Better Clocks, Constants Still Constant

Better Clocks, Constants Still Constant

One biblical message Reasons To Believe consistently echoes is the mandate to weed out false ideas by testing everything. Jeremiah 33:25 makes a testable statement about the laws which govern heaven and earth, namely that they do not change. Two teams of scientists have developed the most precise clocks to date. In doing so, they have provided a powerful way to test for any variation of one of those physical laws, the electromagnetic force.

For years, atomic clocks that used a transition in cesium atoms stood as the best time-keeping devices available. However, the precision of atomic clocks depends on the size of the transition, with larger transitions giving better precision (assuming all other effects remain equal). Two papers recently published in Science describe new atomic clocks based on optical transitions five orders of magnitude larger than the microwave transitions in cesium.

The clock from one group uses neutral strontium atoms and checks the precision of the clock with another clock that uses calcium atoms. The other group built their clocks from single aluminum and mercury ions. Both clocks exceed the precision of the best cesium clocks.

All atomic transitions depend on the fine-structure constant, which also determines the strength of the electromagnetic force. Repeated tests over one year of observations with the single-ion clocks constrain variations in the fine-structure constant to less than two parts in one hundred million billion per year.

Other groups have used black holes to constrain variations in the fine-structure constant and have achieved similar results. Furthermore, observations of distant quasars (described in the 2006 Breakthroughs booklet) demonstrate that the value of the fine structure constant early in the universe matches today’s value.

Thus, continued testing affirms one critical aspect of RTB’s cosmic creation model. We live in a universe governed by constant laws of physics.