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No. 8: Fall 1979

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Due to a fortunate coincidence you can read about a fortunate coincidence

There are embedded in the fabric of our universe a number of curious coincidences among the so-called physical constants. Two amusing examples are:

  1. The size of a planet is roughly the geometric mean of the size of the universe and the size of the atom; and
  2. The mass of man is the geometric mean of the mass of a planet and the mass of the proton.

Less hilarious is the observation that the age of the universe is of the order of the quotient of the electron time scale and the gravitational fine structure constant; and that only at the present time are physical conditions in the universe favorable to the existence of life-as-we-know-it!

The surprising number of coincidences that have been identified suggests that we exist and are aware of the universe around us only when certain coincidences prevail among physical constants. Is "now" a magic moment in the history of the universe during which we have "happened" as a natural coincidence of blindly drifting physical constants, or did some metaphysical force tune the universe specially for us? This long, rather mathematical article is redolent with metaphysics and mystery.

(Carr, B.J., and Rees, M.J.; "The Anthropic Principle and the Structure of the Physical World," Nature, 278:605, 1979.)

Comment. One might speculate that at other times different coincidences prevail that would permit life-as-we-do-not-know-it or something equally unimaginable!

From Science Frontiers #8, Fall 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss