How Constant are the "Constants"?

Epistemology, Part 7

The current issue of Scientific American includes an article that details the pursuit by physicists of the nature - and ostensible stability - of the "constants" of our physical reality. The velocity of light, c; the constant of gravitation, G; the mass of the electron, me, etc., all have been assumed to be the same at all places and times in the universe.1

Yet, current research is beginning to cast doubts on their constancy and a puzzlement over their apparent arbitrariness - physicists have no idea why the constants take the special numerical values they do. They do not seem to follow any discernible pattern.

Among the most revered among physicists is the "fine-structure constant," a, which combines the velocity of light, c, the electric charge on a single electron, e, Planck's constant, h, and the so-called vacuum permittivity, e0: a = e2/2e0hc. 

First introduced in 1916 by Arnold Sommerfield, a pioneer in applying the theory of quantum mechanics to electromagnetism, this quantifies the relativistic (c) and quantum (h) qualities of electromagnetic (e) interactions involving charged particles in empty space(e0). It has consistently been measured at 1/137.03599976, and has endowed the number 137 with a legendary status among physicists (it will often open the combination locks on their briefcases). The article in Scientific American states the following:

"If a had a different value, all sorts of vital features of the world around us would change. If the value were lower, the density of solid atomic matter would fall (in proportion to a3), molecular bonds would break at lower temperatures (in proportion to a2), and the number of stable elements in the periodic table would increase (1/a). If a were too big, small atomic nuclei could not exist, because the electrical repulsion of their protons would overwhelm the strong nuclear force binding them together. A value as big as 0.1 would blow apart carbon."

When compiling the many physical and mathematical subtleties which make up our universe, scientists have discovered that a slight variation in any of them militates against the existence of life. At the cosmic level, if the earth was either closer or more distant from the sun; if the earth was larger or smaller; if the sun was larger or smaller, etc. - any of these variations would render life impossible. Even at the atomic and sub-atomic level, the slightest variation in any of the primary constants of physics - some as sensitive as one part in over 1,000,000 - causes life to be impossible.

Even secular science refers to these appearances of apparent design as the "anthropic principle," since they yield the impression that the universe was designed specifically for man. The application of this perspective has even been the basis for some surprising new discoveries.2 The "fine-structure constant" is an esoteric example of this same "anthropic principle." (Many of these examples are detailed in our briefing pack, Beyond Coincidence.)

Willingly Blindfolded

Meanwhile, physicists still continue to cling to the notion that the values of these critical constants are the result of "mere happenstance, acquired during random events and elementary particle processes early in the history of the universe."3 They fail to address a fundamental oxymoron: The astonishingly delicate balance of hundreds of these highly precise (and seemingly arbitrary) ratios (some within a tiny range of only a few parts per million) all occurred by "mere happenstance, acquired during random events." They willingly overlook the fact that the more rare these relationships are, the more they unequivocally reveal both skillful design in their origin as well as diligence in their maintenance! 

Paul emphasizes not only the creation itself by our Lord, but an often overlooked maintenance commitment also.

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things are held together.

Colossians 1:16-17

Peter was accurate when he dubbed these intellectual myopics "willingly ignorant."4 (Peter is also particularly perceptive in linking their commitment to "evolution" to a general skepticism regarding the Second Coming.)

Evidence of Hyperspace?

Despite esoteric research pursuing the nature of these constants, however, the status of constants has grown more muddled, not less. The possibility that these constants may not be the same at all places and times throughout the universe would cause revolutionary upheavals in their understanding of reality itself. One implication is that the constants we presently observe may not, in fact, be the truly fundamental ones. Those may exist in the full higher-dimensional hyperspace and we see only their three-dimensional "shadows." (Their words, not mine.5)

That is what the Bible has maintained all along: that we live in a "temporal" world which is, at best, only a subset of a larger reality.6 Nachmonides, in his study of Genesis One, eight centuries ago, inferred that the universe had ten dimensions: he concluded that four were discernible; six were "unknowable." This is consistent with the current conjectures of cosmological physics. (It is provocative that even the Apostle Paul lists four-dimensions in his letter to the Ephesians.7)

There are other non-constant paradoxes to tantalize the diligent researcher: attempts to repeat the famed Michelson-Morley experiment tends to yield non-zero residuals, which has resurrected suspicions that the universe might be geocentric after all!

Stay tuned. "Film at eleven."


  1. "Inconstant Constants," Scientific American, June 2005, p.57-63.
  2. Sir Fred Hoyle even predicted, and then discovered, in 1954, the previously unknown energy levels in the Carbon-12 atom from his sensitivity to the prevalent patterns of numerical design in the universe.
  3. "Inconstant Constants," p.57-58.
  4. 2 Peter 3:4,5.
  5. "Inconstant Constants," p.57.
  6. Hebrews 11:3; 1 Corinthians 15:44-49.
  7. Ephesians 3:18.