Fine tuning News Physics

Exact values of constants said to drive physicists crazy

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Further to “Water’s unique sense of time” (amazing, these accidental freaks of nature,) we also learn, this time from Aeon, about the conundrum of universal constants, like the speed of light:

Light travels at around 300,000 km per second. Why not faster? Why not slower? A new theory inches us closer to an answer

Electromagnetic theory gave a first crucial insight 150 years ago. The Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell showed that when electric and magnetic fields change in time, they interact to produce a travelling electromagnetic wave. Maxwell calculated the speed of the wave from his equations and found it to be exactly the known speed of light. This strongly suggested that light was an electromagnetic wave – as was soon definitively confirmed.

A further breakthrough came in 1905, when Albert Einstein showed that c, the speed of light through a vacuum, is the universal speed limit. According to his special theory of relativity, nothing can move faster. So, thanks to Maxwell and Einstein, we know that the speed of light is connected with a number of other (on the face of it, quite distinct) phenomena in surprising ways.

But neither theory fully explains what determines that speed.

The new theory, involving virtual pairs in the quantum vacuum, is considered encouraging but not definitive.

Whether it was the ‘hand of God’ or some truly fundamental physical process that formed the constants, it is their apparent arbitrariness that drives physicists mad. Why these numbers? Couldn’t they have been different? More.

Unfortunately, from here on, the article trails off into any number of alternative universes at once, where everything could be different. (The multiverse does that to people.) But we do learn some interesting things Follow UD News at Twitter!

7 Replies to “Exact values of constants said to drive physicists crazy

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to the fine structure constant, Sidney Perkowitz states:

    Light dawns – Sidney Perkowitz – Sept. 2015
    Excerpt: The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman wrote that the fine-structure constant has been ‘a mystery ever since it was discovered… a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the “hand of God” wrote that number, and “we don’t know how He pushed his pencil”.’
    Whether it was the ‘hand of God’ or some truly fundamental physical process that formed the constants, it is their apparent arbitrariness that drives physicists mad. Why these numbers? Couldn’t they have been different?

    Moreover, to drive physicists of the atheistic persuasion even more mad, not only is the fine structure constant fine tuned to allow life in the universe, but the fine structure constant is also found to be finely tuned so as to allow intelligent life like human life to make scientific discoveries.

    The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability – Robin Collins – March 22, 2014
    Excerpt: Examples of fine – tuning for discoverability.
    ,,A small increase in ? (fine structure constant) would have resulted in all open wood fires going out; yet harnessing fire was essential to the development of civilization, technology, and science – e.g., the forging of metals.,,,
    Going in the other direction, if ? (fine structure constant) were decreased, light microscopes would have proportionality less resolving power without the size of living cells or other microscopic objects changing.,,, Thus, it is quite amazing that the resolving power of light microscopes goes down to that of the smallest cell (0.2 microns), but no further. If it had less resolving power, some cells could not be observed alive. The fine – structure constant, therefore, is just small enough to allow for open wood fires and just large enough for the light microscope to be able to see all living cells.
    graph – fine tuning of strength of electromagnetism balanced to strength of strong nuclear force

    Atheism/Naturalism simply does not predict non-variance in the constants. In fact, Atheism/Naturalism demands that random chaos be the ultimate explanation for why the universe was brought into being and exists.
    That is exactly why we are faced with the insanity inherent in the atheist’s infinite multiverse theories that try to ‘explain away’ rather than explain the constants.

    Multiverse and the Design Argument – William Lane Craig
    Excerpt: Or again, if our universe is but one member of a multiverse, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since these are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range. Observable universes like those strange worlds are simply much more plenteous in the ensemble of universes than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us if the universe were but a random member of a multiverse of worlds. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On naturalism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no multiverse. — Penrose puts it bluntly “these world ensemble hypothesis are worse than useless in explaining the anthropic fine-tuning of the universe”.

    Only the Bible has been on record for thousands of years stating that the constants do not vary:

    Stronger and More Comprehensive Tests Affirm the Universe’s Unchanging Physics – July 1, 2013 By Dr. Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: For thousands of years, the Bible has been on record stating that the physical laws governing the universe do not vary. For example, Jeremiah 33:25, God declares that he “established the fixed laws of heaven and earth” (NIV, 1984).,,,
    Laboratory measurements have established that variations any greater than four parts per hundred quadrillion (less than 4 x 10-17) per year cannot exist in the fine structure constant, which undergirds several of the physical laws.,,,
    ,,they confirmed with 99 percent certainty that possible variations in the fine structure must be less than two parts per 10 quadrillion per year over the past 10 billion years. This limit is about a thousand times more constraining than the one I described in More Than a Theory.

    Psalm 119:89-91
    Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.

    In fact modern science was partly born out of the Biblical presupposition of invariance in the laws of nature:

    “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it.”
    Lewis, C.S., Miracles: a preliminary study, Collins, London, p. 110, 1947.

    Atheists simply have no clue as to why the constants should remain constant.
    Moreover, if the constants ever did vary as the atheists presuppose, indeed insist, the constants should vary, then science would become impossible.

    Scientists Question Nature’s Fundamental Laws – Michael Schirber – 2006
    Excerpt: “There is absolutely no reason these constants should be constant,” says astronomer Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. “These are famous numbers in physics, but we have no real reason for why they are what they are.”
    The observed differences are small-roughly a few parts in a million-but the implications are huge (if they hold up): The laws of physics would have to be rewritten, not to mention we might need to make room for six more spatial dimensions than the three that we are used to.”,,,
    The speed of light, for instance, might be measured one day with a ruler and a clock. If the next day the same measurement gave a different answer, no one could tell if the speed of light changed, the ruler length changed, or the clock ticking changed.

    Indeed, so wedded are some atheists to the random variance that they believe is the reason why everything exists that, even though we can find no random variance of the constants within the observable universe, they postulate that the laws in ‘unobservable’ parts of this universe may be vastly different than what we observe.
    Such as Susskind postulated at the 7:19 minute mark of the following video:

    Leonard Susskind – Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life and Mind? – video

    To say that speculation of Susskind’s is non-scientific would be an injustice. In fact, that speculation smacks of irrational denialism.
    Denialism is a mild, sometimes severe, form of mental illness that undergirds much of the substance abuse of drug addicts and alcoholics.

    Einstein himself expressed wonder at the ‘epistemological miracle’ that we should, merely by taking thought, reliably model the world with mathematics:

    You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way ….
    [T]he kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    — Albert Einstein

    The Cosmological Constant is particularly troublesome for atheists:

    Hugh Ross PhD. – Scientific Evidence For Cosmological Constant (1 in 10^120 Expansion Of The Universe)

    (Commenting on the 1 in 10^120 fine tuning of the expansion of the universe), “Hugh Ross states an analogy that does not even come close to describing the precarious nature of this cosmic balance [between too fast and too slow] would be a billion pencils all simultaneously positioned upright on their sharpened points on a smooth glass surface with no vertical supports.”
    Eric Metaxas – Miracles – page 49

    Here are the verses from the Bible which Dr. Ross listed, which were written well over 2000 years before the discovery of the finely tuned expansion of the universe, that speak of God ‘Stretching out the Heavens’; Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:13; Zechariah 12:1; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Jeremiah 10:12. The following verse is my favorite out of the group of verses:

    Job 9:8
    He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

    The Truman Show – Truman walking on water – screenshot picture

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is the paper from the atheistic astrophysicists, that Dr. Ross referenced in the preceding video, that speaks of the ‘disturbing implications’ of the finely tuned expanding universe (1 in 10^120 cosmological constant):

    Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant – Dyson, Kleban, Susskind (each are self proclaimed atheists) – 2002
    Excerpt: “Arranging the universe as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.,,,”
    “The question then is whether the origin of the universe can be a naturally occurring fluctuation, or must it be due to an external agent which starts the system out in a specific low entropy state?”
    page 19: “A unknown agent [external to time and space] intervened [in cosmic history] for reasons of its own.,,,”
    Page 21 “The only reasonable conclusion is that we don’t live in a universe with a true cosmological constant”.

    At the 8:15 minute mark of the following video, Richard Dawkins is set straight by Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist himself, on just how big the ‘problem’ of the 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant is for atheists:

    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we are in. That in the end we will not be able to explain the world. That we will have some set of laws of nature (that) we will not be able to derive them on the grounds simply of mathematical consistency. Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.
    The fact that the constants of nature are suitable for life, which is clearly true, we observe,,,”
    (Weinberg then comments on the multiverse conjecture of atheists)
    “No one has constructed a theory in which that is true. I mean,, the (multiverse) theory would be speculative, but we don’t even have a theory in which that speculation is mathematically realized. But it is a possibility.”
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video
    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 – Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video

    Here is a bit more in depth look at the ‘fix’ Weinberg is in:

    Does the multiverse explain the cosmological constant? – 2014
    Excerpt: But this is now just another manifestation of the measure problem in cosmology: how to calculate probabilities of events (existence of observers) in a (possibly) infinite collection of universes, each of infinite extent, and still get a meaningful result. The answer obtained depends on the measure (the method of treating the infinities) used, but isn’t at all clear which measure is most appropriate.
    In my opinion, the argument now degenerates to post-dicting the choice of measure that will most closely reproduce the observed value of ??. This may or may not be an interesting thing to do – personally I think it’s not for me – but one thing is for sure: it can no longer be argued that the multiverse hypothesis predicts the cosmological constant in any testable or falsifiable way. Rather the observed value of the cosmological constant is being used to work out possible measures to apply to a multiverse whose existence is already taken for granted.
    Which is an entirely different thing.

    Besides the evidence that Dr. Ross listed for the 1 in 10^120 finely tuned expansion of the universe in his video, this following paper clearly indicates that we do live in universe with a ‘true cosmological constant’. A cosmological constant that is not reducible to a materialistic basis.

    Dark energy alternatives to Einstein are running out of room – January 9, 2013
    Excerpt: Last month, a group of European astronomers, using a massive radio telescope in Germany, made the most accurate measurement of the proton-to-electron mass ratio ever accomplished and found that there has been no change in the ratio to one part in 10 million at a time when the universe was about half its current age, around 7 billion years ago. When Thompson put this new measurement into his calculations, he found that it excluded almost all of the dark energy models using the commonly expected values or parameters.
    If the parameter space or range of values is equated to a football field, then almost the whole field is out of bounds except for a single 2-inch by 2-inch patch at one corner of the field. In fact, most of the allowed values are not even on the field. “In effect, the dark energy theories have been playing on the wrong field,” Thompson said. “The 2-inch square does contain the area that corresponds to no change in the fundamental constants, (a ‘true cosmological constant’), and that is exactly where Einstein stands.”

    And interesting development that I’ve noticed lately in experimental science is that there has somewhat of a trend where, as the constants are measured to greater and greater levels as accuracy, these greater levels of accuracy have a tendency to falsify some of the more ‘exotic’ materialistic theories that try to postulate randomness of one sort or another. Such as materialistic quantum foam theories, string theory-based models, and quantum gravity theories.

    Confirming Einstein, scientists find ‘spacetime foam’ not slowing down photons from faraway gamma-ray burst (Update) – Mar 16, 2015
    Excerpt: Albert Einstein formulated the general theory of relativity, one of the theory’s basic assumptions: the idea that all light particles, or photons, propagate at exactly the same speed.,,
    The researchers analyzed data, obtained by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, of the arrival times of photons from a distant gamma-ray burst. The data showed that photons traveling for billions of years from the distant burst toward Earth all arrived within a fraction of a second of each other.
    This finding indicates that the photons all moved at the same speed, even though different photons had different energies. This is one of the best measurements ever of the independence of the speed of light from the energy of the light particles.,,,
    One of the attempts to reconcile the two theories (Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity) is the idea of “space-time foam.” According to this concept, on a microscopic scale space is not continuous, and instead it has a foam-like structure. The size of these foam elements is so tiny that it is difficult to imagine and is at present impossible to measure directly. However light particles that are traveling within this foam will be affected by the foamy structure, and this will cause them to propagate at slightly different speeds depending on their energy.
    The fact that all the photons with different energies arrived with no time delay relative to each other indicates that such a foamy structure, if it exists at all, has a much smaller size than previously expected.
    “When we began our analysis, we didn’t expect to obtain such a precise measurement,” said Prof. Tsvi Piran, the Schwartzmann University Chair at the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics and a leader of the research. “This new limit is at the level expected from quantum gravity theories.

    NASA telescopes set limits on space-time quantum ‘foam’ – May, 28. 2015
    Excerpt: At the smallest scales of distance and duration that we can measure, spacetime—that is, the three dimensions of space plus time—appears to be smooth and structureless. However, certain aspects of quantum mechanics, the highly successful theory scientists have developed to explain the physics of atoms and subatomic particles, predict that spacetime would not be smooth. Rather, it would have a foamy, jittery nature and would consist of many small, ever-changing, regions for which space and time are no longer definite, but fluctuate.,,,
    Chandra’s X-ray detection of quasars at distances of billions of light-years rules out one model, according to which photons diffuse randomly through spacetime foam in a manner similar to light diffusing through fog. Detections of distant quasars at shorter, gamma-ray wavelengths with Fermi and even shorter wavelengths with VERITAS demonstrate that a second, so-called holographic model with less diffusion does not work.
    “We find that our data can rule out two different models for spacetime foam,” said co-author Jack Ng of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. “We can conclude that spacetime is less foamy that some (quantum) models predict.”
    The X-ray and gamma-ray data show that spacetime is smooth down to distances 1,000 times smaller than the nucleus of a hydrogen atom.

    Most precise test of Lorentz symmetry for the photon finds that the speed of light is indeed constant – by Lisa Zyga – September 15, 2015
    Excerpt: “Lorentz symmetry”,,, is a cornerstone of Einstein’s special relativity theory. According to special relativity, there is no absolute space or absolute time.,,,
    The cavity test here involves two cavities containing sapphire crystals. The researchers excited an electromagnetic resonance in the crystals at a specific frequency, and supercooled them with liquid helium to stabilize the frequency and improve sensitivity. Like the mirrors of the interferometer, the cavities are carefully aligned orthogonal (at right angles) to each other to detect any tiny change in the speed of light along different axes. In the case of the cavities, a change in the speed of light would induce a change in the resonance frequency of the crystals. But after analysis of a full year of data, no such change was found.
    “This is the first direct test of polarization-independent effects for Lorentz invariance violations of the photon that has reached the level of the Planck-suppressed electroweak unification scale,” Parker told “The energy scale of electroweak unification (about 100 GeV) suppressed by the Planck scale (about 1.2 x 10^19 GeV) gives the dimensionless ratio of about 8 x 10^-18, so perhaps naively one might expect to start seeing Lorentz symmetry of the photon being broken in this regime, yet we didn’t see any evidence for this.”,,,
    These improved bounds could prove very useful for experimentally testing (falsifying) theories that (try to) unify general relativity and the standard model while predicting Lorentz symmetry violations. Some of these theories, for example, include string theory-based models and quantum gravity theories, among others.,,,

    Although atheists may be driven ‘mad’ for why constants don’t vary, and may find the implications of constants ‘disturbing’, myself, I find the fact the constants do not vary to be a source of comfort.
    The implications for me as a Christian, far from being ‘disturbing’, are that I now know for a fact that when God says something He absolutely means it and that He will never go back on his word or break His promises to us. Ever!

    Verse and Music:

    John 14:2-3
    “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
    And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

    That Where I Am, There You May Also Be ~ Rich Mullins

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    BA77: “Moreover, to drive physicists of the atheistic persuasion even more mad, not only is the fine structure constant fine tuned to allow life in the universe, but the fine structure constant is also found to be finely tuned so as to allow intelligent life like human life to make scientific discoveries.”

    And there is no other universe to behold or contemplate. Only the One and Only we find ourselves in. All others are evidence-free wishful thinking of people who hate the idea of a Creator.

    Let them wish.

    Let them hate.

    Those of us who have no reason to wish or hate are not impressed.

    We accept the obvious.

  4. 4
    Mapou says:

    Light travels at around 300,000 km per second. Why not faster? Why not slower?

    It gets even weirder when you realize that nothing can move faster or slower than light. It is the only speed, period. If something appears to be moving slower than light, the motion really consists of many quantum jumps at light speed interspersed with many rest periods. In fact, at ordinary speeds, an object is not moving at all the majority of the time. At light speed, there are only jumps and no rest periods.

    You don’t understand motion even if you think you do.

  5. 5
    EugeneS says:


    So there’s two speed values, not one: the speed of light and 0 🙂

  6. 6
    Mapou says:

    EugeneS, the answer is yes, we live in a discrete universe and motion state is binary. Something is either moving or it’s not.

  7. 7
    Mapou says:

    Oh, by the way. Einstein never explained why nothing can move faster than light other than something about its mass increasing to infinity. Physicists are not really sure if it’s a universal law. A few years ago they went through a frenzy after a CERN team announced that neutrinos were observed to move faster than light. The issue was not settled until they discovered a flaw in the experiment.

    Well, now you know exactly why nothing can move faster than light and you heard it here on UD. Light speed is the only speed! OK, now. Let me take off my propeller hat.


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