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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Dr. Dmitry Budker
University of California at Berkeley

Co-Investigators

Alain Lapierre, University of California at Berkeley
Arman Cingoz, University of California at Berkeley
Nathan Leefer, University of California at Berkeley

Project Title

Search for a Possible Time Variation of the Fine-Structure Constant alpha by Radio-Frequency Spectroscopy of Atomic Dysprosium

Project Summary

The development of physical theories has relied on the constancy of various fundamental quantities. Detecting or constraining possible spatial or temporal variations of fundamental physical constants is essential for a complete understanding of the Universe and the development of an ultimate theory of matter, space, and time, unifying the force of gravity with electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces.

The fine-structure constant, alpha, is a "constant" that depends on the electron charge and the speed of light. It dictates the strength of the interaction between light and matter and critically determines the wavelength of the light emitted or absorbed by atoms. Recent astrophysical observations indicate an alpha variation. We propose a search for a change of alpha of a few parts in one billion billion per year by investigating small time variations of the energy of radio-waves absorbed by atoms of dysprosium exceptionally sensitive to alpha variation.

Discovery of alpha variation would have a significant impact on our fundamental views on Nature. This would contradict Einstein's theory of relativity and indicate new physics beyond current models. It would support the existence of extra space-time dimensions or could be the signature of additional fundamental forces.



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