Within exotic materials there could be an alternative “universe” in which the force of the quantum interactions that determine life is not constant, but variable, and which we could perhaps influence.
A crucial number that governs the universe increases when it is inside a strange quantum material, has discovered an investigation of the University of Cambridge whose results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
This result suggests the existence of an alternate universe within exotic materials in which a mysterious physical constant, known as a fine-structure constant , would be much larger.
The fine structure constant, one of the 25 fundamental constants that explain physical phenomena, establishes the strength of quantum electrodynamic interactions and is measured at 1/137, a value that puzzles physicists because they have never been able to explain it.
It’s hard to imagine what the Universe would look like with a different fine structure value, notes the journal Physics in a synopsis of this discovery. And he adds: there could be an alternative “universe” within exotic materials called quantum spin ices.
The fine structure constant in these materials is 10 times greater than the ordinary value, this research has determined, which questions whether it is always constant.
If the fine structure constant throughout the cosmos were as large as that of quantum spin ices, “the periodic table would only have 10 elements,” explains Christopher Laumann of Boston University, quoted by Science News.
Spin ices are materials with a structure that forces the magnetic poles or spins of their elementary particles to assume a complex pattern.
While in a normal material the particles that compose them align their magnetic poles in the same direction, in quantum spin ices the magnetic poles of their particles do not coincide, not even when the material reaches absolute zero.
Can be manipulated
What this research has determined is not only that the value of the fine structure constant increases in quantum spin ice materials, but also that its value can be adjusted “manually” by manipulating the properties of the material.
This detail is what could open the door to another possible universe, because it would allow scientists to discover what happens when the fine structure constant in a material is altered, thus transcending the universe in which that constant is fixed.
All this research at the moment has been purely theoretical, since a material that responds to the characteristics of a quantum spin ice has not yet been discovered.
Hints, but …
So far, experiments have only seen hints of this quantum spin ice material, so theorists are looking for new signatures that can identify it.
In fact, there are materials that could be configured as quantum spin ices and studied with a quantum computer that can simulate those configurations and explore the material effects of variables on the fine structure constant, ScienceNews highlights.
If scientists finally manage to create quantum spin ice, those materials could reveal how quantum electrodynamics and the Standard Model (of particle physics) would work in a universe with a much higher fine structure constant.
Pillars of the world
It would not be a trivial fact: these investigations touch the basic pillars of the world, because the fine structure constant characterizes the intensity of the electromagnetic force that affects charged particles, such as electrons and protons.
It is a constant that is even at the base of life: it regulates the empty spaces of the atoms where chemical bonds are formed, but also the carbon of the stars without which life would never have arisen. It even reflects the fundamental symmetry that exists in nature, whether it is expressed in the form of matter or antimatter.
The new research reinforces an idea that scientists are considering: the fundamental constants could be random and have been fixed in “tossing of cosmic dice” during the birth of the universe, recalls Research and Science.
Now we have gone a step further: quantum spin ices could allow us to explore quantum electrodynamic interactions that are governed by variable, rather than constant, patterns that would occur in other universes that we might even be able to influence.