London: Defying Einstein`s equivalence principle, which states that the laws of physics are the same everywhere, researchers have found new evidence that supports the idea that we live in an area of the universe that is just right for our existence.
The controversial finding comes from an observation that one of the constants of nature appears to be different in different parts of the cosmos.
"This finding was a real surprise to everyone," New Scientist quoted John Webb of the University of New South Wales in Australia as saying.
Even more surprising is the fact that the change in the constant appears to have an orientation, creating a "preferred direction", or axis, across the cosmos.
That idea was dismissed more than 100 years ago with the creation of Einstein`s special theory of relativity.
But the new study focuses on the fine structure constant, also known as alpha.
This number determines the strength of interactions between light and matter.
Taking data from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile Webb has observed that alpha varies in space rather than time.
The VLT data suggests that, elsewhere in the universe, the value of alpha is very slightly bigger than on Earth.
The difference in both cases is around a millionth of the value alpha has in our region of space.
Moreover, the team`s analysis of around 300 measurements of alpha in light coming from various points in the sky suggests the variation is not random but structured, like a bar magnet.
The Universe seems to have a large alpha on one side and a smaller alpha on the other.
This "dipole" alignment nearly matches that of a stream of galaxies mysteriously moving towards the edge of the universe.
However, it does not line up with another unexplained dipole, dubbed the axis of evil, in the afterglow of the big bang.
Earth sits somewhere in the middle of the extremes for alpha.
If correct, the result would explain why alpha seems to have the finely tuned value that allows chemistry – and thus life – to occur.
Grow alpha by 4 percent, for instance, and the stars would be unable to produce carbon, making our biochemistry impossible.
First Published: Thursday, September 09, 2010, 17:03