Reappraisal of the limit on the variation in α implied by the Oklo natural fission reactors
Abstract
Background: A signature of many dynamical models of dark energy is that they admit variation in the fine structure constant α over cosmological time scales.
Purpose: We reconsider the analysis of the sensitivity of neutron resonance energies E_{i} to changes in α with a view to resolving uncertainties that plague earlier treatments.
Methods: We point out that with more appropriate choices of nuclear parameters, the standard estimate (from Damour and Dyson) of the sensitivity for resonances in S^{m} is increased by a factor of 2.5. We go on to identify and compute excitation, Coulomb, and deformation corrections. To this end, we use deformed Fermi density distributions fitted to the output of HartreeFock (HF) + BCS calculations (with both the SLy4 and SkM^{*} Skyrme functionals), the energetics of the surface diffuseness of nuclei, and thermal properties of their deformation. We also invoke the eigenstate thermalization hypothesis, performing the requisite microcanonical averages with two phenomenological level densities which, via the leptodermous expansion of the level density parameter, include the effect of increased surface diffuseness. Theoretical uncertainties are assessed with the intermodel prescription of Dobaczewski et al. [J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. 41, 074001 (2014), 10.1088/09543899/41/7/074001].
Results: The corrections diminish the revised S^{m} sensitivity but not by more than 25%. Subject to a weak and testable restriction on the change in m_{q}/Λ (relative to the change in α ) since the time when the Oklo reactors were active (m_{q} is the average of the u and d current quark masses, and Λ is the mass scale of quantum chromodynamics), we deduce that  α_{Oklo}α_{now}<1.1 × 10^{8}α_{now} (95% confidence level). The corresponding bound on the presentday time variation of α is tighter than the best limit to date from atomic clock experiments.
Conclusions: The order of magnitude of our Oklo bound on changes in α is reliable. It is one order of magnitude lower than the Oklobased bound most commonly adopted in earlier attempts to identify phenomenologically successful models of α variation.
 Publication:

Physical Review C
 Pub Date:
 July 2015
 DOI:
 10.1103/PhysRevC.92.014319
 arXiv:
 arXiv:1503.06011
 Bibcode:
 2015PhRvC..92a4319D
 Keywords:

 06.20.Jr;
 21.10.Ft;
 24.10.Pa;
 24.60.Lz;
 Determination of fundamental constants;
 Charge distribution;
 Thermal and statistical models;
 Chaos in nuclear systems;
 Nuclear Theory;
 Astrophysics  Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics;
 General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology
 EPrint:
 Changes to text and abstract (dealing with confidence intervals), some references added (9 pages)