is the only explanation as to how 19 quasars all have cold gas near them.

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1409.6098v1.pdf

    Giant glowing halos discovered around distant quasars

    (Of cold gas that is close to the quasars which should be possible to occur.)

    ‘Cosmic’ Microwave Background Paradoxes

    The signal which was hypothesized to be the ‘cosmic’ record of the ‘big’ bang should be isotropic, if the big bang happened.

    What we found was the ‘C’MB signal had a large cold spot and an axis of evil.

    The ‘axis’ of evil in the ‘CMB’ signal are anomalies that all line up with an axis that lines up with our galaxy.

    In addition, to the called large angle paradoxes, we the microwave signal was 30 times too smooth, based on the Big Bang predictions for small angle variation.

    Comment: If the Big Bang happened, too smooth a ‘C’MB would theoretically imply that matter would be too evenly distributed and there would be no galaxies. Lay people have no idea that half of the ‘cosmic’ microwave background signal is filtered out and these isotopic anomalies should have killed theory or at least put the theory in crisis.

    The 30 times too smooth problem required the creation of the scalar expansion of the universe at 100,000 times faster than the speed of light which astronomers call ‘Inflation’.

    ‘Inflation’ is some new ‘physics’ that scalar expands space at 100,000 times faster than the speed of light and then instantly stops this super expansion and continues to expand at the normal rate universe expansion rate.

    This special new Inflation physics expands space independent of the distribution of matter in the space. There is not more or less expansion where there are clumps of gas that will form galaxies.

    The fundamental theoretical problem with the Inflation Theory is:

    If ‘Inflation’ occurred once it saves the big bang theory. Theoretically if it occurred once there is sufficient quantum cyclic change for it to have happened again. If it happened again our universe would not exist.

    The solution to inflation occurring again is called ‘fine’ tuning.

    The justification for the fine tuning is the anthropogenic principal…. which assumes there are infinite universes and all of them are dead except the lucky few which are ‘fine’ tuned.

  33. “It’s a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Planck’s constant and the electron charge, and it’s a ratio of those things. And it’s the number that physicists use to measure the strength of the electromagnetic force.”

    I’m not sure what to make of a “Science Professor” who refers to “something called Planck’s constant” and who thinks a ratio comprised of km/s, m^2 kg / s, and coulombs would be “dimensionless.”

    • Maybe this universe has a quantum entanglement with another universe out there somewhere. One is the mirror opposite of this one, just waiting for an observer to pop it all into existence.

  34. Paul Penrose writes that I should give Einstein his due. Fair enough, but Albert’s due is considerably less than most people think it is. Albert Einstein is the third most overrated human being of the Twentieth Century. (The first is Bob Dylan and the second is Joe Namath.)

    I don’t know nothin’ about the relativistic effects involved in designing satellite systems, Paul, but there is no Einstein relativity involved in civil or mechanical engineering. There may be a little in the design of transistors, but I doubt it. Einstein’s theories just don’t have much in the way of practical value.

    As a side note of some interest, a good choice for the man with the most advanced intellect of the Twentieth Century is John von Neumann., who was the lead mathematician at Los Alamos, and one of the founding fathers of modern electronic computers. His Wikipedia page is a very good read. von Neumann was to scientific geniuses as Secretariat was to race horses.

    • The Relativistic correction to the atomic wave function i necessary to explain heavy atom states. That has practical application, certainly in explaining the reaction chemistry of molybdenum enzymes, and heavy metal catalysts. Probably also in theories of lanthanide high TC superconductors.


      wiki’s take
      .

    • I don’t know nothin’ about the relativistic effects involved in designing satellite systems

      Ian, the precise timing of satellite communications is vital & requires accounting of relativity to maintain its precision.

  35. Yes, well, the speed of light was amazingly discovered to not be constant a few years ago, too. It’s known as “experimental error.” Quite often mistaken for “new physics,” however. They look awfully similar.

  36. ““So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, you’re studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets.””

    Unless I misremember, quasars are supposed to be the cores of galaxies, AGN’s…

    So how could there be a quasar before there are galaxies?

    And if we’re going to propose galaxies formed AROUND quasars, what process produced such entities prior to there being the masses available to collapse?

  37. Hello RoHa . This is a primarily a Science and frequently a political blog but, since you asked, Joe Namath was the lavishly rewarded beneficiary of the fixing of Super Bowl III. You didn’t ask, but Bob Dylan is an American songwriter who wrote some good songs for Peter Paul and Mary in the sixties. Many of his lyrics are practical jokes on his listeners, as they don’t actually mean anything, although they sound profound. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    Albert Einstein really did radically advance our understanding of how the universe operates. He just didn’t change the quality of our lives in any great way, unlike, say, William Shockley, who led the invention of the transistor.

    • He just didn’t change the quality of our lives in any great way

      Einstein’s relativity enables our satellite communications.

  38. Okay, you’ve got me there, beng. But relativistic effects are applicable only to systems requiring extreme accuracy. The moon landing, for example, did not require an application of relativistic effects. It is a simple thing to compile a list of a hundred scientific advances that had a greater effect on human prosperity than the Theories of Relativity. People believe that Relativity is so important because Albert Einstein had really good press, and because his discoveries were so startling. (Clocks run at different times if they’re in motion relative to each other? Wow.)

    I realize that I’m drifting way off the topic here, but who was the single most influential human being of the Twentieth Century? Well, it wasn’t Einstein, although so many people think it was. Walt Disney had more real influence over more people than Einstein. My own vote for most influential human, incidentally, is Josef Stalin. Unfortunately.

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