Albert Einstein
In the past decade, suspicions have arisen in the scientific community concerning the uniformity of the constant, alpha, that reflects the strength of electromagnetism in regards to how hydrogen gas absorbs ultraviolet light in space. Alpha seemed to differ throughout the universe based on observations made in the last decade with the Keck Telescope in Hawaii and again in 2010 with the Very Large Telescope in Chile. If confirmed, this idea would challenge Einstein’s equivalence principal, that states that the laws of physics are the same in all parts of the universe, and may lead to wacky new ideas like the existence of other universes and additional dimensions. Some scientists thought this idea was a bit too bizarre to deserve much merit.

Recently, in a study done by teams at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics in Pune, India and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico titled Constraining Fundamental Constant Evolution with HI and OH Lines, that was thought to finally settle the debate, researchers detected the hydroxyl molecule’s emission and absorption of radio waves in a gas cloud 6.7 light years away. The hope was that the radio instruments used, which are capable of taking measurements at 50 to 100 times greater accuracy than in previous experiments to detect hydrogen absorption, would provide evidence of a more conclusive nature regarding these claims.

Unfortunately, researchers came up empty handed. It was the expectation that the emission and absorption lines observed from the hydroxyl molecule would be mirror images of each other. This was not the case in this experiment, which led researchers to believe there was something spoiling their measurements. One possibility is that a second hydroxyl gas cloud lying on the same plane was responsible for the screwy results.

Since gas clouds that carry a hydroxyl signal are hard to come by, possibilities for settling the dispute in the near future are looking grim; however, every gas cloud has a silver lining. Though it may take years, this new promising method may prove useful as new clouds are discovered and examined.