University of Trieste, Italy
Do the fundamental constants of Nature actually vary over cosmological time and distance scales? This question goes into the heart of cosmology, physics and particle physics. Several theories beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics allow for varying of fundamental physical constants as well as dark energy if due to quintessence.
Astronomical observations and in particular of absorption lines recorded in the spectra of distant QSOs allow extremely accurate study of atomic structure and can effectively probe in time the variability of the dimensionless constants such as the fine structure constant and proton-to-electron mass ratio. The current status of the research will be critically reviewed trying to understand the controversial results obtained. New results coming from radio observations of dense pre-stellar molecular clouds in the Milky Way will be also presented.
These show an intriguing signal that, when taken at face value, implies spatial variations of the mp/me ratio of about 30 ppb (parts-per-billion). However, the conflict with atomic clock experiments requires non universal coupling with a sort of chameleon-type scalar fields. The prospects of the ESO Large Program just taking off and of the ESPRESSO and CODEX projects will be outlined. These will make possible significant improvements and opening an entirely new field of research in case of positive results.
2010 September 01, 13:30
Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (Auditorium)
Rua das Estrelas, 4150-762 Porto