Friday, April 21, 2006

Evolving proton-electron mass ratio?

Update: In 2008, a new experiment with ammonia found no time-dependence in the last 6 billion years.
Klaus Lange has pointed out that

describes a Dutch experiment performed primarily in the European Southern Observatory - hold your breath, this observatory is located in Chile. They measured the spectrum of the molecular hydrogen that depends on the proton-electron mass ratio "mu".

Note that this ratio is about 1836.15. Twenty years ago I played with the calculator and it turned out that this number can be written as

  • 6.pi^5 = 1836.12.

This agreement has promoted me to the king of all crackpots: with only three characters, namely six, pi, five, I can match around 5 or 6 significant figures of the correct result.

Actually my calculator only had 8 significant figures (with no hidden figures) and I exactly matched 8 significant figures of 1836.1515 written in the mathematical tables of that time.

Later I learned that someone else has actually published this "discovery" fifty years ago, and the agreement got worse with better calculators and better measurements in particle physics.

More seriously, the Dutchmen now claim that the ratio was 1.00002 times higher twelve billion years ago. The New Scientist immediately speculates that this could prove extra dimensions or string theory. I, for one, have absolutely no idea where this statement comes from. I personally believe that these constants have been constant in the last 12 billion years - and moreover this opinion is completely and naturally compatible with string theory.

But of course, if some additional serious experimenters besides our European colleagues from Chile confirm the result, we will have to give an explanation. We will either have to add a new rolling scalar field analogous to quintessence that couples to the Standard Model nontrivially, or we will have to think about some dramatic non-local cosmological influences on local physics. Both approaches seem rather implausible to me and because I can't think of a third one, my guess is that the result will go away.

Alternatively it may be explained by some conventional physics that I am not able to identify right now - such as strong magnetic fields in the environment.


  1. The publication is Phys. Rev. 82, 554 (1951) "The Ratio of Proton and Electron Masses" by Friedrich Lenz. It is probably the shortest article even published at the PhysRev. It states:

    "The most exact value at present for the ratio of proton to electrom mass is 1836.12 pm 0.05. It may be of interest to note that this number coincides with 6 pi^5 = 1836.12"

    Helge Kragh also quotes it complete (just as above then) in her history articles about fine structure constant and I got the smell from that work. Before, I have heard it from Lubos, and also mythically attributed to the big hero, Feynman.

  2. Not that I care, but Helge Kragh is a man...

  3. How many photons could they have catched coming from 12 billion light years away? 2? 3? half a dozen? Maybe they collected a total of a dozen over one months of observation time.

    There is no way uou can collect enough data sample for any meaningful experimental result.

    Recently I have reduced number of times I visit here, because, guess what? All you people are blind and does NOT know what's going on around in this world. You look no further than 5 feet on the black board in front of you.

    To put it this way, I just entered a parallel universe and discovered a whole new world that I was totally unaware of before.

    Hint: Look up the crude oil price, it just reaks $75 a barrel. The oil crisis has officially started. Get ready for it, folks. It's unfolding at an amazing speed.

    Mean while, all mineral resources are CRAZY in the market because the earth's resource is being exhausted. Copper for example, now sells for more than $3 a pound, more than tripple the price just one and half years ago.

    You guys know what's going on. Or do you have a clue at all? What will happen in the next one to five years? How many people can survive? I am doing everything I can to prepare for the storm and strive for survival.

    NO MORE LHC. It will not be turned on. MARK my prediction here.

    And the ivory towers will be crushed. Don't feel you are safe. No one is. One day you are a professor teaching super string theory on university campus, and the next day you could be on the streets collecting garbages.

    It's an un-precedent loom economic crisis that probably has no end in sight. Be prepared!

  4. I'm glad to finally stumble upon the fact (which I long suspected) that others knew about 6*PI**5... I hit upon this about 35 years ago using my HP25C calculator and thought it was pretty cool at the time, but knew not to get too excited. :)