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  • richardmitnick 11:22 am on July 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , General Relativity, Time Travel   

    From RT: “Time-traveling photons connect general relativity to quantum mechanics” 

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    RT

    23 Jun, 2014
    No Writer Credit

    1
    Space-time structure exhibiting closed paths in space (horizontal) and time (vertical). A quantum particle travels through a wormhole back in time and returns to the same location in space and time. (Photo credit: Martin Ringbauer)

    Scientists have simulated time travel by using particles of light acting as quantum particles sent away and then brought back to their original space-time location. This is a huge step toward marrying two of the most irreconcilable theories in physics.

    Since traveling all the way to a black hole to see if an object you’re holding would bend, break or put itself back together in inexplicable ways is a bit of a trek, scientists have decided to find a point of convergence between general relativity and quantum mechanics in lab conditions, and they achieved success.

    Australian researchers from the UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics wanted to plug the holes in the discrepancies that exist between two of our most commonly accepted physics theories, which is no easy task: on the one hand, you have Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which predicts the behavior of massive objects like planets and galaxies; but on the other, you have something whose laws completely clash with Einstein’s – and that is the theory of quantum mechanics, which describes our world at the molecular level. And this is where things get interesting: we still have no concrete idea of all the principles of movement and interaction that underpin this theory.

    Natural laws of space and time simply break down there.

    The light particles used in the study are known as photons, and in this University of Queensland study, they stood in for actual quantum particles for the purpose of finding out how they behaved while moving through space and time.

    The team simulated the behavior of a single photon that travels back in time through a wormhole and meets its older self – an identical photon. “We used single photons to do this but the time-travel was simulated by using a second photon to play the part of the past incarnation of the time traveling photon,” said UQ Physics Professor Tim Ralph asquotedby The Speaker.

    The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications and gained support from the country’s key institutions on quantum physics.

    Some of the biggest examples of why the two approaches can’t be reconciled concern the so-called space-time loop. Einstein suggested that you can travel back in time and return to the starting point in space and time. This presented a problem, known commonly as the ‘grandparents paradox,’ theorized by Kurt Godel in 1949: if you were to travel back in time and prevent your grandparents from meeting, and in so doing prevent your own birth, the classical laws of physics would prevent you from being born.

    But Tim Ralph has reminded that in 1991, such situations could be avoided by harnessing quantum mechanics’ flexible laws: “The properties of quantum particles are ‘fuzzy’ or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” he said.

    There are still ways in which science hasn’t tested the meeting points between general relativity and quantum mechanics – such as when relativity is tested under extreme conditions, where its laws visibly seem to bend, just like near the event horizon of a black hole.

    But since it’s not really easy to approach one, the UQ scientists were content with testing out these points of convergence on photons.

    “Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict,” Professor Ralph said.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:31 am on July 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From NOVA: “How Time Got Its Arrow” 

    PBS NOVA

    NOVA

    15 Jul 2015

    1
    Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

    I believe in time.

    I haven’t always believed in it. Like many physicists and philosophers, I had once concluded from general relativity and quantum gravity that time is not a fundamental aspect of nature, but instead emerges from another, deeper description. Then, starting in the 1990s and accelerated by an eight year collaboration with the Brazilian philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger, I came to believe instead that time is fundamental. (How I came to this is another story.) Now, I believe that by taking time to be fundamental, we might be able to understand how general relativity and the standard model emerge from a deeper theory, why time only goes one way, and how the universe was born.

    2
    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    1
    Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker, adapted under a Creative Commons license.

    The story starts with change. Science, most broadly defined, is the systematic study of change. The world we observe and experience is constantly changing. And most of the changes we observe are irreversible. We are born, we grow, we age, we die, as do all living things. We remember the past and our actions influence the future. Spilled milk is hard to clean up; a cool drink or a hot bath tend towards room temperature. The whole world, living and non-living, is dominated by irreversible processes, as captured mathematically by the second law of thermodynamics, which holds that the entropy of a closed system usually increases and seldom decreases.

    It may come as a surprise, then, that physics regards this irreversibility as a cosmic accident. The laws of nature as we know them are all reversible when you change the direction of time. Film a process described by those laws, and then run the movie backwards: the rewound version is also allowed by the laws of physics. To be more precise, you may have to change left for right and particles for antiparticles, along with reversing the direction of time, but the standard model of particle physics predicts that the original process and its reverse are equally likely.

    The same is true of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which describes gravity and cosmology. If the whole universe were observed to run backwards in time, so that it heated up while it collapsed, rather than cooled as it expanded, that would be equally consistent with these fundamental laws, as we currently understand them.

    This leads to a fundamental question: Why, if the laws are reversible, is the universe so dominated by irreversible processes? Why does the second law of thermodynamics hold so universally?

    Gravity is one part of the answer. The second law tells us that the entropy of a closed system, which is a measure of disorder or randomness in the motions of the atoms making up that system, will most likely increase until a state of maximum disorder is reached. This state is called equilibrium. Once it is reached, the system is as mixed as possible, so all parts have the same temperature and all the elements are equally distributed.

    But on large scales, the universe is far from equilibrium. Galaxies like ours are continually forming stars, turning nuclear potential energy into heat and light, as they drive the irreversible flows of energy and materials that characterize the galactic disks. On these large scales, gravity fights the decay to equilibrium by causing matter to clump,,creating subsystems like stars and planets. This is beautifully illustrated in some recent papers by Barbour, Koslowski and Mercati.

    But this is only part of the answer to why the universe is out of equilibrium. There remains the mystery of why the universe at the big bang was not created in equilibrium to start with, for the picture of the universe given us by observations requires that the universe be created in an extremely improbable state—very far from equilibrium. Why?

    So when we say that our universe started off in a state far from equilibrium, we are saying that it started off in a state that would be very improbable, were the initial state chosen randomly from the set of all possible states. Yet we must accept this vast improbability to explain the ubiquity of irreversible processes in our world in terms of the reversible laws we know.

    In particular, the conditions present in the early universe, being far from equilibrium, are highly irreversible. Run the early universe backwards to a big crunch and they look nothing like the late universe that might be in our future.

    In 1979 Roger Penrose proposed a radical answer to the mystery of irreversibility. His proposal concerned quantum gravity, the long-searched-for unification of all the known laws, which is believed to govern the processes that created the universe in the big bang—or transformed it from whatever state it was in before the big bang.

    Penrose hypothesized that quantum gravity, as the most fundamental law, will be unlike the laws we know in that it will be irreversible. The known laws, along with their time-reversibility, emerge as approximations to quantum gravity when the universe grows large and cool and dilute, Penrose argued. But those approximate laws will act within a universe whose early conditions were set up by the more fundamental, irreversible laws. In this way the improbability of the early conditions can be explained.

    In the intervening years our knowledge of the early universe has been dramatically improved by a host of cosmological observations, but these have only deepened the mysteries we have been discussing. So a few years ago, Marina Cortes, a cosmologist from the Institute for Astronomy in Edinburgh, and I decided to revive Penrose’s suggestion in the light of all the knowledge gained since, both observationally and theoretically.

    Dr. Cortes argued that time is not only fundamental but fundamentally irreversible. She proposed that the universe is made of processes that continuously generate new events from present events. Events happen, but cannot unhappen. The reversal of an event does not erase that event, Cortes says: It is a new event, which happens after it.

    In December of 2011, Dr. Cortes began a three-month visit to Perimeter Institute, where I work, and challenged me to collaborate with her on realizing these ideas. The first result was a model we developed of a universe created by events, which we called an energetic causal set model.

    This is a version of a kind of model called a causal set model, in which the history of the universe is considered to be a discrete set of events related only by cause-and-effect. Our model was different from earlier models, though. In it, events are created by a process which maximizes their uniqueness. More precisely, the process produces a universe created by events, each of which is different from all the others. Space is not fundamental, only the events and the causal process that creates them are fundamental. But if space is not fundamental, energy is. The events each have a quantity of energy, which they gain from their predecessors and pass on to their successors. Everything else in the world emerges from these events and the energy they convey.

    We studied the model universes created by these processes and found that they generally pass through two stages of evolution. In the first stage, they are dominated by the irreversible processes that create the events, each unique. The direction of time is clear. But this gives rise to a second stage in which trails of events appear to propagate, creating emergent notions of particles. Particles emerge only when the second, approximately reversible stage is reached. These emergent particles propagate and appear to interact through emergent laws which seem reversible. In fact, we found, there are many possible models in which particles and approximately reversible laws emerge after a time from a more fundamental irreversible, particle-free system.

    This might explain how general relativity and the standard model emerged from a more fundamental theory, as Penrose hypothesized. Could we, we wondered, start with general relativity and, staying within the language of that theory, modify it to describe an irreversible theory? This would give us a framework to bridge the transition between the early, irreversible stage and the later, reversible stage.

    In a recent paper, Marina Cortes, PI postdoc Henrique Gomes and I showed one way to modify general relativity in a way that introduces a preferred direction of time, and we explored the possible consequences for the cosmology of the early universe. In particular, we showed that there were analogies of dark matter and dark energy, but which introduce a preferred direction of time, so a contracting universe is no longer the time-reverse of an expanding universe.

    To do this we had to first modify general relativity to include a physically preferred notion of time. Without that there is no notion of reversing time. Fortunately, such a modification already existed. Called shape dynamics, it had been proposed in 2011 by three young people, including Gomes. Their work was inspired by Julian Barbour, who had proposed that general relativity could be reformulated so that a relativity of size substituted for a relativity of time.

    Using the language of shape dynamics, Cortes, Gomes and I found a way to gently modify general relativity so that little is changed on the scale of stars, galaxies and planets. Nor are the predictions of general relativity regarding gravitational waves affected. But on the scale of the whole universe, and for the early universe, there are deviations where one cannot escape the consequences of a fundamental direction of time.

    Very recently I found still another way to modify the laws of general relativity to make them irreversible. General relativity incorporates effects of two fixed constants of nature, Newton’s constant, which measures the strength of the gravitational force, and the cosmological constant [usually denoted by the Greek capital letter lambda: Λ], which measures the density of energy in empty space. Usually these both are fixed constants, but I found a way they could evolve in time without destroying the beautiful harmony and consistency of the Einstein equations of general relativity.

    These developments are very recent and are far from demonstrating that the irreversibility we see around us is a reflection of a fundamental arrow of time. But they open a way to an understanding of how time got its direction that does not rely on our universe being a consequence of a cosmic accident.

    See the full article here.

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:59 am on June 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , General Relativity,   

    From NOVA: “Do We Need to Rewrite General Relativity?” 

    PBS NOVA

    NOVA

    18 Jun 2015
    Matthew Francis

    1
    A cosmological computer simulation shows dark matter density overlaid with a gas velocity field. Credit: Illustris Collaboration/Illustris Simulation

    General relativity, the theory of gravity Albert Einstein published 100 years ago, is one of the most successful theories we have. It has passed every experimental test; every observation from astronomy is consistent with its predictions. Physicists and astronomers have used the theory to understand the behavior of binary pulsars, predict the black holes we now know pepper every galaxy, and obtain deep insights into the structure of the entire universe.

    Yet most researchers think general relativity is wrong.

    To be more precise: most believe it is incomplete. After all, the other forces of nature are governed by quantum physics; gravity alone has stubbornly resisted a quantum description. Meanwhile, a small but vocal group of researchers thinks that phenomena such as dark matter are actually failures of general relativity, requiring us to look at alternative ideas.

    See the full article here.

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:05 am on March 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From phys.org: “Confirming Einstein, scientists find ‘spacetime foam’ not slowing down photons from faraway gamma-ray burst (Update)” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    Mar 16, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    This is the “South Pillar” region of the star-forming region called the Carina Nebula. Like cracking open a watermelon and finding its seeds, the infrared telescope “busted open” this murky cloud to reveal star embryos tucked inside finger-like pillars of thick dust. Credit: NASA

    One hundred years after Albert Einstein formulated the General Theory of Relativity, an international team has proposed another experimental proof. In a paper published today in Nature Physics, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Open University of Israel, Sapienza University of Rome, and University of Montpellier in France, describe a proof for one of the theory’s basic assumptions: the idea that all light particles, or photons, propagate at exactly the same speed.

    The researchers analyzed data, obtained by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, of the arrival times of photons from a distant gamma-ray burst [GRB]. The data showed that photons traveling for billions of years from the distant burst toward Earth all arrived within a fraction of a second of each other.

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    Fermi

    This finding indicates that the photons all moved at the same speed, even though different photons had different energies. This is one of the best measurements ever of the independence of the speed of light from the energy of the light particles.

    Beyond confirming the general theory of relativity, the observation rules out one of the interesting ideas concerning the unification of general relativity and quantum theory. While these two theories are the pillars of physics today, they are still inconsistent, and there is an intrinsic contradiction between the two that is partially based on Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that is at the heart of quantum theory.

    One of the attempts to reconcile the two theories is the idea of “space-time foam.” According to this concept, on a microscopic scale space is not continuous, and instead it has a foam-like structure. The size of these foam elements is so tiny that it is difficult to imagine and is at present impossible to measure directly. However light particles that are traveling within this foam will be affected by the foamy structure, and this will cause them to propagate at slightly different speeds depending on their energy.

    Yet this experiment shows otherwise. The fact that all the photons with different energies arrived with no time delay relative to each other indicates that such a foamy structure, if it exists at all, has a much smaller size than previously expected.

    “When we began our analysis, we didn’t expect to obtain such a precise measurement,” said Prof. Tsvi Piran, the Schwartzmann University Chair at the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics and a leader of the research. “This new limit is at the level expected from quantum gravity theories and can direct us how to combine quantum theory and relativity.”

    See the full article here.

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:44 pm on November 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Quanta: “Multiverse Collisions May Dot the Sky” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    November 10, 2014
    Jennifer Ouellette

    Like many of her colleagues, Hiranya Peiris, a cosmologist at University College London, once largely dismissed the notion that our universe might be only one of many in a vast multiverse. It was scientifically intriguing, she thought, but also fundamentally untestable. She preferred to focus her research on more concrete questions, like how galaxies evolve.

    Then one summer at the Aspen Center for Physics, Peiris found herself chatting with the Perimeter Institute’s Matt Johnson, who mentioned his interest in developing tools to study the idea. He suggested that they collaborate.

    At first, Peiris was skeptical. “I think as an observer that any theory, however interesting and elegant, is seriously lacking if it doesn’t have testable consequences,” she said. But Johnson convinced her that there might be a way to test the concept. If the universe that we inhabit had long ago collided with another universe, the crash would have left an imprint on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the faint afterglow from the Big Bang. And if physicists could detect such a signature, it would provide a window into the multiverse.

    Cosmic Background Radiation Planck
    Cosmic Microwave Background per ESA/Planck

    Erick Weinberg, a physicist at Columbia University, explains this multiverse by comparing it to a boiling cauldron, with the bubbles representing individual universes — isolated pockets of space-time. As the pot boils, the bubbles expand and sometimes collide. A similar process may have occurred in the first moments of the cosmos.

    In the years since their initial meeting, Peiris and Johnson have studied how a collision with another universe in the earliest moments of time would have sent something similar to a shock wave across our universe. They think they may be able to find evidence of such a collision in data from the Planck space telescope, which maps the CMB.

    The project might not work, Peiris concedes. It requires not only that we live in a multiverse but also that our universe collided with another in our primal cosmic history. But if physicists succeed, they will have the first improbable evidence of a cosmos beyond our own.

    When Bubbles Collide

    Multiverse theories were once relegated to science fiction or crackpot territory. “It sounds like you’ve gone to crazy land,” said Johnson, who holds joint appointments at the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics and York University. But scientists have come up with many versions of what a multiverse might be, some less crazy than others.

    The multiverse that Peiris and her colleagues are interested in is not the controversial “many worlds” hypothesis that was first proposed in the 1950s and holds that every quantum event spawns a separate universe. Nor is this concept of a multiverse related to the popular science-fiction trope of parallel worlds, new universes that pinch off from our space-time and become separate realms. Rather, this version arises as a consequence of inflation, a widely accepted theory of the universe’s first moments.

    Inflation holds that our universe experienced a sudden burst of rapid expansion an instant after the Big Bang, blowing up from a infinitesimally small speck to one spanning a quarter of a billion light-years in mere fractions of a second.

    Yet inflation, once started, tends to never completely stop. According to the theory, once the universe starts expanding, it will end in some places, creating regions like the universe we see all around us today. But elsewhere inflation will simply keep on going eternally into the future.

    This feature has led cosmologists to contemplate a scenario called eternal inflation. In this picture, individual regions of space stop inflating and become “bubble universes” like the one in which we live. But on larger scales, exponential expansion continues forever, and new bubble universes are continually being created. Each bubble is deemed a universe in its own right, despite being part of the same space-time, because an observer could not travel from one bubble to the next without moving faster than the speed of light. And each bubble may have its own distinct laws of physics. “If you buy eternal inflation, it predicts a multiverse,” Peiris said.

    In 2012, Peiris and Johnson teamed up with Anthony Aguirre and Max Wainwright — both physicists at the University of California, Santa Cruz — to build a simulated multiverse with only two bubbles. They studied what happened after the bubbles collided to determine what an observer would see. The team concluded that a collision of two bubble universes would appear to us as a disk on the CMB with a distinctive temperature profile.

    bubble
    Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine; source: S. M. Freeney et. al., Physical Review Letters

    An ancient collision with a bubble universe would have altered the temperature of the cosmic microwave background (left), creating a faint disk in the sky (right) that could potentially be observed.

    To guard against human error — we tend to see the patterns we want to see — they devised a set of algorithms to automatically search for these disks in data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), a space-based observatory. The program identified four potential regions with temperature fluctuations consistent with what could be a signature of a bubble collision. When data from the Planck satellite becomes available later this year, researchers should be able to improve on that earlier analysis.

    WMAP
    WMAP

    ESA Planck
    ESA/Planck

    Yet detecting convincing signatures of the multiverse is tricky. Simply knowing what an encounter might look like requires a thorough understanding of the dynamics of bubble collisions — something quite difficult to model on a computer, given the complexity of such interactions.

    When tackling a new problem, physicists typically find a good model that they already understand and adapt it by making minor tweaks they call “perturbations.” For instance, to model the trajectory of a satellite in space, a physicist might use the classical laws of motion outlined by Isaac Newton in the 17th century and then make small refinements by calculating the effects of other factors that might influence its motion, such as pressure from the solar wind. For simple systems, there should be only small discrepancies from the unperturbed model. Try to calculate the airflow patterns of a complex system like a tornado, however, and those approximations break down. Perturbations introduce sudden, very large changes to the original system instead of smaller, predictable refinements.

    Modeling bubble collisions during the inflationary period of the early universe is akin to modeling a tornado. By its very nature, inflation stretches out space-time at an exponential rate — precisely the kind of large jumps in values that make calculating the dynamics so challenging.

    “Imagine you start with a grid, but within an instant, the grid has expanded to a massive size,” Peiris said. With her collaborators, she has used techniques like adaptive mesh refinement — an iterative process of winnowing out the most relevant details in such a grid at increasingly finer scales — in her simulations of inflation to deal with the complexity. Eugene Lim, a physicist at King’s College London, has found that an unusual type of traveling wave might help simplify matters even further.

    Waves of Translation

    In August 1834, a Scottish engineer named John Scott Russell was conducting experiments along Union Canal with an eye toward improving the efficiency of the canal boats. One boat being drawn by a team of horses stopped suddenly, and Russell noted a solitary wave in the water that kept rolling forward at a constant speed without losing its shape. The behavior was unlike typical waves, which tend to flatten out or rise to a peak and topple quickly. Intrigued, Russell tracked the wave on horseback for a couple of miles before it finally dissipated in the channel waters. This was the first recorded observation of a soliton.

    Russell was so intrigued by the indomitable wave that he built a 30-foot wave tank in his garden to further study the phenomenon, noting key characteristics of what he called “the wave of translation.” Such a wave could maintain size, shape and speed over longer distances than usual. The speed depended on the wave’s size, and the width depended on the depth of the water. And if a large solitary wave overtook a smaller one, the larger, faster wave would just pass right through.

    Russell’s observations were largely dismissed by his peers because his findings seemed to contradict what was known about water wave physics at the time. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that such waves were dubbed solitons and physicists realized their usefulness in modeling problems in diverse areas such as fiber optics, biological proteins and DNA. Solitons also turn up in certain configurations of quantum field theory. Poke a quantum field and you will create an oscillation that usually dissipates outward, but configure things in just the right way and that oscillation will maintain its shape — just like Russell’s wave of translation.

    Because solitons are so stable, Lim believes they could work as a simplified toy model for the dynamics of bubble collisions in the multiverse, providing physicists with better predictions of what kinds of signatures might show up in the CMB. If his hunch is right, the expanding walls of our bubble universe are much like solitons.

    However, while it is a relatively straightforward matter to model a solitary standing wave, the dynamics become vastly more complicated and difficult to calculate when solitons collide and interact, forcing physicists to rely on computer simulations instead. In the past, researchers have used a particular class of soliton with an exact mathematical solution and tweaked that model to suit their purposes. But this approach only works if the target system under study is already quite similar to the toy model; otherwise the changes are too large to calculate.

    To get around that hurdle, Lim devised a neat trick based on a quirky feature of soliton collisions. When imagining two objects colliding, we naturally assume that the faster they are moving, the greater the impact and the more complicated the dynamics. Two cars ramming each other at high speeds, for instance, will produce scattered debris, heat, noise and other effects. The same is true for colliding solitons — at least initially. Collide two solitons very slowly, and there will be very little interaction, according to Lim. As the speed increases, the solitons interact more strongly.

    But Lim found that as the speed continues to increase, the pattern eventually reverses: The soliton interaction begins to decrease. By the time they are traveling at the speed of light, there is no interaction at all. “They just fly right past each other,” Lim said. “The faster you collide two solitons, the simpler they become.” The lack of interactions makes it easier to model the dynamics of colliding solitons, as well as colliding bubble universes with solitons as their “edges,” since the systems are roughly similar.

    According to Johnson, Lim has uncovered a very simple rule that can be applied broadly: Multiverse interactions are weak during high-speed collisions, making it easier to simulate the dynamics of those encounters. One can simply create a new model of the multiverse, use solitons as a tool to map the new model’s expected signatures onto cosmic microwave data, and rule out any theories that don’t match what researchers see. This process would help physicists identify the most viable models for the multiverse, which — while still speculative — would be consistent both with the latest observational data and with inflationary theory.

    The Multiverse’s Case for String Theory

    One reason that more physicists are taking the idea of the multiverse seriously is that certain such models could help resolve a significant challenge in string theory. One of the goals of string theory has been to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity, two separate “rule books” in physics that govern very different size scales, into a single, simple solution.

    But around 10 years ago, “the dream of string theory kind of exploded,” Johnson said — and not in a good way. Researchers began to realize that string theory doesn’t provide a unique solution. Instead, it “gives you the theory of a vast number of worlds,” Weinberg said. A common estimate — one that Weinberg thinks is conservative — is 10500 possibilities. This panoply of worlds implies that string theory can predict every possible outcome.

    The multiverse would provide a possible means of incorporating all the different worlds predicted by string theory. Each version could be realized in its own bubble universe. “Everything depends on which part of the universe you live in,” Lim said.

    Peiris acknowledges that this argument has its critics. “It can predict anything, and therefore it’s not valid,” Peiris said of the reasoning typically used to dismiss the notion of a multiverse as a tautology, rather than a true scientific theory. “But I think that’s the wrong way to think about it.” The theory of evolution, Peiris argues, also resembles a tautology in certain respects — “an organism exists because it survived” — yet it holds tremendous explanatory power. It is a simple model that requires little initial input to produce the vast diversity of species we see today.

    A multiverse model tied to eternal inflation could have the same kind of explanatory power. In this case, the bubble universes function much like speciation. Those universes that happen to have the right laws of physics will eventually “succeed” — that is, they will become home to conscious observers like ourselves. If our universe is one of many in a much larger multiverse, our existence seems less unlikely.

    Uncertain Signals

    Ultimately, however, Peiris’ initial objection still stands: Without some means of gathering experimental evidence, the multiverse hypothesis will be untestable by definition. As such, it will lurk on the fringes of respectable physics — hence the strong interest in detecting bubble collision signatures in the CMB.

    Of course, “just because these bubble collisions can leave a signature doesn’t mean they do leave a signature,” Peiris emphasized. “We need nature to be kind to us.” An observable signal could be a rare find, given how quickly space expanded during inflation. The collisions may not have been rare, but subsequent inflation “tends to dilute away the effects of the collision just like it dilutes away all other prior ‘structure’ in the early universe, leaving you with a small chance of seeing a signal in the CMB sky,” Peiris said.

    “My own feeling is you need to adjust the numbers rather finely to get it to work,” Weinberg said. The rate of formation of the bubble universes is key. If they had formed slowly, collisions would not have been possible because space would have expanded and driven the bubbles apart long before any collision could take place. Alternatively, if the bubbles had formed too quickly, they would have merged before space could expand sufficiently to form disconnected pockets. Somewhere in between is the Goldilocks rate, the “just right” rate at which the bubbles would have had to form for a collision to be possible.

    Researchers also worry about finding a false positive. Even if such a collision did happen and evidence was imprinted on the CMB, spotting the telltale pattern would not necessarily constitute evidence of a multiverse. “You can get an effect and say it will be consistent with the calculated predictions for these [bubble] collisions,” Weinberg said. “But it might well be consistent with lots of other things.” For instance, a distorted CMB might be evidence of theoretical entities called cosmic strings. These are like the cracks that form in the ice when a lake freezes over, except here the ice is the fabric of space-time. Magnetic monopoles are another hypothetical defect that could affect the CMB, as could knots or twists in space-time called textures.

    Weinberg isn’t sure it would even be possible to tell the difference between these different possibilities, especially because many models of eternal inflation exist. Without knowing the precise details of the theory, trying to make a positive identification of the multiverse would be like trying to distinguish between the composition of two meteorites that hit the roof of a house solely by the sound of the impacts, without knowing how the house is constructed and with what materials.

    Should a signature for a bubble collision be confirmed, Peiris doesn’t see a way to study another bubble universe any further because by now it would be entirely out of causal contact with ours. But it would be a stunning validation that the notion of a multiverse deserves a seat at the testable physics table.

    And should that signal turn out to be evidence for cosmic strings or magnetic monopoles instead, it would still constitute exciting new physics at the frontier of cosmology. In that respect, “the cosmic microwave background radiation is the underpinning of modern cosmology,” Peiris said. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

    See the full article, with video, here.

    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

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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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    • Sean 10:54 am on November 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      If you analyze the idea of there being absolute motion, and that this absolute motion goes on within an absolute 4 dimensional environment known as Space-Time, you soon end up independently discovering Special Relativity. You also independently create all of the SR equations. To do so, no physics education is required at all.

      You have in turn found the absolute foundation in which the Special Relativity resides.

      However, the physics community currently only accepts Special Relativity itself, thus if you expose the absolute foundation, it is therefore totally ignored by the physics community. Dr Don Lincoln, for instance, did not feel it was worthy to look into this either.

      See http://goo.gl/fz4R0I if interested in how it is possible to discover Special Relativity on your own.
      ( 9 mini videos, total length = 1 hour 39 min )

      Like

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