Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) changing modern physics?

Just recently a few GRBs have arrived to Earth after travelling for billions of light years. With this special visit of intense energetic light, which is bustling with photons which on a clear night would be entirely visible in the sky, they now have the potential to make a huge impact in the world of  theoretical physics.

Now for a quick lesson on GRBs, What is a Gamma Ray Burst? These are massive energy waves that have emanated from rotating stars that collapse into themselves, due to the sheer gravitational weight and force. Very much like what the suns does and thus a supernova is imminently created.  Consisting of gamma rays, these are considered the most brightest and  most violent events in the entire universe.  Spewing out more energy in a minute than our sun in our solar system will be ever able to output in its entire life time (10,000,000,000 lifeline).  But thankfully due to its rarity in nature these events will not effect our life here on Earth any time soon, though in a billions years, that could change. These explosions and gamma particles that reach Earth is not a concentrated dose, since so they are far away. Though closer systems and galaxies could be in the firing line and perhaps eradicate life in those systems (If life existed there in the first place)
There is a special telescope that was built to detect such events in the universe, named the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Which was launched into orbit in 2008 to detect any bursts that have only just travelled to Earth.

(Bear in mind that 1 light year = the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year.

Also it 1 light year = 9.4605284 × 1015 meters)

So inferring that, we can say that a GRB is light fundamentally which will travel at the “speed of light”. Being a cosmological speed limit in Einsteinian/current physics, meaning nothing can go faster than that. With regards to the GRB It took 7 billions light years to reach Earth, at top speed. Meaning these events happen 7 billions years ago. You can also look at it another way too. You are effectively looking back in “time”.
A scientist by the name of Robert Nemiroff who currently serves as an Astrophysicist at Michigan University looked at data from a recent GRB which was detected by the telescope back in May 2009.
It was detected that photons that were emitted from these GRBs that had different wavelengths and energies were able to stick together (not literally) but remained in close contact through the journey towards Earth and did not disperse at all. From what was inferred from the data that was complied was that it was rare to see that the photons would be unlikely to be emitted from 2 different GRBs, or even by the same burst but at different times.
This causes a concern because we know what can disperse photons or particle clusters, but we are completely in the dark when it comes to being able to make sure photons can remain grouped/in close contact. Theories were then made as to why this happened. Since we live in the more dominant zone of the quantum theory, relying on theories perpetuating plancks-scale quantum foam, It should of interfered with these renegade photons but it didn’t, which has been lead to assume that this quantum foam actually does not exist, at least in the deeper bowls of the universe. Another way to explain this is these photons were travelling in a smooth space-time. Like silk or velvet. Which of coarse Einstein professed about. But today's theories were believed that the universe and its space time is a more jagged or pixelated version of space time. This is relative to the plank scale (see picture below) not so much the macroscopic or subatomic world. In basic terms Einstein was right.

Fig.1 Quantum Foam/Plancks Scale
Credit:The Time Machine Project © 2005 Cetin BAL

From what can be inferred from this, is that Einstein’s space time has taken another step closer to being proven. But in the other hand have put previous theories that try to unify Einstein’s theory with the current quantum mechanics in the spot light for probing. Which as a result could set us back a number of years in theoretical physics. But leading us quicker to the truth.



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