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Monday, June 10, 2013

The fundamental properties of the universe

These six numbers constitute a 'recipe' for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be 'untuned' there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different. Most would be stillborn or sterile. We could only have emerged (and therefore we naturally now find ourselves) in a universe with the 'right' combination. -Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2001, page 4.

Rees's six numbers are these: N, the strength of the electrical forces between sub-atomic particles, compared to the gravitational pull between them, Epsilon, which measures the binding of atomic nuclei, Omega, which is related to the expansion of the universe, lambda, which Rees says is related to cosmic antigravity, and is thus also related to how the universe expands, Q, which is the ratio between two types of fundamental energies, and the number of dimensions, 3, in the universe. I'm not a cosmologist, and I don't think I understand any of these, except maybe the last one. See here for a little more information on these numbers, from the Wikipedia. However, I do understand that Rees is saying something profound. He has no explanation as to why his six numbers are exactly what they are, but, if they weren't, either we wouldn't exist, or the universe, and any life in it, would be seriously different. I prefer to believe that the values of these important physical relationships, and our existence, are "the providence of a benign Creator."

I don't know whether there are alternate universes, with different sets of physical constants and laws. Perhaps, perhaps not. Nor should either possibility shake one's faith in God, if she has such.

If God produced these six numbers, He might well have also produced moral constants. One such, which, also, I make no claim to understand, but which the Bible is quite clear on, is that disobedience to God must be paid for by a blood sacrifice. In the Old Testament, the sinner furnished this. In the New, God the Son did.

If you want to read more about the scientific and philosophical question of whether the universe was made for us, or we are as we are because the universe is the way it is, read the Wikipedia article on the Anthropic Principle.

Thanks for reading.

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