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  • richardmitnick 5:18 am on July 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , General Relativity, ,   

    From physicsworld.com: “New correction to speed of light could explain SN1987 neutrino burst” 

    physicsworld
    physicsworld.com

    Jul 28, 2014
    Tim Wogan

    The effect of gravity on virtual electron–positron pairs as they propagate through space could lead to a violation of [Albert]Einstein’s equivalence principle, according to calculations by James Franson at the University of Maryland. While the effect would be too tiny to be measured directly using current experimental techniques, it could explain a puzzling anomaly observed during the famous SN1987 supernova of 1987.

    sn1987
    This image shows the remnant of Supernova 1987A seen in light of very different wavelengths. ALMA data (in red) shows newly formed dust in the centre of the remnant. Hubble (in green) and Chandra (in blue) data show the expanding shock wave. (ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/A. Angelich. Visible light image: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. X-Ray image: The NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

    In modern theoretical physics, three of the four fundamental forces – electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force – are described by quantum mechanics. The fourth force, gravity, does not currently have a quantum formulation and is best described by [Albert] Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Reconciling relativity with quantum mechanics is therefore an important and active area of physics.

    An open question for theoretical physicists is how gravity acts on a quantum object such as a photon. Astronomical observations have shown repeatedly that light is attracted by a gravitational field. Traditionally, this is described using general relativity: the gravitational field bends space–time, and the light is slowed down (and slightly deflected) as it passes through the curved region. In quantum electrodynamics, a photon propagating through space can occasionally annihilate with itself, creating a virtual electron–positron pair. Soon after, the electron and positron recombine to recreate the photon. If they are in a gravitational potential then, for the short time they exist as massive particles, they feel the effect of gravity. When they recombine, they will create a photon with an energy that is shifted slightly and that travels slightly slower than if there was no gravitational potential.

    Irreconcilable differences

    Franson scrutinized these two explanations for why light slows down as it passes through a gravitational potential. He decided to calculate how much the light should slow down according to each theory, anticipating that he would get the same answer. However, he was in for a surprise: the predicted changes in the speed of light do not match, and the discrepancy has some very strange consequences.

    Franson calculated that, treating light as a quantum object, the change in a photon’s velocity depends not on the strength of the gravitational field, but on the gravitational potential itself. However, this leads to a violation of Einstein’s equivalence principle – that gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable – because, in a gravitational field, the gravitational potential is created along with mass, whereas in a frame of reference accelerating in free fall, it is not. Therefore, one could distinguish gravity from acceleration by whether a photon slows down or not when it undergoes particle–antiparticle creation.

    An important example is a photon and a neutrino propagating in parallel through space. A neutrino cannot annihilate to create an electron–positron pair, so the photon will slow down more than the neutrino as they pass through a gravitational field, potentially letting the neutrino travel faster than light through that region of space. However, if the problem is viewed in a frame of reference falling freely into the gravitational field, neither the photon nor the neutrino slows down at all, so the photon continues to travel faster than the neutrino.

    Two neutrino pulses?

    While the idea that the laws of physics can be dependent on one’s frame of reference seems nonsensical, it could explain an anomaly in the 1987 observation of supernova SN1987a. An initial pulse of neutrinos was detected 7.7 hours before the first light from SN1987a reached Earth. This was followed by a second pulse of neutrinos, which arrived about three hours before the supernova light. Supernovae are expected to emit large numbers of neutrinos and the three-hour gap between the second burst of neutrinos and the arrival of the light agrees with the current theory of how a star collapses to create a supernova.

    The first pulse of neutrinos is generally thought to be unrelated to the supernova. However, the probability of such a coincidence is statistically unlikely. If Franson’s results are correct, then the 7.7-hour gap between the first pulse of neutrinos and the arrival of the light could be explained by the gravitational potential of the Milky Way slowing down the light. This does not explain why two neutrino pulses preceded the light, but Franson suggests the second pulse could be related to a two-step collapse of the star.
    Scepticism needed

    Nevertheless Franson is cautious, insisting that “there are very serious reasons to be sceptical about this and the paper doesn’t claim that it’s a real effect, only that it’s a possibility.” He is also pessimistic about the prospects for the idea being proven or refuted in the near future, saying that the chances of another supernova so close are very low, and other possible tests do not presently have sufficient accuracy to detect the effect.

    Raymond Chiao of the University of California, Merced, agrees with Franson that, observationally and experimentally, “there are a lot of caveats that need to be clarified,” most notably, that if Franson’s hypothetical interpretation of SN1987a is correct, there are two clear neutrino pulses separated by five hours, but little evidence of two corresponding pulses of light. Nevertheless, he says “There is a deep seated conceptual tension between general relativity and quantum mechanics…If, in fact, Franson is right, that is a huge, huge step in my opinion: it’s the tip of the iceberg element that quantum mechanics is correct and that general relativity must be wrong.”

    The research is published in the New Journal of Physics.

    See the full article here.

    PhysicsWorld is a publication of the Institute of Physics. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.

    We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.
    IOP Institute of Physics


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  • richardmitnick 1:20 pm on March 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , General Relativity, ,   

    From Fermilab: “Proving special relativity: episode 1″ 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    Fermilab Don Lincoln
    This article was written by Dr Don Lincoln

    In 1905, Albert Einstein wrote four seminal papers.

    ae
    Albert Einstein, PhD, Nobel Laureate

    The most famous was his theory of special relativity, which describes how an object behaves as its speed increases. It predicts the most mind-bending things: Time slows down as speed goes up. Increasing speed also causes the length of an object to shrink. And, according to some science popularizations, an object’s mass increases as its velocity approaches the speed of light. (This statement is both kinda-sorta right and terribly wrong — we’ll get to that in a future column.) Perhaps its best-known prediction is that no object with mass can go faster than light. This last statement is especially disappointing, as it puts the kibosh on mankind’s dreams of zipping around the galaxy and exploring nearby stars.

    These predictions are all counterintuitive; we never see these behaviors in our everyday lives. If you’re in a high-speed jet fighter, the length of objects doesn’t shrink, objects themselves don’t get heavier, and time seems to march along at its familiar pace.

    The fact that Einstein’s predictions and common sense disagree prompts a subset of science enthusiasts to react against the theory of relativity. Science bulletin boards are full of relativity deniers, some holding firmly to the ideas of the 1800s and others espousing ideas that are alternatives to special relativity.

    Part of the gap between ordinary experience and Einstein’s predictions originates in the velocities involved. Until you get to really fast speeds, special relativity is numerically indistinguishable from the classical physics you learn in a high school or freshman college class. In fact, the difference in physics between the two approaches is less than one percent until you get to a speed of 18,600 miles per second. That’s about fast enough to get from Chicago to Honolulu in a second, and not even going the short way — that’s going via London. Given that an M-16 rifle bullet barrels through the air at about half a mile per second and that the fastest projectile ever fired moves at about 10 miles per second, it is not surprising that our intuition doesn’t accurately predict the behavior of matter under these super-high speeds.

    Over the next three columns, we’ll talk about relativity with an emphasis on how particle and accelerator physics demonstrates without any doubt that Einstein’s ideas are correct. While you’ll have to wait for subsequent columns to learn about some detailed evidence, I can tease you with a compelling demonstration of why scientists don’t use classical physics when they design accelerators.

    Let us use the venerable Fermilab Tevatron as our example. This accelerator was a ring 3.9 miles in circumference. According to relativity, the protons in the accelerator moved at 99.99995 percent the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second.

    Given these figures, relativity predicts that the protons will circle the ring about 48,000 times a second. In contrast, classical physics predicts that the velocity of protons in the Tevatron is about 46 times faster than light and therefore that a proton will orbit the ring about 2,220,000 times a second. Fermilab accelerator scientists observed the expected 48,000 times a second. Score one for relativity.

    In the next column, we’ll look at the energies and velocities in the various accelerators in the Fermilab complex and explore the idea of relativistic mass. Given the ability of scientists at accelerator laboratories to accelerate particles to high velocity, we are able to confront both classical and relativistic physics with real data. The message from the data is clear: Our universe obeys the laws of relativity.

    See the full article here.

    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.


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