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Laws of physics may not be constant throughout the universe

Posted on Saturday, September 11 2010 @ 05:00:42 CEST by

A new study conducted by a team of international researchers from Australia and the UK provides evidence that the laws of physics may vary across the universe. The scientists observed more than 100 quasars to determine the fine-structure constant (alpha) in those areas of the universe at that time, and contrary to widely accepted belief, alpha seems to be slightly smaller in the northern hemisphere and slightly larger in the southern hemisphere. Right now, the scientists want to confirm the results with other experimental methods. If the findings are accurate, they will have profound implications for our understanding of the universe, with one intriguing possible implication being that our part of the universe may be fine-tuned for life.
One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life. One of these fundamental constants is the fine-structure constant, or alpha, which is the coupling constant for the electromagnetic force and equal to about 1/137.0359. If alpha were just 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars wouldn't be able to make carbon and oxygen, which would have made it impossible for life as we know it to exist. Now, results from a new study show that alpha seems to have varied a tiny bit in different directions of the universe billions of years ago, being slightly smaller in the northern hemisphere and slightly larger in the southern hemisphere. One intriguing possible implication is that the fine-structure constant is continuously varying in space, and seems fine-tuned for life in our neighborhood of the universe.
More details can be read at PhysOrg.



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