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Rolci

how constant, in fact, are "constants"?

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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.

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/story/296685/2013/11/27/research/ultra-bright-gamma-ray-burst-shakes-theories-light-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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I fail to understand the question.

Edited by Likely Guy

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

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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...

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
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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.

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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.org/wiki/Physical_constant

The invariance of the speed of light has been shown experimentally many times

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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.

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
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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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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.

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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

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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 ...

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

In summary, the problems with the idea of solar influence on decay rate are the following:

  1. 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.
  2. Almost all other experiments do not detect any variable decay rate.
  3. 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

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.

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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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

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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?
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We canot claim this with any degree of certainty

Well, we can claim this to some degree of certainty, just not 100% certainty

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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.

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

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We most certainly can and do. Where on earth do you get the idea to make that claim?

We CAN extrapolate datasets into the past, but as our datasets are very limited. Extrapolating data back 4 Billion years from maybe (at best) 150 years of observational evidence does not really make for a robust case. IMO

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Maybe some DMT can tell you?

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Maybe some DMT can tell you?

I rely on th really hard stuff! Nicotine and Caffeine :su

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We CAN extrapolate datasets into the past, but as our datasets are very limited. Extrapolating data back 4 Billion years from maybe (at best) 150 years of observational evidence does not really make for a robust case. IMO

Your thinking seems extremely muddled. We can see galaxies as they were billions of years ago, and they look pretty much the same as now. The various forces were working the same.

I have no problem with some hypothesis that the constants of nature might be different in some different cosmos, but things like gravity and electromagnetism have been what they are around these parts (meaning as far as we can see) for an awful long time.

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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.

Hehehehe I know ... but I usually like to take a peek on both sides of the divide, who am I to say who has the hegemony on the facts ... anyway its the conclusions from initially similar opinions that differs in this case ...

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.

That's the thing here ... how much of these 'facts' is reliant on principles that is almost interchangeable with 'faith' which in this particular case is 'faith' in the scientific basis of the 'unknown'

The constant of light is what it is ... 'only' what we know and understand thus far, it cannot be denied that there is still much more to 'light' that science does not know and has yet to conclude to anything that is 'exact' other than the mathematical theories, here I prefer to go conservative with Einstein's 'numbers and maths is not reality, just a reflection of reality' (paraphrased)

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. Albert Einstein, "Geometry and Experience", January 27, 1921

US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)

... as far as what science can design machines to confirm or affirm the postulations and speculations ...

I always question this faith that the universe is still there out there ... how do we know ? Because the light keeps coming from aeons of ages ago ... it might blink out in a night, a year or a hundred years and we'll have no idea or any warning ... so as of right at this moment ... all this million of billions of light years away out there, there might not even be a single star still giving out any light and it will take us at least a million of billions of years to know of it ...

Will the human race even survive to know of it much less witness it ?

~ cheers Mr Peter B

.

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Greetings, Rolci.

I wonder the very same thing sometimes.

Gravity isn't constant.

It's Bohemian.

If, in physics, that isn't profound,

metaphysically, it can be poignant.

0:-) MGby.

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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.

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.

Isn't this the same guy who thinks carbon can be turned to silicon by being struck by lightning? Pure pseudoscience at best.
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... I usually like to take a peek on both sides of the divide, who am I to say who has the hegemony on the facts ...

If you had replaced "facts" with "truth" I'd be tempted to agree with you. But you said "facts". In that case I'll go with the scientists. The number of creationists who go out collecting facts is a lot smaller than the number of scientists who go out collecting facts.

anyway its the conclusions from initially similar opinions that differs in this case ...

This is a line I've heard a few creationists use: "We agree with scientists on the evidence, we just interpret it differently." The problem is that their interpretations usually have a lot more to do with their Holy Book than the evidence they just mentioned.

That's the thing here ... how much of these 'facts' is reliant on principles that is almost interchangeable with 'faith' which in this particular case is 'faith' in the scientific basis of the 'unknown'

To my understanding the closest science comes to faith is the twin assumptions that universe behaves the same way across time and across space. This is supported by the fact I've mentioned a couple of times already - no matter where (and thus when) we look, the universe behaves the same way as it does in our vicinity. Either it's behaving the same way, or there's some confounding factor which exactly and perfectly cancels out whatever change there is over time and space. Ockham's Razor suggests the first answer is to be preferred.

The constant of light is what it is ... 'only' what we know and understand thus far, it cannot be denied that there is still much more to 'light' that science does not know and has yet to conclude to anything that is 'exact' other than the mathematical theories, here I prefer to go conservative with Einstein's 'numbers and maths is not reality, just a reflection of reality' (paraphrased)

And that's fine. But the laws we've discovered so far have worked pretty well. The laws of motion discovered by Sir Isaac Newton were good enough to send the Voyager spacecraft to the outer planets with incredible precision, even though we've known for a century that they aren't perfect.

I always question this faith that the universe is still there out there ... how do we know ? Because the light keeps coming from aeons of ages ago ... it might blink out in a night, a year or a hundred years and we'll have no idea or any warning ... so as of right at this moment ... all this million of billions of light years away out there, there might not even be a single star still giving out any light and it will take us at least a million of billions of years to know of it ...

Quite true, but hardly profound. In essence it's no different from "Last Thursdayism" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Thursdayism#Last_Thursdayism). It's just that you apply it to a future ending instead of a past creation.

For one thing, what do you gain by questioning the faith in the continuing existence of the universe? So you assume our bit of the universe may wink out of existence at some unpredictable point in the future? So what? We'll continue to be able to observe an existent universe up to the instant of our extinction, at which point we won't even realise our demise anyway. Therefore, for all our observational purposes the universe will always support the "ongoing" view - you'll never have a chance to celebrate your correctness.

For another, there are theories in physics which pretty much cover what you've described: the idea that the universe may not be in its lowest energy state, and that at some point in time and space a phase change could occur which would then propagate through the universe at the speed of light, destroying all matter as it expands.

Will the human race even survive to know of it much less witness it ?

Well, as discussed above we'd have no chance to observe it - the end arrives with the news. Could we survive long enough for it to happen to us? That's a far more interesting question: what will be the ultimate fate of humanity? I try to be optimistic, but sometimes it's hard.

~ cheers Mr Peter B

.

And to you too.

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Your thinking seems extremely muddled. We can see galaxies as they were billions of years ago, and they look pretty much the same as now. The various forces were working the same.

I have no problem with some hypothesis that the constants of nature might be different in some different cosmos, but things like gravity and electromagnetism have been what they are around these parts (meaning as far as we can see) for an awful long time.

I think we will simply have to disagree. Looking at datasets from Billions of year ago (supposedly) does not, necessarily, mean that they are valid for today, and our own immediate environment.

Yes, we can say that we understand the effects of Gravity and Electromagnetism - really very well, but we (humanity) still cannot describe the fundamental nature of whatever it is that causes said effects. We can guess, we can construct theories (as the Scientific Method prescribes), but "knowledge" is still tantalisingly close, but not yet irrefutable.

How does that translate into "extremely muddled" thinking?

p.s. for "Constants" I would think "Constraints" would be a better word, as they may only apply in our localised region

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I think we will simply have to disagree. Looking at datasets from Billions of year ago (supposedly) does not, necessarily, mean that they are valid for today, and our own immediate environment.

Yes, we can say that we understand the effects of Gravity and Electromagnetism - really very well, but we (humanity) still cannot describe the fundamental nature of whatever it is that causes said effects. We can guess, we can construct theories (as the Scientific Method prescribes), but "knowledge" is still tantalisingly close, but not yet irrefutable.

How does that translate into "extremely muddled" thinking?

p.s. for "Constants" I would think "Constraints" would be a better word, as they may only apply in our localised region

We DO look at data-sets from billions of years ago whenever we look at a distant object in space, we are looking back in time. This is a very well understood and well evidenced pillar of physics. If you are suggesting that we somehow are not looking into the past when we look far away, then your opinion just lost significant credibility in this argument.

When we look back in time, and we see stars, galaxies, light, etc. behaving in precise predictable ways according to the laws that we know govern our own immediate environment, it STRONGLY suggests that the laws have not changed from then until now.

Edited by Einsteinium
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