Starts With A Bang

How Many Fundamental Constants Does It Take To Define Our Universe? (Synopsis)

Our Universe, from the hot Big Bang until the present day, must still be explicable. Image credit: NASA / CXC / M.Weiss.

“The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.” -Aleister Crowley

As we learn more and more about the Universe, we’d like to describe it as simply as possible. While we have thousands or even millions of chemical configurations, they arise from less than 100 different atoms. Atoms themselves are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. The great hope of unification and for fans of elegance in general is that all of the Universe can be derived from as simple a formulation as possible.

The particles and antiparticles of the Standard Model. Image credit: E. Siegel.

But with the zoo of particles we have today, the gravitational, strong, weak and electromagnetic forces plus the way everything interacts, it takes a larger number of fundamental constants than we might like to reproduce our Universe. And even at that, they don’t give everything! Without a surefire path to the matter/antimatter asymmetry, dark matter, or a lack of strong CP-violation, among others, there are likely even more constants than the ones we know we need.

The ultramassive, merging dynamical galaxy cluster Abell 370, with gravitational mass (mostly dark matter) inferred in blue. Image credit: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), R. Massey (Durham University, UK), the Hubble SM4 ERO Team and ST-ECF.

Come see what the bare minimum is — in terms of constants — to give us the Universe we have as we know it to be today.