Four examples of astrophysical fine-tuning

Four examples of astrophysical fine-tuning January 15, 2018


Mojave Desert and Milky Way
The Milky Way above California’s Mojave Desert     (Wikimedia Commons)


A quotation from Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How We Make Sense of Things (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), by the Oxford theologian Alister McGrath, who holds three Oxford doctorates — in divinity, intellectual history, and molecular biophysics:


Examples of the astrophysical “fine-tuning” of fundamental cosmological constants include the following:

  1.  If the strong coupling constant were slightly smaller, hydrogen would be the only element in the universe.  Since the evolution of life as we know it is fundamentally dependent on the chemical properties of carbon, that life could not have come into being without some hydrogen being converted to carbon by fusion.  On the other hand, if the strong coupling constant were slightly larger (even by as much as 2 percent), the hydrogen would have been converted to helium, with the result that no long-lived stars would have been formed.  Since such stars are regarded as essential to the emergence of life, such a conversion would have led to life as we know it failing to emerge.
  2. If the weak fine constant were slightly smaller, no hydrogen would have formed during the early history of the universe.  Consequently, no stars would have been formed.  On the other hand, if it were slightly larger, supernovae would have been unable to eject the heavier elements necessary for life.  In either case, life as we know it could not have emerged.
  3. If the electromagnetic fine structure constant were slightly larger, the stars would not be hot enough to warm planets to a temperature sufficient to maintain life in the form in which we know it.  If smaller, the stars would have burned out too quickly to allow life to evolve on these planets.
  4. If the gravitational fine structure constant were slightly smaller, stars and planets would not have been able to form because they would have lacked the gravitational constraints necessary for coalescence of their constituent material.  If stronger, the stars thus formed would have burned out too quickly to allow the evolution of life.  (59-60)




Some additional science news:


“Scientists discover 280-million-year-old fossil forest in Antarctica: Trees are believed to have lived through extremes of complete darkness and continuous sunlight” 


“New findings pose more problems for the embattled concept of the microaggression”


“The Mysterious Origins of the First Scandinavians”


Graduate schools are producing more doctorates than the academic marketplace can absorb.  But here’s an encouraging testimonial — which can also be repurposed, I think, as encouragement for private, unaffiliated scholars without Ph.D.s.


Follow your passion:


“A Scholar, But Not a Professor”


Finally, here’s a little item about a scientist who did follow his passion:


“Researcher Hides Marriage Proposal in Paper”


Posted from Phoenix, Arizona



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