Physical Constants

By: Jim Virkler; ©2009

Our last post mentioned “physical constants” as analogues to football’s “rules of the game.” Encyclopedia Britannica defines physical constants as fundamental, invariant quantities observed in nature. Let’s amplify this idea to help us appreciate our physical world. Even young children understand the necessity of rules to govern mundane activities, from mealtime to playtime to bedtime. They learn to understand the connection between rules and the orderliness and enjoyment of their lives. When they challenge the rules and “push the envelope,” they discover the unhappy results, although often their nature still feeds on the challenge.

For most people who do not perceive science as a subject of high priority, physical constants would not contribute to light banter or conversation starters over a cup of coffee. It’s easy to understand that such conversations would generate unease in many people, if not actual fear. In our post-modern life experience, it is easy to observe our surroundings unthinkingly and see air, plants, animals, and stars as simply matter to sustain and entertain us. Our everyday society is not oriented to explain such esoteric concepts as invariant light speed, the charge or mass of an electron, or the fine structure constant. We are more oriented toward utility than discovery. We feel more enlightened by discovering how to operate a machine than by discovering how the machine operates.

At the most fundamental level, we now understand that no matter could exist or interact and no energy could do its work without obeying the constraints of a multitude of physical constants. For example, light travels through space at an invariable speed. The electron has a fixed charge and a fixed mass. For sports enthusiasts, the parallel would be a tacit awareness that enjoyment of their favorite spectator sporting event would be impossible without the players’ strict adherence to the game’s rules. In other human experiences, the same rule-adherence principles prevail, whether we are enjoying the chef’s culinary specialty, our favorite musician’s performance, or even inspecting the result of the annual spring cleanup of our home’s landscaping. In either the physical realm of matter/energy interactions or in human activities, the pairing of events with operational rules governing those events is a given.

Contemplate: could we enjoy the meal, the music, or the landscape manicure without being aware of the operational rules governing their preparation? At some level, yes, we could. But how much more enjoyable and satisfying is it when the “consumer” understands the guidelines needed and used in preparation of the final product?

To acknowledge God as the Master Creator is to acknowledge both His creation of matter and His creation of the physical constants–the cosmos’s rules of operation. The world’s most brilliant scientists have shared with us their discoveries of dozens of physical constants. As I learn more about them, I will share the discoveries with my readers, trying to achieve a level of enhanced comprehension and appreciation. The writer of The Book of Job gives clues that he may have had a high level of awareness (Job 37:14-15 The Message): “Have you noticed all this? Stop in your tracks! Take in God’s miracle-wonders! Do you have any idea how God does it all?”

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