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2Physics Quote:
"Can photons in vacuum interact? The answer is not, since the vacuum is a linear medium where electromagnetic excitations and waves simply sum up, crossing themselves with no interaction. There exist a plenty of nonlinear media where the propagation features depend on the concentration of the waves or particles themselves. For example travelling photons in a nonlinear optical medium modify their structures during the propagation, attracting or repelling each other depending on the focusing or defocusing properties of the medium, and giving rise to self-sustained preserving profiles such as space and time solitons or rapidly rising fronts such as shock waves." -- Lorenzo Dominici, Mikhail Petrov, Michal Matuszewski, Dario Ballarini, Milena De Giorgi, David Colas, Emiliano Cancellieri, Blanca Silva Fernández, Alberto Bramati, Giuseppe Gigli, Alexei Kavokin, Fabrice Laussy, Daniele Sanvitto. (Read Full Article: "The Real-Space Collapse of a Two Dimensional Polariton Gas" )

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Proton-Electron Mass Ratio

Spectra of Hydrogen and Mercury

New measurements of starlights suggest that the ratio of the proton's mass to the electron's mass has increased by 0.002% over 12 billion years. The spectra of hydrogen gas as recorded in lab is compared with spectra of light coming from hydrogen clouds billions of light years away when the universe was in its youth.

Molecular hydrogen absorbs light of specific wavelengths, and the resulting spectrum of "absorption lines" uniquely identifies Hydrogen atom by the 'bar' code made up of such lines. The positions of the lines depend on the ratio of the mass of the proton to the mass of the electron. Of course, one needs to carefully take into account the effect of the expansion of the universe which shifts these lines from higher (ultraviolet) to lower (visible) frequency.

The researchers have reported in Physical Review Letters this week that the mass-ratio of proton and electron (the ratio is about 1836 and is denoted by the letter mu) has increased by about 20 parts per million over the past 12 billion years. The proton-to-electron mass ratio figures in setting the scale of the strong nuclear force.

More studies of spectra of Hydrogen gas from distant galaxies are needed to confirm whether the mass ratio has indeed changed.

Here is the link to the abstract of the paper in Physical Review Letters.

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