Unique study tests fundamental laws of physics

Posted: September 6, 2017 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, Gravity, physics, research

As the Talkshop reaches the milestone of 5 million visits, do we hear echoes of Scotty of Star Trek fame: ‘Ye cannae change the laws of physics’? Does fundamental mean universal – or could some ‘laws’ depend on where you look in the universe? Meanwhile Tallbloke is boldly going…somewhere… 😎

A study that will ‘test our understanding of how the Universe works, particularly outside the relatively narrow confines of our planet’ is being undertaken by an international team of researchers led by the University of Leicester, reports Phys.org.

The research probes whether the fundamental laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe.

In their new study, the Leicester-led team assesses whether these laws are the same within the hot, dense conditions in the atmosphere of a dying white dwarf star as here on Earth.

These stars have masses around half that of the Sun compressed into a radius similar to that of the Earth, leading to extreme gravity within the atmosphere of the star.

The preliminary analysis, led by the research group of Professor Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor; Strategic Science Projects Director, Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation; Professor of Astrophysics & Space Science, Department of Physics & Astronomy, features on the cover of the online journal Universe.

Postdoctoral researcher Matthew Bainbridge is the lead author of the early-stage study titled “Probing the Gravitational Dependence of the Fine-Structure Constant from Observations of White Dwarf Stars.” The study involved Matthew Bainbridge, Martin Barstow and Nicole Reindl from Leicester along with colleagues from the U.S., France, The Netherlands, Australia and collaborators in the U.K.

The researchers use the light of white dwarf stars observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr Nicole Reindl, leading the observations, says: “These particular stars contain metals, such as Iron and Nickel, floating within the surface layers of their atmospheres. The light generated within the depths of the star passes through the heavy metals, leaving behind a “fingerprint” in the stars’ light that we can study.”

Continued here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    ‘As the Talkshop reaches the milestone of 5 million visits’ – barring disasters unknown 😃

    Update: 5,000,013 visits at 17:13 – thanks for visiting.

  2. Of course, those white dwarves are only hot due to GHGs rather than the high mass of the constituent gases (sarc).

  3. Curious George says:

    This looks like a badly formulated press release. Astronomy is built upon studies of star spectra. “We have established a sophisticated new method” – and that’s all.

  4. Ned Nikolov says:

    They have a hard time understanding physical laws here on Earth. What’s the hope for adequately studying such laws on objects that are light-years away from us?

  5. Ned Nikolov says:

    Do we even know how stars operate in general? There is evidence that the Sun could not be getting its energy through thermonuclear fusion as currently believed …

  6. p.g.sharrow says:

    Captain! You cannia change the laws of physics!

    But you may gain a better understanding of how those laws work……….K.I.S.S.

    GOD is not a mathematician. This is applied science. This is a study of things that work! Mathematics is a tool for our own understanding, not THE SOLUTION. ….pg

  7. tom0mason says:

    The laws that govern the universe that we perceive are as they are.
    It is we humans’ and are inability to accurately sense, measure, and our failings to understand them which are the limiting factors.

    For instance within the local space that those three bodies occupy space/time is probably being warped in ways we barely understand. From our reference frame at our location we perceive what we believe is gravity from the cluster. But as we are so very remote from these objects we can only make conjectures about what is really happening.

  8. The Badger says:

    It’s quite obvious that the fundamental laws of physics are different in different places. For example you can put an unmanned telescope into orbit and get fantastic pictures of the stars. However when you look out of the windows of the ISS (wherever it is in orbit, even on the “dark” side) you can only see blackness and no stars.


  9. Ok, I’ll play by applying some basic physics.
    At the time of the big bang all energy was kinetic energy and registered as heat.
    As the initial fireball expanded against its own force of gravity the further material was ejected from the centre of gravity the more the energy content of that material was converted from kinetic energy to potential energy which does not register as heat.
    The universe thus cooled as it expanded but every particle of matter retained its initial energy content albeit substantially converted to potential energy.
    As long as expansion continues there will be a constant average net conversion of kinetic to potential and cooling will continue.
    If contraction begins then the opposite will happen.
    Currently the universe is on average down to 3K above absolute zero.
    The matter in the universe is not evenly distributed. There are clumps of solid matter and gas clouds large enough to develop their own gravitational fields.
    When local gravitational fields develop then the average distance between particles of matter decreases which is a localised partial contraction back towards the initial big bang so that PE is reconverted to KE and the matter heats up.
    The same principle applies but on a much reduced scale when matter in a convecting atmosphere moves up and down within a planet’s gravitational field.
    The KE released from PE on the descent phase is what raises the temperature planetary surface above the S-B prediction.
    The KE/PE and PE/KE conversion process is NOT simply a product of up and down motion. Instead it is a function of the varying distance between individual molecules. That is why it is significant on the small scale for gases which are highly compressible but not significant on the small scale for solids which are barely compressible at all within the range of pressures found in an atmosphere.
    That is the explanation for the Gas Laws.
    I have understood that to be ‘normal’ physics for many decades past.

  10. p.g.sharrow says:

    Stephen; the “Big Bang” is a theory. Useful as an explanation for some observations but not necessarily as a fact. Change the point of observation or logic and it falls apart.

    Now the gas pressure laws seen to be solid facts. I can build useful things based on them as they seem to be unchanging. They work on both atomic scales as well as stellar ones….pg .

  11. pgs,

    The Big Bang is merely an extrapolation into the past of the fact that the universe is observed to be expanding. That does not invalidate the point I made.
    That expansion appears to hold true everywhere except for localised variations where matter is clumping together under its own gravity.
    The creation of heat from potential energy and vice versa does indeed work on both atomic and stellar scales, that is the whole point. All one needs is expansion or contraction.
    Expand an atmosphere above a planetary surface and the thermal effect of that atmosphere will fall. Contract an atmosphere above a planetary surface and the thermal effect of that atmosphere will rise,
    Gravity and pressure from the weight of mass are all one needs due to the interchangeability of KE and PE in our expanding universe.
    Too many get hung up on the idea that the switch between KE and PE only involves the force needed to raise or lower mass in the vertical plane. That is indeed miniscule. What actually matters is contraction or expansion in three dimensions. For solids that is still miniscule on the planetary scale (you need the stellar scale for the effect to be observable though gas giants like Jupiter show it which is why Jupiter is said to be part way to being a star)) but for gases, due to their greater compressibility, it is enough to be observable by us on the planetary scale.
    That long standing concept fits the observations and work of Ned Nikolov and others perfectly which is why I do not see their work as original but rather the recovery of old knowledge.

  12. The essence of it is that contentious issue of the nature of gravity. Whatever it is it causes matter to move together into clumps even where the background of space is expanding.
    As particles in space move apart they vibrate less and heat is simply an observed by product of particle vibration. Less vibration is colder and more vibration is hotter. No one knows why particles vibrate more as they move closer together with a consequent increase in temperature but that is what is observed and the Gas Laws describe it where gases are involved. It also applies to solids but in day to day applications on a planetary scale not enough to be significant for us which is why we reserve the Gas Laws for gases alone.
    On the stellar scale one can apply the Gas Laws to the behaviour of solids as well.

  13. tom0mason says:

    If the ‘Big Bang’ (aka the start of time) was the start of it all then all matter started there.
    If this is so then the very huge amount of gravity in one spot would bend light as space-time was warped around this event. As time and space expands the matter became more diffuse throughout the universe. This universe can be looked at from two points of view —
    1. Space is expanding.
    2. The rate of time passing is slowing.
    Or maybe a bit of both. When we can prove that the procession of time is at a defined rate then we can say more about the universe about us. That is to say is space-time a constant and if so as space expands does time’s rate of passing slow? As we are within this paradigm we can not ‘see’ outside space-time point of view.
    The reluctance of matter to move from it’s point in space-time is what gives rise to gravity as the universe expands, a sort of space-time friction (if you will).

  14. oldbrew says:

    If space is expanding, what is it expanding into?

  15. p.g.sharrow says:

    As far as I know the expansion of the Universe is inferred based on assumptions of the nature of light travel through space. If those assumptions are wrong then the theory that is based on them is also wrong.
    This would not be the first that a much accepted theory is bunk because of poorly thought out assumptions…pg.

  16. oldbrew says:

    The research probes whether the fundamental laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe.

    First you need to say what you think they are 😉

    Spiral galaxies – call it self-similarity perhaps…

    Now [2014], for the the first time, researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe. [bold added]

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-violent-disc-galaxies-probed-alma.html

    ‘surprising result’ – because they had predicted elliptical galaxies from mergers.

    See also comment below: September 8, 2017 at 6:41 pm
    ‘Re Saturn’s rings and spiral galaxies…’

  17. Paul Vaughan says:

    “This would not be the first that a much accepted theory is bunk because of poorly thought out assumptions…pg.”

    False assumptions murdered the climate discussion.

    The false uniformity assumption was so hard-wired into the discussion director’s mind that his agents were never allowed to be realistic.

    They were told, “Get in there and make it look like you’re talking rationally about physics.”

    They never learned. Observations killed their agenda.

    They made a joke of “physics”. Without exception agents employed to police on “physics” in climate discussion pushed arguments based on false assumptions. Every second word that came out of their mouths was “physics”. “Physics” this, “physics” that.

    “Physics” and false assumptions became synonymous in climate discussion. “Laws of Physics” was transparently a brute’s beating stick for rule by Law of False Assumptions.

    The director was a social intimidation freak and his agents based their failure on a uniform flat disk.

  18. oldbrew says:

    Re Saturn’s rings and spiral galaxies…

    An image taken with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera in June has been revealed by Nasa, which shows the intricate wave structure of Saturn’s rings (pictured main). Spiral density waves result from the same process that creates spiral galaxies, but are much more tightly wound. In this case, every second wave crest is actually the same spiral arm which has encircled Saturn multiple times. The image comes just days before Cassini begins it last orbit on September 9, with the craft finally ending its historic 13-year mission six days later with a dive directly into Saturn’s atmosphere (pictured inset). [bold added]


  19. tom0mason says:

    With reference to what I wrote above, always keep in mind —

    “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

    ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    Now was the last hour precisely as long as the preceding hour, or even an hour 100 or a million years ago? Assuming we are all stuck in the same reference time frame, if it was proceeding at a constant rate (or not ) how can it be proved to be so?