Smooth Like Whiskey
"Spacetime may be less like beer and more like sipping whiskey," starts this press release from Michigan Technological University. OK, you have our attention. A team of professors and grad students at MTU have been studying a photons from a gamma-ray burst (that's an illustration above) that happened in May 2009 and captured by NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope. Their conclusion is that spacetime is smoother than some scientists have believed. There are quantum physics theories that say space is "foamy" -- made up of tiny units called "Planck lengths" -- that is, a bit like the bubbly head on the top of your beer, where each little bubble is one of these units. Studying photons from gamma-ray bursts is one way to test this. These photons are so energetic, their wavelengths should make them small enough to interact with these little "bubbles" and be scattered. But because the photons arrived at the telescope in a dead heat, the MTU teams concludes they had nothing to interact with -- that spacetime is not bubbly, but smooth (you know, like fine whiskey). Fantastic, how shall we celebrate?