Friday, July 29, 2011

Frame Dragging

“In physics, you don't have to go around making trouble for yourself - nature does it for you.”
- Frank Wilczek
Pardon me as I dive into some deep physics today. I'm blogging this in the hope that I too will understand it.

You may be aware that Einstein's General Relativity predicts that a massive object like the earth or Sun will bend the space around it causing light rays to be slightly deflected in their path. This was first demonstrated in 1919 with a photo of stars observed near the Sun during a total eclipse. Today "gravitational lensing" is used to see very faint galaxies near the origin of the Universe.

What you might not know is that General Relativity becomes even stranger when the massive object is rotating. The spinning mass creates a drag on space that gives it a very small twist (about 1 part in 1 trillion). Scientists are very good at measuring small amounts like this and recently verified gravitational Frame Dragging with a specially built satellite circling the earth called Gravity Probe B.

Recently a physicist from the University of Warwick applied Frame Dragging in an unusual way to explain an old problem in physics, the“Charge Parity violation” (also called “CP violation”).  CP-symmetry states that the laws of physics should be the same if a particle were interchanged with its antiparticle (C symmetry), and left and right were swapped (P symmetry). The discovery of CP violation in 1964 in the decays of neutral kaons resulted in the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1980 for its discoverers James Cronin and Val Fitch.

CP-violation answers one of the Big Questions in physics. Why is there something rather than nothing? Or put another way - where is all the antimatter? The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter (thus keeping a balance and allowing something to come from nothing). But over time the matter and antimatter would destroy each other. That is not what happened; our universe is mostly matter.

CP-violation "explains" that the universe has a bias for matter. Riddle solved. But unfortunely no one could explain why CP-violation exists - until now.

We live in a galaxy that rotates. "The spin of our galaxy has a twisting effect on our local space that is a million times stronger than that caused by the spin of the Earth," according to Dr Mark Hadley, of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. Our galaxy creates a Frame Drag that gives a preferential spin to local space and so favors matter spinning one way instead of antimatter spinning "against the grain." This is a testable theory which could change physics if true.

Another recent study looked at thousands of galaxies and found a 7% difference in the number of galaxies that spin clockwise vs those that spin counter-clockwise. The was too large for chance according to the authors of the study. They said this proved that the universe itself is spinning and influencing everything inside it. If true then there may be a Frame Drag from the spinning universe twisting all of space and time.

Bottom Line

There are still deep mysteries left to solve about the nature of reality itself. 

I wonder if galaxies that spin opposite of ours would favor antimatter over matter?

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