Monday, December 10, 2007

Physics Laws Flawed?!

Not so fast, Mister!

There is a major concern when a news report doesn't do a COMPLETE reporting and make it appear as if this is a done deal.

One of the continuing controversy and continuing area that is still being investigated is the idea that the fine structure constant might be different during the earlier time of the universe than what it is now. Most of the evidence that seems to point to such possible variation has come from astrophysical observation, whereas most of the terrestrial-based observations have placed a more stringent upper limit on possible such variation.

This news report is presenting the "rebuttal" from the J.K. Webb camp[1] of a paper by Srianand et al.[2] that contradicted their earlier report[3].

Physicists have been chasing results like these for a number of years, but since 1999, Murphy and his co-researchers have been ahead of the pack. They’ve published a series of observations from the Keck Telescope in Hawaii as further evidence of a varying fine structure constant. But, a few years ago, another research team claimed that data from a different telescope contradicted Murphy’s observations.

However, he’s been able to prove that the contradictory work itself was flawed. “We’ve shown that the way the data was analysed was faulty,” he said. “Their procedures were faulty so the numbers that came out are meaningless. Our paper points this out. When you replicate their analysis and fix their problems, you get a very very different answer indeed.”

This is fine and dandy. However, by leaving it as is, it gives a very misleading impression that this "proof" done by them is a done deal. This is false because in the same issue of PRL, Srianand et al. gave their own comment[4] against the analysis done by Murphy et al. In it, they made the argument on why they stand by their earlier results.

Regardless on who you believe, this issue isn't settled, especially considering the nature of the "evidence" and the degree of certainty. This is certainly different than the impression one gets after reading this news article. It is unfortunate that they only reported on the first comment but not on the response to that comment. Someone has not been doing his/her homework on this.


[1] M.T. Murphy et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. v.99, p.239001 (2007).
[2] R. Srianand et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. v.92, p.121302 (2004).
[3] J.K. Webb et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. v.82, p.884 (1999).
[4] R. Srianand et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. v.99, p.239002 (2007).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Lava Lamp Theory of the Universe

Why not think of Big Bangs occuring over and over, as when watching a lava lamp. The lava contracts to the heat then expands out and up, then cools and retreats back. But sometimes there is a bit of lava that does not 'get back to the center' before the next 'BIG BANG'. So that could explain some anomalies in the universe.