I have been reading The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. It is a relatively older book having been originally published in 1999 with a new edition released in 2003. The author is ambitious aiming to explain to a general audience the major advances in physics regarding the makeup of the universe and the contradiction involved in some of the theories (special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics) that string theory hopes to overcome. Having read the first three chapters I am impressed with how Greene has explained the most complex of concepts using everyday examples. Math is certainly not one of my strong subjects (understatement of the year and it just got started) but I found myself understanding these concepts (at least more than I did).
Greene talking about the four fundamental forces of nature discusses the differences in strength between them. The electromagnetic forces are 10 to power of 42 stronger than gravity, while the strong force is 100 x stronger than electromagnetic and 100,000 times stronger than the weak force. Why is this important:
the universe would be a vastly different place if the properties of the matter and force particles were even moderately changed. For example, the existence of the stable nuclei forming the hundred or so elements of the periodic table hinges delicately on the ratio between the strengths of the strong and electromagnetic forces. … But a rather small change in the relative strengths of these two forces would easily disrupt the balance between them, and would cause most atomic nuclei to disintegrate.
Furthermore, were the mass of the electron a few times greater than it is, electrons and protons would tend to combine to form neutrons, gobbling up the nuclei of hydrogen (the simplest element in the cosmos, with a nucleus containing a single proton) and, again, disrupting the production of more complex elements. (Kindle location 305)
In A Brief History of Time, noted physicist Stephen Hawking wrote:
The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. We cannot, at the moment at least, predict the values of these numbers from theory – we have to find them by observation. It may be that one day we shall discover a complete unifed theory that predicts them all, but it is also possible that some or all of them vary from universe to universe or within a single universe. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. (p129)
In a Discover Magazine article, several leading theoretical physicists share that view:
an extraordinary fact about the universe: Its basic properties are uncannily suited for life. Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and—in this universe, anyway—life as we know it would not exist. … There are many such examples of the universe’s life-friendly properties—so many, in fact, that physicists can’t dismiss them all as mere accidents.
“We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.
If [dark energy] had been any bigger, there would have been enough repulsion from it to overwhelm the gravity that drew the galaxies together, drew the stars together, and drew Earth together,” Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind says. “It’s one of the greatest mysteries in physics. All we know is that if it were much bigger we wouldn’t be here to ask about it.”
Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the University of Texas, agrees. “This is the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident,” he says.
As science continues to pursue answers to the makeup of the universe and the conflicts in existing theories we must remember that it wrestles with grand ideas that may or may not all hold up to experimentation. In 2010 Greene wrote an article for Discover magazine talking about string theory, space, and time:
For a long time we have been pursuing theoretical ideas like string theory without input from experiment or observation, and that is an unusual way for a science to evolve. In three decades—perhaps sooner with the help of the Large Hadron Collider and satellite-based astronomical observations—I would hope this changes. Should the observations support the theory, great; should they rule it out, that’s great too, because we’d be able to move on, full throttle, to other ideas.
And if I allow my imagination to run wild, I would love it if we had some deep insight that let us understand what space and time actually are. We know a lot about the features of space and time, what they can do—but many of us believe these are not fundamental. Identifying the constituents of space and time would be a grand insight.
As I read this book I found myself gaining an even greater appreciation for the intricacies and fine tuning of the universe, but best of all a greater appreciation for the One who created it.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4, ESV)
When science learns how to explain all of these things even better than they can now it will not change the fact that He is the grand unifier and grand sustainer of it all.
HT: Thinking Christian for pointing out the Discover Magazine article.