The universe is underpinned by a number of physical constants, the values of which are not based on anything — they simply are. Two of them have been refined by experiments this year.
By assessing the relationship between electrical current, voltage and gravitational pull, researchers can define a number of basic values, including the constant of Planck. This is an essential value that defines the relation between energy and frequency in quantum mechanics. The National Institute of Standards and Technology physicists discovered in January a more accurate value for Planck’s constant – one that is different from the previous one by only 22 parts in 1 billion.
Scientists have also updated the constant of gravity that controls the attractiveness of huge objects. The gravitational pull between a cloud of cooled rubidium and tungsten atoms has been measured by a team of researchers in Italy. This new value is less than one third of a percent different from the old
These fresh values will not alter how we see the universe, but they can clarify and ultimately make our knowledge so much deeper.
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