Headline July 30, 2015/ ''' GOD'S UNIVERSE '''


IN GOD'S UNIVERSE, -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless, beautifully called !WOW! -is the exclusive ownership of:

Every single student in the world. One Share-piece-peace. With that, and that, most lovingly and respectfully this  ''operational research''  is dedicated to every single student in the world. But many times over to:

Mariam, Rabo, Dee, Ali, Ehsan, Aqsa, Shazaib Khan, Eman, Mustafa, Faizan, Salar Khan, Umer Khan, Qasim Khan, Saima, Paras, Sorat, Malala [Nobel Prize], Haider, Haleema, Sarah, Nina, Ghazi,  Haanyia, Meriam, Reza, Danyial, Rahym, Maynah, Ahsen, Hamza, Toby/China, Bilal Amin, Jordan, Akmal, Hazeem, Zaeem, Armeen.   

RICHARD FEYNMAN,  Noblel laureate and physicist extraordinaire, called it a ''magic number''  and its value:

''One of the greatest damn mysteries of physics''.

The number he was referring to, which goes by the symbol alpha and the rather more long-winded name of the fine -structure constant, is magic indeed. If it were a mere 4% bigger or smaller than it is-

Stars would not be able to sustain the nuclear reactions that synthesise carbon and oxygen atoms. One consequence would be that squishy, carbon-based life would not exist.

Why alpha takes on the precise value it does, so delicately fine-tuned for life, is a deep scientific mystery. A new piece of astrophysical research may, however, have uncovered a crucial piece of puzzle.

In paper recently submitted to  Physical Review  Letters,  a team led by John Webb and Julian King from the University of New South Wales in Australia presents evidence that the fine-structure constant may not actually be constant after all.

Rather, it seems to vary from place to place within the universe. If their result holds up to scrutiny they will have profound implications  -for they suggest that the universe stretches far beyond what telescopes can observe, and that the laws of physics vary within it.

Instead of the whole universe being fine-tuned for life, then, humanity finds itself in a corner of space where,  Goldilocks-like, the values of the fundamental constants happen to be just right for it.     

Slightly belying its name, the  fine-structure constant is actually a compound of several other physical constants, whose values can be found in any physics text book.

You start with the square of an electron's charge, divide it by the speed of light and Planck's constant, then multiply the whole lot by two pi. The point of this laborious procedure is that the combination of multiplication and division produces a pure, dimensionless number.

The units units in which the original measurements were made cancel each other out and the result is   1/137,036, regardless of the measuring system you used in the first place.

Despite its convoluted origin, alpha has a real meaning. It characterizes the strengths of the force between electrically charged particles. As such, it governs -among other things-  the energy levels of the electrons in an atom.

When electrons jump between these energy levels, the absorb and emit light of particular frequencies. These frequencies show up as lines [dark for absorption; bright for emission] in a spectrum.

When many different energy levels are involved, as they are in the spectrum of a chemically mixed star, the result is fine, comb-like structure  -hence, the constant's name. If it were to take on a different value, the wavelengths of these lines would change. 

And that is what Dr Webb and Mr. King they have found. 

The light in question comes not from individual stars but  quasars. These are extremely luminous  [and distant]  galaxies whose energy output is powered by massive black holes at their centres.

As light from a quasar  travels through space, it passes through clouds of gas that imprint absorption lines onto its spectrum. 

By measuring the wavelengths of a large collection and subtracting the the effects of expansion of the universe, the team led by- Dr Webb  and  Mr King was able to measure the value of alpha in places billions of light-years away. 
Dr Webb first conducted such a study almost a decade ago, using 76 quasars observed with the Keck telescope in Hawaii. He found that, the farther he looked, the smaller Alpha seemed to be. In astronomy, of course, looking farther away means looking further back in time.

The data therefore indicated that alpha was around  0.0006%  smaller 9 billion years ago than it is  now.

That may sound trivial. But any detectable deviation from zero would mean that the laws of physics were different there  [and then]  from those that pertain in the neighbourhood of earth.

Such an important result needed verification using a different telescope, so in 2004 another group of researchers looked from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope  {VET}  in Chile.

They found no variation for any variation of Alpha. Since then, though, flaws have been discovered in that second analysis, so Dr Webb and his team set out to do their own crosscheck with a sample of 60 quasars observed by the VLT.

What they found shocked them.

The Honour and Serving of the  ''Operational Research''  continues. Thank you for reading, and see you on the following one.

With respectful dedication to all the astrophysicists in the world. See Ya all Sires, on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' Constant Variations '''

Good Night and God bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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