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Trilogy 2: Our Rare Universe

By Terry Loucks  Posted by Ursula Siebert (about the submitter)     Permalink
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No other topic engenders as much impassioned debate, among both scientists and theologians, as the "perfection" of our universe. We will learn about its virtues and its shortcomings soon, but first we will explore the debate.

You can see how "Intelligent Design" advocates would want the universe to be perfect, even though many believe it was created 6000 years ago. They can then attribute our existence, and presumably our salvation to the god of their choice.

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The way I deal with these coincidences is to place them along side all the earlier examples for our Rare Earth, namely that it is one more thing for which I can be grateful. In my case, the god is Einstein, because without him and other scientists I would not have perceived this beauty.

The universe presents us with a slightly different situation than the Rare Earth examples above. There are at least two instances, possibly three, where Fundamental Constants or ratios of them are restrained to exact numbers.

One such example is the strength of the force that binds together protons and neutrons in the nucleus. It turns out that when hydrogen "burns" in a nuclear sense deep in the stars to form helium, it releases as energy .7% of its mass (as in E equals mc-squared). This number has no room for error. If it were .8%, for example, or .6%, the universe would be either all hydrogen or no hydrogen, and the stars would be short-lived. Said more parochially, there would be no carbon, as in carbon life, or heavier elements in the Periodic Table.

Another example is the fortuitous nuclear resonance in carbon, which enables helium to bootstrap inside the nuclear caldrons of stars. This needs a little explanation, because it is not as obvious as it sounds. Here's what you might think would happen: there are tons of helium (4) from the reaction in the preceding paragraph. So why couldn't two of them form beryllium (8) and the third helium brings it up to carbon (12)?

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The answer is that none of these reactions forms a stable nucleus. But then miraculously carbon itself comes to the rescue, by just happening to have a triple resonance at exactly the right energy, namely 7.66 Mev. This was predicted by astronomer Fred Hoyle and later measured by others with his encouragement.

To be continued....

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