An ultra-precise measurement of a transition in the hearts of thorium atoms gives physicists a tool to probe the forces that bind the universe.

An ultra-precise measurement of a transition in the hearts of thorium atoms gives physicists a tool to probe the forces that bind the universe.

So what if constants aren’t constants?

I imagine a few physicists will be a little upset.

Except the one who gets the Nobel Prize for proving it

Eh, theorists just work in units where they’re all 1 anyway. And experimentalists round to to the nearest order of magnitude lol

They will be called “variables” in the future, and scientists will try to figure out how they tick. And: They were seen as constants for a sufficientyl long time, so still treating them

likeconstants won’t hurt, as the value will probably only vary over long reaches of time or unlikely/uncommon circumstances like relativistic speeds.We treat g = 9.81m/s², well knowing that this changes depending on height and location. But this value is totally sufficient for everyday purposes, and no bridge will ever collapse just because of local derivations from 9.81. The precise local value of g is only of relevance for a

verysmall range of applications.It won’t affect much except bleeding edge theoretical physics. Much the way we don’t need relativity to make airplanes fly (but round-earth gravity models help for long distance flights).

Physical laws are mathematical models that reflect natural forces and predict outcomes (accurately that we can fling cans of passengers across the world safely). It wouldn’t be the first time we discovered that some previously constant forces are actually variable (much the way the force of gravity is affected by distance, noticeable only when you lob something high enough.) We shrug and change the variables, and some physicists near retirement may balk and say it’s ridiculous, as Einstein did regarding Heisenberg’s probability-based quantum mechanics.

More specifically to your example, we discovered that gravity isn’t a force at all- it’s a literal curvature of space-time caused by objects with mass, which is why its effects aren’t constant.

Yes, but that model is late in the gravity game. We were toying with the two bodies experiment before heliocentrism, let alone higher-dimension curvature of space.

In math context, we’d just call it variable and move on.