The Wood Memorial Lecture 2005

The Constants of Nature

Professor John D Barrow
Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge
5.30pm on Thursday 27th January 2005, LT1, Herschel Building

What is the ultimate status of the constants of Nature?
What is their role?
Do we know why they are as they are?
Are they truly constant?
Are they everywhere the same?
Are they all linked?
Could life have evolved and persisted if they were even slightly different?
Are there other Universes where they are actually different?

These are some of the issues that this talk will grapple with.  We will look back to the introduction of the first constants of Nature and the impact they had on scientists like Einstein and Dirac.  We will also discuss astronomical observations of the behaviour of atoms in the vicinity of distant quasars that are probing whether some of the constants of Nature are changing very slowly as the universe expands ages.