Magazine Article Features Fundamental Physics Research

The cover story in the Aug. 16 issue of NewScientist magazine describes the research being performed in the Fundamental Physics program to test the Lorentz symmetry of space. Written by Neil Russell, the article points out that no tests have shown violations of the Lorentz symmetry of Einstein's Special Relativity theory, but that PI Alan Kostelecky (Univ. of Indiana) has questioned these results, stating that "This is about understanding nature and space-time at its most fundamental level." Kostelecky and other scientists have developed a formalism called the Standard Model Extension (SME), a description of all the possible ways that Lorentz symmetry can be violated. He argues that experiments to date have not tested all these possible violations, or they have had sufficient resolution to detect the violations.

Russell proceeds to lay out in his article how modern fundamental physics experiments are improving search for violations of Lorentz symmetry. He describes results obtained recently by PI John Lipa's team at Stanford using two superconducting cavity stabilized oscillators to perform tests of the SME. Russell goes on to outline experiments being performed in the laboratory of PI Ron Walsworth at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Walsworth's team uses maser oscillators that have both helium and xenon gases in them to see whether the two gases are affected differently by the Lorentz violations.

Russell adds that further improved tests are expected from planned experiments from ESA and NASA that would place stable clocks on the ISS. PI John Lipa's SUMO experiment is mentioned as one of the oscillators to be flown. The prospects for a great change in perspective resulting from positive results from such experiments concludes the article.