Archive for September, 2010


When the concept of the Homo Viator Manifest emerged in my mind, it was of something like a tree, with a trunk from where diverse branches would radiate but being part of the same structure.
The first part of it was the fruit of the collaboration between myself and two dear friends, Stuart Atkinson and Nicholas Previsic…h. Since then it served also as inspiration for an audiovisual performance and other artworks. (which you can see here:
Now I would like to invite you, challenge you, to also become part of it. I want the Manifest to grow in as many different directions as possible. Go have a read and, if you feel inclined to write your own part of it, to share your own roadmap, send me an e-mail (rui dot alexandre dot borges at gmail dot com), the doors are open. Let us see in which direction the branches will grow.


When fundamental constants change over space — rethinking physics as we know it [JENAM 2010 Press Release]

Lisbon, 6 September 2010: New research suggests that the supposedly invariant fine-structure constant, which characterises the strength of the electromagnetic force, varies from place to place throughout the Universe. The finding could mean rethinking the fundaments of our current knowledge of physics. These results will be presented tomorrow during the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, and the scientific article has been submitted to the Physical Review Letters Journal.

A team of astronomers led by John Webb from the University of New South Wales, Australia, have obtained new data by studying quasars, which are very distant galaxies hosting an active black hole in their centre. As the light emitted by quasars travels throughout the cosmos, part of it is absorbed by a variety of atoms present in interstellar clouds, providing astronomers with a natural laboratory to test the laws of physics billions of light-years away from the Earth.

Webb’s results imply that the fine-structure constant, which characterises the strength of the electromagnetic force, might have different values depending on which direction we are looking in the sky, thus being not so ‘constant’ after all.

 “The precision of astrophysical measurements of the fine-structure constant, or alpha, dramatically increased about a decade ago when Victor Flambaum and I introduced the ´Many-Multiplet Method´, and since then evidence started mounting, suggesting this crucial physical quantity might not be the same everywhere in the Universe” says Webb.

The results obtained by Webb’s team suggest that if there is any time-variation, it may be much less than the variation with position in the Universe.  If correct, the new data indicates that new physics will be required to explain something so fundamental. The implications of these results are so resounding that they are likely to cause controversy in the scientific community.

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