Sunday, December 16, 2012

Physical constant passes the alcohol test

Fundamental properties of molecules have not changed during the past seven billion years
December 13, 2012
The mass ratio of protons and electrons is deemed to be a universal constant. And rightly so, as the latest radio-astronomy observations of a distant galaxy have shown. Scientists at the VU University of Amsterdam and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn used the 100-metre radio telescope in Effelsberg to measure absorption lines of the methanol molecule at a number of characteristic frequencies. The researchers analysed the spectrum of the simplest of all the alcohols in a very distant galaxy. The result: to a high degree of accuracy molecules and molecular matter have the same properties today as they did seven billion years ago. According to this finding, the mass ratio of protons and electrons in particular has changed by less than one hundred thousandth of a percent in this period.