Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Speed of Light and Other Oddities

Foxnews reports on work by astronomer Michael Murphy, who argues that astronomical constants which were theorized by Albert Einstein may not be as constant as was once thought. In somewhat dense prose, the story relates the following:

The speed of light, for instance, might be measured one day with a ruler and a clock. If the next day the same measurement gave a different answer, no one would be able to tell just from the data if it was the speed of light, the ruler's length or the clock's rate of ticking that had changed.

To avoid this confusion, scientists use dimensionless constants — pure numbers that are ratios of measured quantities. In the case of the shifts in Murphy's data, the relevant dimensionless constant is the fine structure constant (often designated by the Greek letter alpha), which characterizes the strength of the electromagnetic force.

Interesting. There are detractors, however. Read the whole thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment