The fine-structured constant, long thought to be a constant, may not be constant. Scientists from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, re-affirmed past studies that found slight variations in the fine-structured constant.
What is fine-structure constant?
Fine-structured constant, also known as Sommerfield’s constant, is a dimensionless quantity and represents the measure of the electromagnetic force between elementary charged particles. It is commonly denoted by ? with an approximate numeric value of 1/137. Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental forces of nature, including gravity, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force.
Electromagnetic force, or simply electromagnetism, keeps the electrons in orbit around the nucleus of the atom. Without electromagnetic forces, charged elementary particles would break apart from the atoms, and the matter will disintegrate. This force was assumed to be a constant across the Universe irrespective of space and time.
According to science professor John Webb from UNSW, over the past two decades, they have observed anomalies in the fine-structured constant. The electromagnetic force is different in some areas of the Universe. The difference is in both as a function of time and direction of the Universe. Fours measurements of light emitted from a quasar some 13 billion light-years away confirmed the slight variations in the fine-structured constant. Their observations are recorded in the paper published in Science Advances.
The latest data shows that the Universe may have previous north and south bearings. This is a definitive direction upon which these variations can be measured, but not in perpendicular direction. However, this data requires further testing and verification. The directionality idea is backed by scientists in the US, who have been working with X-rays.
According to Professor Webb, our standard model of cosmology is based on the isotropic Universe, one that is statistically the same in all directions. The standard model of the Universe is built on Einstein’s theory of gravity, which explicitly assumes the forces of nature to be constant. If these turned out to be an approximation, it opens up exciting ideas of physics.
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