In praise of madness:
Forgive me an attack of irony.  It is said that Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Ah, so true yet so understandable.  Just now, as I am sure you have noticed, I have a health complaint.  It hurts so much that periodically I whisper, “By my immortal tinny tyke that was very uncomfortable,” and sure enough after a few moments it hurts again.  Perhaps if I used more physiologic imagery …?  But that seems idle, and I persist.  So if insanity is part and parcel with the human adventure, we must seek advantage in it.  When somebody does something, however ill advised, expect it again.

There is an adventure afoot right now having to do with the universe, of which we have only one example (by definition, eh?).  Somebody looked at the sky and saw that the light coming from extremely distant galaxies was different.  At normal resolution, a rainbow looks red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (Roy G. Biv).  You or I might have chosen different saliety colors, but going with the standard, imagine how discombobulated we would be by a rainbow that went red, indigo violet, blue, green, yellow orange.  And I don’t mean just the fact that our visual receptors are sensitive only to certain ranges of color; I mean suppose that were true by the best physical measurements.  Not to be expected, right?  

Well that one has not been observed, but what has been observed is that colors we see break down into tiny, minimally varying lines.  If you looked at a real rainbow with a microscope, you would see that there are a very large number of lines in the zone we’d call “orange”.  Each line corresponds to a particular shift of electron orbitals, say from the innermost to the next most innermost line of the available electron orbitals for silver or any other element.  And it turns out that these lines, their placement, can be related to a pure number called the “fine structure constant,” which can be calculated from physical constants like the speed of light and the charge of an electron.  Well these astronomers found that light from very distant galaxies was slightly different in such a way that the fine structure constant was different.  Either the fine structure constant changed with distance or, ho, ho, ho, those galaxies had different values for what are thought to be universal constants. 

The papers these astronomers published festered in the literature until some other astronomers published results that indicated that the fine structure constant indeed changed over distance but in a sense opposite of what the others had seen.  As one would expect, indeed hope, there was a bit of a flap.  Then somebody published a paper in which it was found that all papers published using data from the north of the equator found that the fine structure constant was changing in one direction while those who were looking at data from observatories from the other side of the equator were finding that the fine structure constant was changing in the opposite direction. 

In other words there was a cosmic axis that defined how the fine structure constant was changing with direction.  It’s probably not the speed of light, but it might be.  The mathematical conclusion should be that the more distant the object, and the closer the object is to that axis, the faster (or slower) light travels.  Weird. 

Then somebody found that the temperature of the universe, which we had always assumed would be the same in all directions, was different in different directions.  Roughly speaking, along one axis the universe is warmer as, while along the same axis in the other direction it is cooler. And, mark this, in the direction of the warmer universe, there is a “hole.”  There is a place, maybe a billion light years in greatest length but narrower, where there are no galaxies.  The area is such that there should be 10,000 galaxies; there are none. 

In other words the universe is warmer in one direction but in the middle of that direction, there is a cold spot.  Pardon my French, but I think that means that there is an axis of the distribution of matter.

So we have two axes.  There is the axis of temperature and the axis of the universal constants.  And to what degree do they coincide?  I don’t know.  In fact so far as I know, nobody has even looked at the published data and tried to decide.

Oh well.

I’ll let you know if that changes and I find out.

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