Oh, Fickle Universe!
“A fundamental constant of the universe may not be so constant after all, according to a new study.
Recent observations of distant galaxies suggest that the strength of the electromagnetic force – the so-called fine-structure constant – actually varies throughout the universe. In one direction, the constant seemed to grow larger the farther astronomers looked; in another direction the constant took on smaller values with greater distance.
If confirmed, this revelation could reshape physicists’ understanding of cosmology from the ground up. It may even help solve a major conundrum: Why are all the constants of nature perfectly tuned for life to exist?
‘When you look in one direction, you cannot distinguish between variation in space and variation in time,’ co-researcher Victor Flambaum, also of the University of New South Wales, told SPACE.com. ‘Now there is nearly complete coverage of the sky. The conclusion is: It’s a variation in space, not in time.’ ”