Fine Tuning of Universal Constants
(This short extract is a quotation from Prof Paul C W Davies, in ‘The Accidental Universe’, 1982, preface pvii, Cambridge University Press)
The numerical values that nature has assigned to the fundamental constants, such as the charge on the electron, the mass of the proton, and the Newtonian gravitational constant, may be mysterious, but they are crucially relevant to the structure of the universe that we perceive. As more and more physical systems, from nuclei to galaxies, have become better understood, scientists have begun to realise that many characteristics of these systems are remarkably sensitive to the precise values of the universal constants. Had nature opted for a slightly different set of numbers, the world would be a very different place. Probably we would not be here to see it.
More intriguing still, certain structures, such as solar-type stars, depend for their characteristic features on wildly improbable numerical accidents that combine together fundamental constants from distinct branches of physics. And when one goes on to study cosmology – the overall structure and evolution of the universe – incredulity mounts. Recent discoveries about the primeval cosmos oblige us to accept that the expanding universe has been set up in its motion with a cooperation of astonishing precision.
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