According to a recent investigation conducted with an impressive telescope, it would appear that Albert Einstein's equivalence principle – which states that all laws of physics are constant throughout the Universe – is wrong. The data indicates that some constants may not be constant after all.
Scientists conducted the new study using the Very Large Telescope (VLT), in Chile, a facility operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The eight telescopes in the array are capable of analyzing the distant Universe in detail.
The observatory works through optical interferometry, in which light captured by four large telescopes and four small ones is combines into a single image. The resulting photo has the same amount of details as if it were taken by a telescope as large as the distance between the eight individual ones.
Utilizing this process, experts were able to analyze light coming in from distant quasars, and inferred that one of the measures they believed to be constant throughout the Universe is actually not.
This discovery supports the theory saying that our planet, the solar system and the Milky Way are located in a region of the Cosmos that is suitable for supporting the existence of life.
The theory is in direct contradiction with Einstein's equivalence principle, which holds that all natural laws and constants are the same regardless of location in the Universe, Daily Galaxy
“This finding was a real surprise to everyone,” explains researcher John Webb, who is based at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia.
He is also the lead author on a new paper detailing the findings, which was submitted for publication in an upcoming issue of the esteemed scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
The measure that was found to vary is the “magic number” known as the fine-structure constant. The changes it exhibits appear to have an orientation. This creates a preferred direction, or an axis, proving a theory that has been dismissed more than 100 years ago.
This happened as soon as Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity. Experts from the Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Cambridge also contributed to the study.
“After measuring alpha in around 300 distant galaxies, a consistency emerged: this magic number, which tells us the strength of electromagnetism, is not the same everywhere as it is here on Earth, and seems to vary continuously along a preferred axis through the Universe,” Webb says.
“The implications for our current understanding of science are profound,” he goes on to say. The expert also gives some examples of the implications the new study carries.
“If the laws of physics turn out to be merely “local by-laws”, it might be that whilst our observable part of the universe favors the existence of life and human beings, other far more distant regions may exist where different laws preclude the formation of life, at least as we know it,” he explains.
“If our results are correct, clearly we shall need new physical theories to satisfactorily describe them,” Webb concludes.