Where Science and Faith Converge

Black Holes Constrain Fundamental Constant Variation

By Jeff Zweerink - November 14, 2007

Jeremiah 33:25 describes a cosmos governed by an unchanging set of physical laws. In fact, this constancy provides the basis for the Israelites’ confidence in God’s trustworthiness. While repeated testing bears witness to the constancy of the laws governing the universe, scientists continue to test—and actually hope to find some variation. Any detected variation would provide great insight into how the fundamental forces unify in the early universe.

One particular parameter studied extensively is the fine-structure constant. Previous tests provided some evidence for variation in the fine-structure constant although others dispute the result. A scientist at the University of Northern Florida recent published another test for variation in the fine-structure constant. An article in the Physical Review Letters describes the test and results.

Basically, the test applies the second law of thermodynamics to black holes. Any change in the electron’s charge over time (which would cause a corresponding change in the fine-structure constant) affects how the entropy of a black hole evolves. The second law constrains the entropy of black hole systems to ever-increasing values. Consequently, the second law also constrains any variation in the electron’s charge. The maximum permissible change in the fine-structure constant roughly matches the value from the previous tests that reported a changing fine-structure constant. However, I should point out that the constraint from the second law does not say that the fine-structure constant actually varies—it just puts an upper bound on any possible variation.

In the hopes of finding a more complete theory, scientists continue to look for places where the current models of the universe break down. Once again though, the biblical idea of constant laws of physics passes with flying colors.

For an interesting comparison of how various scientist test the central theories of their respective disciplines, see a previous TNRTB by Fuz Rana.

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