Thursday, 9 September 2010

The End of Special Relativity?

The finding that the Fine Structure constant may not, in fact, be constant is a very big, if not totally unexpected, deal indeed.

We're so embedded in the notion - endemic to civilized humans, it seems, but codified and frozen into our 'reality' by Einstein when he put forward his Special theory of Relativity - that there exist some unmoving, eternal truths which govern the Universe, that we've almost forgotten how to think about it in any other way.
The notion that some, if not all, of these hallowed physical constants may be as fluid as..well..fluid is a notion that Rupert Sheldrake has given voice to as well.

(I must admit to liking Sheldrake. As maligned as he is amongst rigorous physical scientists, he is a man capable of thinking well outside of this culture's paradigm. And that is very valuable indeed.)

Physics itself will resist the idea that there is not much we can pin down and study - it's their whole raison d'etre after all. Without constants remaining constant across space and time there appears a huge chasm in the rock hard smugness of many physicists that they - and they alone by gods! - have all the most important answers.
Of course you haven't you silly little men. Perhaps it's time we started using our intellects instead of our reasoning brains - just sometimes.

If you're interested in what might be the cutting edge of the evolution of thought in the hard sciences, go here to read the abstract and download the paper. I'm going to be watching follow ups and reactions with the greatest of interest.

Pic: Serge Brunier