The Astronomical Unlikelihood of this Universe

As we mentioned last week, the mathematical constant “G” that is part of Newton’s law of gravity is such a delicately precise number that if it were different by just 1 part in 1036 there would not have been a universe permitting life.

It’s nigh impossible to wrap our minds around a number as high as 1036.   One author, Allen Hainline, tries to help us with this mental picture:

Suppose one could make a sand pile encompassing all of Europe and Asia and up to 5 times the height of the moon.  Suppose one grain of sand is painted red and randomly placed somewhere within this pile.  A blind-folded person then randomly selects one grain of sand from the pile.  The odds that she would select that one red grain of sand are slightly better than the 1 in 1036 odds of a life-permitting strength of the gravitational force based on just one of the above criteria.

Many other constants also seem to be incredibly fine-tuned, including

  • The “weak force,” which controls the fusion of protons with each other
  • The “strong force,” which holds protons within an atom’s nucleus
  • The electromagnetic force constant
  • The ratio between the masses of an electron and a proton

Perhaps the unlikeliest of all is the “special low entropy condition.”   “Entropy” may be thought of as the property of the universe by which all physical systems move toward disorganization and lower energy.  Our universe began with a very specific, low entropy condition, or the universe would have organized itself into a bunch of black holes rather than galaxies.

According to Roger Penrose of Oxford University the chances that the universe’s specific entropic condition could have arisen by chance is 1 in 1010(123).   That is 10 to the 10th power to the 123rd power, or a number too large to fit into this article.  In fact, it would not even fit onto a piece of paper the size of Earth, because it is larger than the estimated number of subatomic particles in the observable universe.

So, many cosmologists have been greatly challenged to figure out how this universe and its apparently finely-tuned conditions for life could have come about by random chance.  But they have come up with a couple of ideas.  Stay…tuned.

Next: Ways to escape a Designer