Rick's Critique of the Cosmic Coincidences: Chapter 2

Definition of the Universal Constants

In this chapter the set of universal constants which is used throughout the Critique is defined. Our set contains 11 constants, including the universal gravitational constant, G. This becomes 13 constants if the speed of light (c) and Planck's constant (h) are also included.

Note that G, c and h are often excluded from such sets of constants on the grounds that their values merely define the system of units being used. This is not a terribly convenient perspective if one wants to talk about varying the strength of the gravitational force. The obvious way to do this is to vary the magnitude of G. If G has been defined as unity, then the same effect can be accomplished by increasing all times and lengths by a factor, and decreasing all masses and energies by the same factor. But this is rather a messy, and untransparent, way to increase gravity. Similarly, it is problematical to talk about theories in which the speed of light varies in the early universe if c has been defined as unity! Again, it can be accomplished, but is messy. If c "really" varies, then the physics will be expressed more simply by its explicit inclusion.

The values of the 13 universal constants in this universe are stated in various units and also in convenient dimensionless forms. The contention is that all the broad features of the universe follow from the values taken by these constants together with the laws of physics.

Defining some of the constants, particularly the so-called coupling constants, requires some discussion of the underlying physics of fields. Consequently this Chapter is quite lengthy, but nevertheless woefully inadequate. A precise definition of the purely quantum mechanical fields, the weak and strong nuclear forces, requires the full quantum field theoretic treatment. Since the standard U(1)XSU(2)xSU(3) gauge field theory of the standard model of particle physics is probably only an effective rendering of a more fundamental, but as yet unknown, theory, it may be that no truly satisfactory definitions are yet available.

Of our 13 constants, only 8 relate to fundamental (local) physics. The other 5 constants refer to global cosmological parameters, such as the ratio of the number of photons to nucleons, the deviation of the cosmic microwave background from perfect homogeneity, and the amount of dark matter in the universe. It is possible that these parameters may ultimately be calculable from the fundamental, local, physics occurring within the first picosecond, but this has not been achieved as yet.

Reference is made to the set of 26 constants arising from the standard model. This is for interest only. No further use is made of this extended set of constants. However, it serves a useful purpose in that the electromagnetic, strong and weak coupling 'constants' are revealed not to be constant at all, but to vary with energy. Expressions are given for their variation with energy. This does not fatally undermine their significance, however, since the role of the universal constnat transfers to the fundamental energy scale which is introduced by these expressions.

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Saturn's North Pole (2009): It is not known how this unusual hexagonal cloud system that surrounds Saturn's north pole was created, keeps its shape, or how long it will last. Originally discovered during the Voyager flybys of Saturn in the 1980s, nobody has ever seen anything like it elsewhere in the Solar System. Although its infrared glow was visible previously to the Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn, over the past year the mysterious hexagonal vortex became fully illuminated by sunlight for the first time during Cassini's visit. Since then, Cassini has imaged the rotating hexagon in visible light enough times to create a time-lapse movie. The pole center was not well imaged and has been excluded. This movie shows many unexpected cloud motions, such as waves emanating from the corners of the hexagon. [Credit: Cassini Imaging Team,SSI,JPL,ESA,NASA]