Nature’s laws may vary across sky!

Nature’s laws may vary across sky!

We have uncovered possible evidence for variations in one of nature’s fundamental ‘constants’ across the sky and possibly throughout the universe. Physical Review Letters has just published our findings (2011/10/31), which combine 154 new measurements of the ‘fine-structure constant’ – effectively, the strength of electromagnetism – from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile with 141 previous measurements we’d made on the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. Together, these measurements are spread over a wide area across the sky, giving us the greatest sensitivity so far to search for possible spatial variations in nature’s physical laws. These new results are the culmination of about 7 years of work with John Webb,  Julian KingVictor Flambaum and others at the University of New South Wales.

The paper details are:
Webb J.K., King J.A., Murphy M.T., Flambaum V.V., Carswell R.F., Bainbridge M.B.,
Indications of a Spatial Variation of the Fine Structure Constant,
2011, Phys. Rev. Lett., 107, 191101, arXiv:1008.3907.

Check out the media releases from the University of New South Wales and Swinburne University of Technology media releases for a quick overview of the news. For a layman’s description of these results, see my page, ‘Are Nature’s Laws Really Universal?‘. See also John Webb’s article in The Conversation, plus his  webpage with a Q&A and record of media activity about these results.

Images and videos explaining aspects of this work and accompanying the media release are collected here.

Some of the more prominent media activities have been:

Update (2012/02/21)

Our much more detailed paper describing these results has now been accepted to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:

King J.A., Webb J.K., Murphy M.T., Flambaum V.V., Carswell R.F., Bainbridge M.B., Wilczynska M.R., Koch F.E.,
Spatial variation in the fine-structure constant – new results from VLT/UVES,
2012, Mon. Not. Roy. Astron. Soc., 422, 3370, arXiv:1202.4758.

We can also now make available the following supplementary materials: