New discovery could change our understanding of the universe

How a cup of water can unlock the secrets of our Universe?


In high-energy particle physics, cosmology, and astronomy, it was discussed where the fundamental physical constants came from and their values. Our universe is unique due to these constants, which set it apart from other possible worlds. These constants’ values are arbitrary because they don’t have any justification.

Understanding fundamental constants is considered one of modern science’s grandest questions. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have discovered that could change our understanding of the universe.

For the first time, scientists revealed a range in which fundamental constants can vary, allowing for the viscosity needed for life processes to occur within and between living cells.
The same scientists discovered in 2020 that there is a limit to how runny a liquid can be since the viscosity of liquids is limited by fundamental physical constants. This outcome is now being applied to the field of life sciences.

Fundamental physical constants shape the fabric of the universe we live in. Physical constants are quantities with a value generally believed to be both universal in nature and to remain unchanged over time – for example, the mass of the electron.

This research might take scientists a step closer to determining the origin of these constants.

Professor of Physics Kostya Trachenko said, “Understanding how water flows in a cup turns out to be closely related to the grand challenge to figure out fundamental constants. Life processes in and between living cells require motion, and viscosity sets the properties of this motion.”

“If fundamental constants change, viscosity would change too, impacting life as we know it. For example, if water were as viscous as tar, life would not exist in its current form or not exist at all. This applies beyond water, so all life forms using the liquid state to function would be affected.”

“Any change in fundamental constants, including an increase or decrease, would be equally bad news for flow and liquid-based life. We expect the window to be quite narrow. For example, the viscosity of our blood would become too thick or too thin for body functioning with only a few percent change of some fundamental constants such as the Planck constant or electron charge.”

A related hypothesis is that there may have been many tunings, which would be consistent with the independent acquisition of features in biological evolution. Fundamental constants may result from nature arriving at durable physical structures through evolutionary mechanisms. It is still to be known whether or not understanding the genesis of fundamental constants can be helped by the concepts of evolution.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kostya Trachenko. Constraints on fundamental physical constants from bio-friendly viscosity and diffusion. Science Advances. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adh9024
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