Scientists have found evidence that a fundamental physical constant used to measure electromagnetism between charged particles can in fact be ratherinconstant, according to measurements taken from a quasar some 13 billion light-years away.
Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental forces that knit everything in our Universe together, alongside gravity, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force. The strength of electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles is calculated with the help of what's known as the fine-structure constant.
However, the new readings – taken together with other readings from separate studies – point to tiny variations in this constant, which could have huge implications for how we understand everything around us.
The latest data also show the Universe may have previously hidden 'north' and 'south' bearings, a definitive direction upon which these variations in electromagnetism can be mapped.
"[The new study] seems to be supporting this idea that there could be a directionality in the Universe, which is very weird indeed," says astrophysicist John Webb, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia. "So the Universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physics – one that is the same, statistically, in all directions."
"But in fact, there could be some direction or preferred direction in the Universe where the laws of physics change, but not in the perpendicular direction. In other words, the Universe in some sense, has a dipole structure to it."