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Space Education Science

Gamma-Ray Photon Observations Indicate Space-Time Is Smooth 81

eldavojohn writes "Seven billion light years away (seven billion years ago), a gamma-ray burst occurred. The observation of four Fermi-detected gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) has led physicists to speculate that space-time is indeed smooth (abstract and a pre-publication PDF both available). A trio of photons were observed to arrive very close together, and the observers believe that these are from the same burst, which means there was nothing diffracting their paths from the gamma-ray burst to Earth. This observation doesn't prove that space-time is infinitesimally smooth like Einstein predicted, but does indicate it's smooth for a range of parameters. Before we can totally discount the theory that space-time is comprised of Planck-scale pixels, we must now establish that the proposed pixels don't disrupt the photons in ways independent of their wavelengths. For example, this observation did not disprove the possibility that the pixels exert a subtler 'quadratic' influence over the photons, nor could it determine the presence of birefringence — an effect that depends on the polarization of the light particles."
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Gamma-Ray Photon Observations Indicate Space-Time Is Smooth

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  • Sensational (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tanujt ( 1909206 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:12PM (#41192747)
    I am not qualified to comment on the accuracy of the findings and their subsequent interpretation of the data. However, as the senior scientist Giovanni Amelino-Camelia suggested, "But the claim that their analysis is proving that space-time is 'smooth with Planck-scale accuracy' is rather naive." (He was the first one to theoretically suggest methods with which one could test for the "discreteness" of space-time)

    Is it the artifact of the social media/e-news and the ever growing need for public attention to science (which translates into the elusive funding dollars), that lately a lot of discoveries are being touted as "physics defying", "life altering" etc before they are scrutinized thoroughly? We've already had a faster-than-light and a second-law-of-thermodynamics-broken debacle, and who knows how many more (scour the arXivs and you shall find!). A lot of the stories of scientific discoveries diffuse out of public interest fast, especially now that people are cynical about groundbreaking claims. I wonder if we need to make a conscious effort to not make a big deal out of every discovery, at least not before the data is converted to valuable information. Although, I see the catch-22 here, as the scientific community is trying to break the stereotype of "hard, cold truths presented in a bleak technical manner" or "how does that even remotely affect me", to appease their indirect, impatient employers: the public.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson