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how constant, in fact, are "constants"?


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#1    Rolci

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 02:37 AM

This was new information to me, it hadn't even occurred to me to question the constantness of constants, but then again we're never taught this kind of stuff in school, not even on the level of philosophical exploration or debate, let alone as fact but at least a good possibility.

I believe it could shake modern physics in its foundations if it turned out that what we consider physical "constants" are not really constants after all. Without giving any more explanation or examples here, I would simply suggest that you listen to the following 8 minutes, from 47:21 to 55:18. If you have a problem with TM please focus on the information and NOT who is presenting it. You could be reading this from any book written by any scientist or philosopher.

http://www.youtube.c...Wbjle0Tg#t=2841

For that matter, even the basic laws could exhibit slight variations across space and/or time. There are far too many unexplained events in recent astronomical observations that could be easily explained if we considered the possibility of different constants and laws at play. We are trying to fit events of endless variety across the Universe into our narrow understanding and limited perspective desperately attempting to preserve an obsolete scientific paradigm not unlike it was happening in the early years of the 20th century. We keep seeing stuff we'd never seen before almost on a weekly basis, showing us how little we know. Spectacular events for November didn't include ISON only, less known were other events like GRB 130427A.

http://news.psu.edu/...ight-production

In closing, what I'd expect to see from a progressive, open-minded science is the exact opposite of what they did in '72 - a methodical exploration of the question and the reconciliation without a doubt of whether "constants" are constants or not. Considering the implications, I do not believe this question can be viewed by any serious scientist as marginal.

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#2    Likely Guy

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 04:34 AM

I fail to understand the question.

Edited by Likely Guy, 14 December 2013 - 04:35 AM.


#3    Mikko-kun

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 07:44 AM

I fail to see how you figured out there is a question

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#4    Peter B

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 11:39 AM

A few points come to mind.

1. I'd like to see supporting evidence for the speaker's statement about changes in the measurements of the speed of light. For example, the figures supplied at http://en.wikipedia..../Speed_of_light contradict what he said. Likewise it'd be good to see evidence regarding his claims of changes of many degrees over time in the melting points of various chemical compounds, although I realise it's tricky to provide this information in audio.

2. A change of the speed of light over space and time would affect things as fundamental as how stars behave. Given that looking into the far distance automatically means looking into the distant past, if the speed of light has changed measurably over time then far distant stars would behave differently from nearby stars - it would affect things like the amount of energy produced by specific stellar fusion processes which would in turn affect what size a star would have to be in order to be able to go supernova. To my knowledge this hasn't been observed.

3. I understand that scientists are actively contemplating the possibility that some constants have changed over time - http://en.wikipedia....ucture_constant is one example. So the speaker isn't exactly going places no scientist has gone before.

4. The speaker rails against the idea of observational limits. But the fact is that it's a constraint we can't ignore. He himself ignores the fact that measurements aren't given as single figures but as ranges with confidence intervals. As long as there's overlap of ranges of different measurements we can be very confident that we've bracketed an actual constant.

A physical example provides an analogy. When the 1912 expedition of Roald Amundsen reached the vicinity of the South Pole...

Quote

For the next three days the men worked to fix the exact position of the pole; after the conflicting and disputed claims of Cook and Peary in the north, Amundsen wanted to leave unmistakable markers for Scott. After taking several sextant readings at different times of day, Bjaaland, Wisting and Hassel skied out in different directions to "box" the pole; Amundsen reasoned that at least one of them would cross the exact point. Finally the party pitched a tent, which they called Polheim, as near as possible to the actual pole as they could calculate by their observations.
(Wikipedia)

The South Pole is definitely a specific point, but the tools available to Amundsen and his men were not accurate enough to locate it. All they could do was draw a circle of perhaps 100 metres across and say it was definitely within that circle.

That doesn't mean the South Pole existed simultaneously at all points within that circle. It existed at a single point, but human technical skill was unable to say precisely where that point was.

Likwise with the constants the speaker speaks of. To my knowledge as the precision of measurement of these constants has improved, the new confidence intervals have always fallen within the older and larger confidence intervals. Having said that, I don't have a problem if someone can demonstrate I'm wrong.

Edited by Peter B, 14 December 2013 - 11:40 AM.


#5    Frank Merton

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 12:48 PM

If the main physical constants of the universe change, they don't change much since the universe has been behaving predictably for several billion years.

It is however theoretically possible since these numbers are measured and not deduced (not quite right -- some are deduced from others).  Therefore it behooves us to continue measuring them with greater and greater precision, both for its own sake and just in case some number here or there should nudge itself slightly.


#6    spacecowboy342

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 04:01 PM

As far as I'm aware there seems to be some apparent variability in the fine structure constant a, but I am unaware of variability of any others not due to uncertainty.
http://en.wikipedia....ysical_constant
The invariance of the speed of light has been shown experimentally many times


#7    Rolci

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 10:09 PM

I've just found an interesting speech by Rupert Sheldrake at the Electric Universe Conference 2013. The relevant part for this discussion starts from 19:29.

http://www.youtube.c...MBY3qEA4#t=1166

He mentions the speed of light as well as the gravitational constant, and he says there's some info on other anomalies too. We really need all the measurings of all the labs from around the world going back a few decades to look for patterns. Funny how none of that info is available.

Edited by Rolci, 26 January 2014 - 10:55 PM.

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A wealth of metaphysical readings with a surprisingly high ratio of truth content: soulwise (dot) net/index-00.htm

#8    ChrLzs

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 08:39 AM

View PostRolci, on 26 January 2014 - 10:09 PM, said:

We really need all the measurings of all the labs from around the world going back a few decades to look for patterns. Funny how none of that info is available.
'Funny'?
Which 'measurings' are you wanting, and on what basis do you make the claim 'none of that info is available'?  Sounds like something that would be said by someone unfamiliar with how to collect data.  But let me know what you are after and I'll see what I can do...

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#9    Frank Merton

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 08:45 AM

Stuff is constantly measured to whatever level of accuracy is possible with current technology, and the possibility that some fundamental constant may change is always considered.

Keep in mind though that the stars and the solar system and the universe as a whole has been behaving itself now for several billion years.


#10    keithisco

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 10:09 AM

View PostFrank Merton, on 27 January 2014 - 08:45 AM, said:

Stuff is constantly measured to whatever level of accuracy is possible with current technology, and the possibility that some fundamental constant may change is always considered.

Keep in mind though that the stars and the solar system and the universe as a whole has been behaving itself now for several billion years.
We canot claim this with any degree of certainty


#11    third_eye

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 10:09 AM

And we have but known of it for less than 250 years or so not to mention have been only observed constantly and 'proven' them for less than half the time ...

The machines that were relied on the present such 'evidence' were generalising machines founded on 'averages' on a very limited scope comparatively speaking ...



Quote

Time constant
  • From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia link

Applications and examples

Exponential decay occurs in a wide variety of situations. Most of these fall into the domain of the natural sciences.
Many decay processes that are often treated as exponential, are really only exponential so long as the sample is large and the law of large numbers holds. For small samples, a more general analysis is necessary, accounting for a Poisson process.

Exponential decay wiki link


Quote



In summary, the problems with the idea of solar influence on decay rate are the following:
  • Only some isotopes exhibit variable decay rates. According to the physics principle that causes variable decay rates, what influences some isotopes should influence all of them, not just a few. Therefore, it is an inconsistency.
  • Almost all other experiments do not detect any variable decay rate.
  • There is no known physics explanation for solar influence on nuclear decay rates; and though it does not necessarily mean the data is invalid, it does not provide an obvious reason to believe it.
  • Reasons to believe / Commentary on Variable Radioactive Decay Rates link

Quote

Stanford Report, August 23, 2010
The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements

When researchers found an unusual linkage between solar flares and the inner life of radioactive elements on Earth, it touched off a scientific detective investigation that could end up protecting the lives of space-walking astronauts and maybe rewriting some of the assumptions of physics.




Quote

October 26th, 2012
80 Years of "Scientific Fact" Wrong! Radioactive Decay Rates Not Constant?

Whoa! For those who thought that radioactive decay rates were constant and ensured “absolute” dating techniques, research by Ephraim Fischbach and Jere Jenkins of Purdue University may vibrate some nerve endings.

It appears that solar neutrinos or perhaps an unknown particle actually changes the decay rate. Over the last 6 years, seasonal fluctuations of the decay rate have been observed which correspond to the Earth’s proximity to the sun. The decay rate also appears to be affected by solar flares! This overturns 80 years of “scientific fact.”
  • discover creation link


If just one little pebble of evidence points to the contrary, does the evidences on the beach of reality falls away into a cliff ....

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#12    keithisco

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 04:17 PM

Certain "Constants" may well pertain to our 4 D world, just to make sense of it. However, there are many more dimensions out there that we are not able to perceive and in which "our" constants are nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

I particularly like the constant that is the Speed of Light in a vacuum. There is no Vacuum in this Universe, and if you accept ANY Quantum Physics theorum then the Universe is swarming with Dark Energy, so NO vacuum is possible


#13    Frank Merton

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 04:39 PM

View Postkeithisco, on 27 January 2014 - 10:09 AM, said:

We canot claim this with any degree of certainty
We most certainly can and do.  Where on earth do you get the idea to make that claim?


#14    spacecowboy342

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 03:45 AM

View Postkeithisco, on 27 January 2014 - 10:09 AM, said:

We canot claim this with any degree of certainty
Well, we can claim this to some degree of certainty, just not 100% certainty


#15    Peter B

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Posted 29 January 2014 - 11:46 AM

View Postthird_eye, on 27 January 2014 - 10:09 AM, said:

And we have but known of it for less than 250 years or so not to mention have been only observed constantly and 'proven' them for less than half the time ...

The machines that were relied on the present such 'evidence' were generalising machines founded on 'averages' on a very limited scope comparatively speaking ...

Reasons to believe / Commentary on Variable Radioactive Decay Rates link

stanford edu link

discover creation link

With the greatest of respect, I would be wary of relying on anything mentioned on the first and third links. They are to the websites of creationists, and creationists have a history of misrepresenting science and scientific evidence.

Quote

If just one little pebble of evidence points to the contrary, does the evidences on the beach of reality falls away into a cliff ....

Not necessarily, no. Things which are generally accepted as facts, whether events or phenomena, are generally supported by many pieces of evidence all pointing in the one direction. Pull away one piece of evidence and there is still a lot of supporting evidence. As an example, see what I said above: the speed of light is unlikely to have changed to any significant effect for a large portion of the history of the universe becase any change over time would have effects we would be able to see in distant (and therefore ancient) stars and galaxies. In other words, we don't rely only on our measurements in the present.

Edited by Peter B, 29 January 2014 - 11:46 AM.





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