Meet the Multiverse

by Dr. Edgar Andrews

goldilocksAccording to Goldilocks, Little Bear’s porridge was ‘just right’, but only in the last 60 years or so have scientists been forced to agree. Not just about porridge, of course, but about planet earth’s apparently unique capacity to sustain life.

The realisation that earth is perfectly suited (‘just right’) for the task of playing host to intelligent life has led scientists to call it ‘the Goldilocks planet’. Logically, of course, it should be called the porridge planet, since it was the porridge rather than Goldilocks that was just right, but that’s a detail. Exploration of the solar system has demonstrated the total uniqueness of earth among the otherwise barren solar planets.

Neither too hot nor too cold; provided with an abundance of water; enjoying a non-toxic, life-promoting atmosphere; protected from harmful radiation by its magnetic field; and with just the right gravitation to retain its atmosphere without squashing its inhabitants, Earth provides a perfect haven for life. An estate agent couldn’t write a more glowing specification.

Fine-tuned universe

But that’s only the beginning. It isn’t just earth that seems specially designed to support life, but the universe as a whole. In 1999, Sir Martin Rees (then Astronomer Royal) published a book entitled Just six numbers — the deep forces that shape the universe1, in which he explains that certain physical constants that crop up in the laws of nature have to be precisely what they are (within very close limits) to allow life to exist and flourish anywhere in the universe.

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In other words, these numbers are ‘fine-tuned’ to allow life to exist. He writes; ‘This book describes six numbers that now seem especially significant. Two of them relate to the basic forces [in nature]; two fix the size and overall “texture” of our universe and determine whether it will continue for ever; and two more fix the properties of space itself. … if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’ [from their precise values] there would be no stars and no life’2.

The late astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle FRS put it more bluntly: ‘A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature … The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question…


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