NASA's Next "Hubble" will Orbit at the Lagrange Point 1 Million Miles from Earth
Fate of Dwarf Galaxies Reveal a Dark Unsolved Mystery

Quasars Reveal That Laws of Nature Change Over Time

Quasars Precise measurements on the light from distant quasars suggest that the value of the fine-structure constant may have changed over the history of the universe. If the quasar results are eventually confirmed, our concepts of space and time are sure to change our fundamental understanding of the universe.

The fine-structure constant, or alpha, is the coupling constant for the electromagnetic force. If alpha were just 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars wouldn't be able to make carbon and oxygen, which would have made it impossible for life as we know it in our universe to exist.

A new study show that alpha seems to have varied a tiny bit in different directions of the universe billions of years ago, being slightly smaller in the northern hemisphere and slightly larger in the southern hemisphere. One intriguing implication is that the fine-structure constant is continuously varying in space, and seems fine-tuned for life in our neighborhood of the universe.

The physicists, John Webb from the University of New South Wales and his coauthors, used data from two telescopes to uncover the spatial dependence of the fine-structure constant. Using the north-facing Keck telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the south-facing Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile, the researchers observed more than 100 quasars, which are extremely luminous and distant galaxies that are powered by massive black holes at their centers.

By combining the data from the two telescopes that look in opposite directions, the researchers found that, 10 billion years ago, alpha seems to have been larger by about one part in 100,000 in the southern direction and smaller by one part in 100,000 in the northern direction. The data for this “dipole” model of alpha has a statistical significance of about 4.1 sigma, meaning that that there is only a one in 15,000 chance that it is a random event.

Quasars are highly luminous objects that emit light over a wide range of wavelengths, with peaks at several wavelengths due to emission by elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, silicon, carbon and iron in the gas

around the quasar. When light from the quasar passes near a galaxy on itsway to Earth, the gas around the galaxy causes a distinct pattern ofabsorption lines in the quasar spectrum. By measuring thewavelengths of the absorption lines due to heavy elementswe can determine both the redshift of the gas and the value of the fine-structure constant, alpha, at the time when the light from the quasar was absorbed. Such observations suggest that the value of alpha was slightly smaller billions of years ago.

Quasars are compact but highly luminous objects -so luminous that they can be studied in intricate detail using ground-based telescopes despite being vast distancesaway from us. We think that quasars contain blackholes at their centres and that the immense gravitational force exerted by the black hole is extremely efficient at converting matter in its vicinity into light.

Since quasars are found in all directions in the sky, they provide a powerful way of charting almost the entire universe. Some quasars are so far away that we see them as they were billions of years ago. Indeed, by observing quasars scientists can chart a continuous “universal history” that starts when the universe was only about one billion years old and continues up to the present day.

Scientists cannot study alpha with any reasonable precision using the quasars themselves.Rather,we must examine what happens when the radiation from a quasar passes through a galaxy that lies between the Earth and the quasar.The quasar emits light over a broad range of wavelengths.However, when this light passes through the gas around the galaxy,a characteristic pattern of absorption lines, or "bar code," will be superimposed on it.

The presence of an absorption line at a particular wavelength reveals that a specific element is present in the gas cloud, and the width of each line shows the quantity of the element that is present. In addition to hydrogen, which is ubiquitous in the universe, these “bar codes” reveal that the gas clouds contain a range of other elements, including magnesium, iron, zinc, silicon, aluminium and chromium.

Moreover, the bar code reveals what was happening when the light passed through the cloud, which could have happened as long ago as just one billion years after the Big Bang. Although the gas cloud would have evolved into something quite different by today, its bar code provides us with a permanent imprint of its state in the distant past – including information about the value of alpha at that time.

By comparing the bar codes found in quasar absorption spectra with the bar codes we measure for the same atoms and ions in the laboratory, Webb and team could find out if the physics responsible for the absorption of radiation by atoms has changed over the history of the universe. In other words, they can find out if alpha has changed.

Confirmation that alpha is changing would have profound implications for physics. For instance, the equivalence principle – one of the cornerstones of relativity theory– states that in freely falling reference frames, the outcome of any non-gravitational experiment is independent of when and where it is carried out. Changes in the value of alpha would constitute a violation of this principle.

The varying speed of light (VSL) theories, first proposed by John Moffat of the University of Toronto and developed in recent years by João Magueijo of Imperial College, John Barrow and others as an alternative to inflationary models in cosmology, could also lead to changes in the value of alpha in the early universe. Inflation and VSL theories attempt to explain features of the universe – such as its apparent flatness– that cannot be explained by the Big Bang theory alone.

Casey Kazan via


So - this is a real monkey wrench. It could imply that other things we hold as constant "age" as well. We've used the constant speed of light the inform our estimates of age of the universe and everything that goes along with it. However - can we prove that this constant has been - constant - throughout? What would a gradual acceleration or deceleration (constant at any time slice) "look like"? A red or blue shift? it would change computed distances... relativity... everything.

Just sayin'....

"One intriguing implication is that the fine-structure constant is continuously varying in space, and seems fine-tuned for life in our neighborhood of the universe."

And WHO, pray tell, is doing the fine tuning?

That's right, Allan. Dr. Who is keeping the fine-structure constant within tolerances to sustain life in our region of the universe. Way to go, Doctor!

Allan, you may find your answer in the Anthropic Principle. Find more info on Wikipedia, but it basically says that if an observer can observe something, then conditions must logically be such that the observer can exist. I.e. you would never be around to ask the question "Why AREN'T conditions right for me to exist?"

John, I agree with the implication that if one or more constants change, we don't really know what changed. If light appears to go faster now than in the past, is that because the meter is shorter or the second is longer? And while I only have a tenuous grasp of the concept myself, I think that's why the authors focused on the fine structure constant -- it is arrived at by multiplying several of nature's constants together to obtain a unitless number: 1/137.

In any case, we do always need to keep asking questions about what assumptions may be incorrect, especially with cosmology. So much of what we (think we) know is hanging by many thin threads of assumptions and generalizations, such as the Cosmological Principle, which presumes that we occupy a non-unique position in the universe and everything "should" look the same in all directions. What if we really are in a unique location? Many conclusions would topple.

the fine-structure constant is shaped like a BAR MAGNET that varies in strength along a north south cosmic dipole direction that aligns not with the big-bang, but with the Dark Flow, an inferred black hole 150 billion light years away! EM forces shape the universe too, and a varying alpha EM fundamental constant means that Newton's Gravitational Force and the speed of light vary in the universe, along with the changing laws of physics. All big-bang gravity and phony dark matter were invented to support the old outdated big-bang beginning 14+ billion years ago despite obvious observations of ancient evolved galaxies, spectroscopic stars, and superclusters that would require 80+ billions of years to form walls. EM forces explain the varying EM coupling constant without phony dark matter and a big-bang expansion too.

famous astronomer Arp cataloged numerous Quasars seen having connecting plasma filaments to nearby parent galaxies. Arp declared a trajedy in science, that mainstream falsely believes a foreground galaxy gravitational lenses a distant single quasar behind it, bending the light by phony dark matter galaxy Halo gravity into many quasars like the Einstein Cross gravitational lens. The bending of light is the freezing slowing of light as done by magnetic field confinement in labs seen on TV light is stopped motionless and cannot escape an inferred to exist black hole event horizon,explainable by EM Forces without phony dark matter nor actual quantum gravity black holes never found in the LHC experiments. Quasars are ejected from their nearby galaxy along the line of sight angle of the observer. Radio Galaxies, AGN, and Quasars are all the same EM Phenomena entirely dependent upon viewing angle say and admit most astronomers today. The big-bang should be discarded for an EM Universe !

that is great information. thank you for taking the time to share it.



The permanance of last 1000 yrs. of Physics can not be expected to hold in the early stage of the universe, say first billion years. physical laws, stregths of the force fields and the physical constants may have all changed in varying proportions. i have made such predictions based on available cosmological data couple of years back and it has been published. The changes in physical constants may be maniscule 10 billion years back. But these can be substantial if cosmological measurements are made on objects that are now 11 or 12 billion yeras old. i remember a website news that came about an year back that the velocity of light was significantly higher in a radiotelescope measurement done in Australia on an object that was about 12 billion years away.

Those of you interested in the fsc might enjoy seeing a new way to compute it. Go to

It's the electromagnetic and quantum physics working on the big scale. That explains the changes. We're just so small that one part "appears" to follow set physical laws.
Quantauniverse is right.

I think that it is important to understand that human knowledge about the cosmos is really still in its infancy, primarily dating back to the early 20th century with Albert Einstein's mathematically complex and elegant theories of General and Special Relativity. Out of a few hundred thousand years in the existence of homo sapiens, our conscious ability has likely varied little. Science and mathematics have increased our knowledge of this universe by exponential leaps and bounds since Rene De Cartes and Isaac Newton developed Analytic Geometry and the Calculus.

Perhaps the mathematics for describing reality has not yet been invented. Don't think for a moment that reality and knowledge cannot co-change too! From the Flat Earth to heliocentricity to the Steady State Universe to The Big Bang to acceletating spacetime to M-theory, knowledge is in constant flux. When we think we know everything, this Universewill become an very uninteresting and boring place...

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)