If we could just get rid of those pesky constants, we could …

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While rummaging through Discover Magazines Top 2010 stories relevant to our blog’s interests, I sailed into #46: Do Physical Laws Vary From Place to Place? by Tim Folger (January-February special/December 16, 2010) by

These tentative findings raise the possibility that the physical laws that allow life to exist may hold true only in our particular part of the universe. “There could be regions with different values for the constants of physics,” Webb says. “We inevitably find ourselves in one that allows us to be here.”

If so, we must seek a replacement for the word “constant”. Such large speculations on such tentative findings, and it’s in the top 50 stories.

I am glad no one allows cosmologists near stock brokerages … I mean, better to gamble on the universe than on other people’s pensions. It’s hard to imagine anyone going to jail for being wrong about the universe. I mean, talk about a victimless crime.

8 Replies to “If we could just get rid of those pesky constants, we could …

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    We just had a discussion about this;,,,

    No Free First Principles
    Barry Arrington

    for a discussion on ‘NON-variation’ of the fine structure constant;

    cite to Dr. Sheldon,

    Okay, what about this result that the fine structure constant might be varying. The article claims that it is under review in the respected journal PRL, but in this field, everyone prepublishes their stuff at arXive, so here’s the link:

    A quick scan reveals:
    a) noise level at 10^-5
    b) Their best fit to 153 sources is 0.5×10^-5, or a factor of two below the noise level.
    c) their model includes a bunch of assumptions, for example, quasars have:
    i) cosmological red shift
    ii) relativistic beaming “blue” shift
    iii) gravitational lensing red shift
    iv) “saturation” effects broadening the lines that needed to be sharp

    To tame this mess, they assumed an unspecified “tying” of parameters together or else they couldn’t get a solution at all. This “tying” is basically assuming the thing they want to prove.

    d) 60 spectra gave 153 examples, which I think means that roughly 3 samples come from each source. Assuming that sources are independent but not samples, that gives a selection error of sqrt(60)/60 = 13%, which is a lot of wiggle room.

    e) Then they didn’t do a simple fit, but did successively refining fits, which is what you are forced to do when your data is all over the map, and you want to force it to a single solution. It’s a fudge that Baysean sorts decry as using your partial results and priors, and artificially inflates certainty.

    f) But perhaps the biggest problem with this paper, is that they fit their 60 quasars to dipole and monopole models, which is a bias that can’t easily be accounted for. Why not a checkerboard, or a the shape of TIE-fighter? There’s an unknown bias introduced in forward modelling, and this paper had more than the usual amount of forward, backward, filtering and iterative modelling that I will be mildly surprised if PRL publishes it. (This was John Ioannidis’ argument for why medical research is so often overturned.)

    So I wouldn’t lose any sleep over this paper.

    By the way Ms. O’Leary, it is we Theists who hold that transcendent constants are invariant, for the materialist has no basis to presuppose such invariant transcendent constants, nor math, especially with the universe now shown to be a finite ‘dynamic system’ which had a absolute origination/beginning.

  2. 2
    O'Leary says:

    bornagain, I am not sure that, as a theist, I must in principle believe in invariant constants. My impression was that we discovered them as a fact about our universe. So the principle for me is not the nature of the fact but the agreement to accept fact when it is available, rather than speculation.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Ms. O’Leary, to bring clarity to the stark contrast between the Theistic and Materialistic worldviews. At the 4 minute mark in the following audio,,,

    Finely Tuned Big Bang, Elvis In The Multiverse, and the Schroedinger Equation – Granville Sewell – audio

    Dr. Sewell comments on the ‘transcendent’ and ‘constant’ Schroedinger’s Equation;

    ‘In chapter 2, I talk at some length on the Schroedinger Equation which is called the fundamental equation of chemistry. It’s the equation that governs the behavior of the basic atomic particles subject to the basic forces of physics. This equation is a partial differential equation with a complex valued solution. By complex valued I don’t mean complicated, I mean involving solutions that are complex numbers, a+b^i, which is extraordinary that the governing equation, basic equation, of physics, of chemistry, is a partial differential equation with complex valued solutions. There is absolutely no reason why the basic particles should obey such a equation that I can think of except that it results in elements and chemical compounds with extremely rich and useful chemical properties. In fact I don’t think anyone familiar with quantum mechanics would believe that we’re ever going to find a reason why it should obey such an equation, they just do! So we have this basic, really elegant mathematical equation, partial differential equation, which is my field of expertise, that governs the most basic particles of nature and there is absolutely no reason why, anyone knows of, why it does, it just does. British physicist Sir James Jeans said “From the intrinsic evidence of His creation, the great architect of the universe begins to appear as a pure mathematician”, so God is a mathematician to’.

    i.e. the materialist is at a complete loss to explain why this should be so whereas the Christian Theist presupposes such ‘transcendent’ control,,,

    John 1:1
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    of note; the Word is translated from the Greek work ‘Logos’. Logos happens to be the word from which we derive our modern word ‘Logic’ from.

  4. 4
    Bantay says:

    From the Discover story…

    “These tentative findings raise the possibility that the physical laws that allow life to exist may hold true only in our particular part of the universe. ”

    “our particular part of the universe” which also happens to have intelligent life? Hmmm. Looks to me like they’ve stumbled upon yet another finely tuned anthropic characteristic, the relationship of scientific observability to certain fixed laws.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Bantay,, Well, as much as I would like to see a limit for life permitting constants to be ‘just in our neighborhood’ of the universe, as pointed out in post #1, They are building their conjecture for variance on a highly dubious science, whereas the science for extraordinary stability, for all the constants, is much, much, stronger;

    Latest Test of Physical Constants Affirms Biblical Claim – Hugh Ross – September 2010
    Excerpt: The team’s measurements on two quasars (Q0458- 020 and Q2337-011, at redshifts = 1.561 and 1.361, respectively) indicated that all three fundamental physical constants have varied by no more than two parts per quadrillion per year over the last ten billion years—a measurement fifteen times more precise, and thus more restrictive, than any previous determination. The team’s findings add to the list of fundamental forces in physics demonstrated to be exceptionally constant over the universe’s history. This confirmation testifies of the Bible’s capacity to predict accurately a future scientific discovery far in advance. Among the holy books that undergird the religions of the world, the Bible stands alone in proclaiming that the laws governing the universe are fixed, or constant.

    Of interest to the unchanging nature of the transcendent universal ‘information’ constants which govern this universe, it should be noted that the four primary forces/constants of the universe (gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces) are said to be ‘mediated at the speed of light’ by mass-less ‘mediator bosons’, yet the speed of light constant is shown to be transcendent of any underlying material basis in the first place.

    GRBs Expand Astronomers’ Toolbox – Nov. 2009
    Excerpt: a detailed analysis of the GRB (Gamma Ray Burst) in question demonstrated that photons of all energies arrived at essentially the same time. Consequently, these results falsify any quantum gravity models requiring the simplest form of a frothy space.

    I would also like to point out that since time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light this gives these four fundamental universal constants the characteristic of being timeless, and thus unchanging, as far as the temporal mass of this universe is concerned. In other words, we should not a-prori expect that which is timeless in nature to ever change in value.

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  6. 6
    paragwinn says:

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    paragwinn says:


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    paragwinn says:

    sorry, plz delete last few posts in this topic.

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