Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Rare Space Experiment Gives Clues About the Fundamental Structure of the Universe

A physics experiment using a super-fast explosion in a galaxy 7.3 billion light-years away has given scientists rare experimental evidence about the fundamental structure of space and time.

The experiment was performed by a team that includes astrophysicists at Penn State University, who used NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope to study particles from the explosion moving at nearly the speed of light.

The experiment confirmed aspects of Einstein's theories of gravity, which unite space and time in the concept of space-time. The team's research is published in the current online edition of the journal Nature and will be published at a later date in the print edition.

"The next major goal is to fuse quantum mechanics with gravity into a single quantum gravity theory," said Peter Meszaros, the Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, a Professor of Physics there, and a member of the team that did the physics experiment with the Fermi telescope. "Physicists would like to replace Einstein's vision of gravity -- as expressed in his relativity theories -- with something that handles all fundamental forces," said Peter Michelson, principal investigator of Fermi's Large Area Telescope, at Stanford University. Scientists have constructed many models to fit their ideas for the new theories, but they have few ways to test these models with physical experiments.

The opportunity to test these models occurred on 9 May 2009 at 8:23 p.m. U. S. Eastern time, when Fermi and other satellites detected the "short" gamma ray burst, designated GRB 090510, in the act of ejecting particles at 99.99995 percent of the speed of light. Astronomers say this type of explosion likely occurred in the distant galaxy during an annihilating collision between neutron stars.

Many approaches to new theories of quantum gravity picture space-time as having a shifting, frothy structure at physical scales trillions of times smaller than an electron. Some models predict that such a foamy structure would cause higher-energy gamma rays to move slightly more slowly than photons at lower energy. "Such models would violate Einstein's postulate that all electromagnetic radiation -- radio waves, infrared rays, visible light, X-rays, and gamma rays -- travel through a vacuum at the same speed," said Meszaros. "But different versions of quantum gravity predict different degrees of violation of this postulate, and we need to separate the wheat from the chaff."

Of the many gamma-ray photons detected by Fermi from the 2.1-second burst, two had energies differing by a million times. Yet after traveling some seven billion years, the pair of photons arrived just nine-tenths of a second apart. "This measurement eliminates any approach to a new theory of gravity that predicts a strong energy-dependent change in the speed of light," Michelson said. The long-distance experiment showed that "To one part in 100 million billion, these two photons traveled at the same speed. "Einstein still rules," Michelson said.

As a result of the new space experiment, Meszaros further explained, "Any viable theory of quantum gravity must be one that predicts either a weaker violation of the speed-of-light constancy than that which we measured, or none at all."

In addition to Mészáros, other Penn State scientists on the research team include Xuefeng Wu, a research associate, and Kenji Toma, a postdoctoral scholar.

[ Barbara Kennedy / Francis Reddy ]

Peter Meszaros: (+1) 814-865-0418,
Barbara Kennedy (PIO): 814-863-4682,
NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>