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The Finely-tuned Universe

The Finely-tuned Universe

Basic building blocks for life depend on a very delicate, finely-tuned balance of the physical properties of the universe. This table lists twenty five properties of the universe whose values must fall within very narrow ranges in order for life to exist. Derived from "The Creator and the Cosmos" by Hugh Ross, Copyright 1993, used by permission of NavPress.

Strong nuclear force constant
Weak nuclear force constant
Gravitational force constant
Electromagnetic force constant
Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
Ratio of electron to proton mass
Ratio of protons to electrons
Expansion rate of the universe
Entropy level of the universe
Mass density of the universe
Velocity of light
Age of the universe
Initial uniformity of radiation
Fine structure constant
Average distance between stars
Decay rate of the proton
12 Carbon to 16 Oxygen energy level ratio
Ground state energy level for 4 Helium
Decay rate of 8 Beryllium
Mass excess of the neutron over the proton
Initial excess of nucleons over antinucleons
Polarity of the water molecule
Supernova eruptions
White dwarf binaries
Ratio of exotic to ordinary matter


(This is a summary of the table; the actual graphic couldn't be included here)

The delicate balance of the values of the properties of the universe required for life is evidenced by this sample of key values and the results of varying the values in any direction. Derived from "The Creator and the Cosmos" by Hugh Ross, Copyright 1993, used by permission of NavPress.

To support life, elements must bond together to form molecules. Two factors are required to allow molecular bonding. They are:

Strength of the force of electromagnetism:

If the force of electromagnetism was greater, atoms would not share electrons with other atoms
If the force of electromagnetism was weaker, atoms could not hold on to electrons at all.

Ratio of the mass of the electron to the mass of the proton:

If the ratio isn't delicately balanced, chemical bondings could not take place

Atoms must be able to form to provide the elements required for life molecules. To support formation of atoms, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force and gravity must each be delicately balanced.

The strong nuclear force determines the degree to which protons and neutrons (some components of atoms) stick together:

If the strong nuclear force was slightly greater (0.3% stronger) life would be impossible because all protons and neutrons would bind together. There would be only heavy elements in the universe.
If the strong nuclear force was slightly weaker (2%) life would be impossible because protons and neutrons would not stick together. Only one element, hydrogen would exist in the universe.

The weak nuclear force governs the rates of radioactive decay:

If the weak nuclear force was much stronger, matter would be converted into heavy elements
If the weak nuclear force was much weaker, matter would remain in the form of the lightest elements

The strength of the force of gravity determines how hot the stars burn:

If the force of gravity was stronger, stars would burn up too quickly and erratically for life to exist
If the force of gravity was weaker, stars wouldn't be hot enough for nuclear fusion; no heavy elements would be produced.

There must be the right number and mass of protons, neutrons and electrons in the universe in order to have life.

Neutrons are and must be 0.138% more massive than protons:

If neutrons were an additional 0.1% more massive, there wouldn't be enough of them to make heavy elements necessary for life.
If neutrons were 0.1% less massive, protons would more rapidly decay into neutrons and all the stars in the universe would have collapsed.

The number of electrons must be equal to the number of protons:
If the number of protons and electrons aren't balanced, galaxies, stars and planets would have never formed because electromagnetic forces would have overcome gravitational forces.

The rate of expansion of the universe is how it must be to support life:

If the universe expanded more quickly, matter would disperse and not form into galaxies, stars or planets.
If the universe expanded too slowly, matter would clump too much and the universe would collapse in a super-dense lump.


It is interesting to speculate about the possibility of life on other planets in other galaxies, however scientists have calculated the probability of life existing elsewhere in the universe at much less than one chance in a quintillion.

The earth is very uniquely suited to support life. It resides in a spiral galaxy that has the right rate of supernova events to provide sufficient heavy elements essential to life, without life-destroying radiation. Our sun is the right distance away from other stars in our galaxy to prevent gravitational interactions that would disrupt orbits of the planets, yet still have an even distribution of the heavy elements necessary for life.

Our sun has the very specific mass that is necessary to maintain a temperature suitable for life on earth. The distance between the sun and the earth is correct to maintain the earth's current rotation rate and to maintain the correct temperature to sustain life. Planets closer to the sun, such as Venus or Mercury have rotation periods of months which create wide temperature differentials incompatible with life. The distance between the sun and earth is also what it must be to support the stability of liqui d water, which is necessary for life to exist. If the distance between the sun and earth changed as little as 2%, all life would cease to exist.

The moon also is as it must be to support life on earth. It is unique in our solar system in that it is large relative to its planet. It's resulting gravitational pull stabilizes the tilt of the earth and also helps the sea waters be cleansed and their nutrients replenished through the tidal cycle.

We have described just a few of many parameters of the earth, moon, sun and galaxy that must fall within very narrowly defined ranges for life to exist. Table 3 lists some of the parameters that must be just as they are to have life on earth.


(This is a summary of the table; the actual graphic couldn't be included here)

There must be one sun (or "parent star") to support life:

If more than one sun in planetary system, tidal interactions would disrupt planetary orbits.
If no sun in planetary system, heat produced would be insufficient for life.

The distance from the earth to the sun is just as it must be to support life:

If the earth was farther from the sun, the planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle.
If the earth was closer to the sun, the planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle.

The atmosphere has the correct mixture of gases: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, .93% Argon, .035% carbon dioxide and .035% other gases:

If the atmosphere had 25% oxygen or more, spontaneous fires would break out because oxygen is flammable.
If the atmosphere had 15% oxygen or less, air breathing creatures would suffocate.
If the atmosphere had more carbon dioxide, the earth may become warmer (greenhouse effect).
If the atmosphere had less carbon dioxide, plants would starve.

The surface gravity escape velocity is as it must be to support life:

If just a few percent stronger, the atmosphere would retain methane and ammonia (molecular weights 16 and 17 ).
If just a few percent weaker, the planet's atmosphere would lose too much water (molecular weight 18).

Tilt of earth's axis (23.5 degrees) gives us our moderate seasons:

If the tilt was greater-for example, Uranus has a 98 degree tilt- such a tilt on earth would cause periodic continental flooding and long periods of darkness.
If the earth's tilt was less - for example, Venus has no tilt -the lack of tilt would cause equatorial areas to grow hotter and the ice caps to expand.

Proximity of moon is correct:

If 1/5 the distance away, tides would completely submerge continents twice a day.
If no close moon, the earth would "wobble", as does Mars, causing vast irregularities of tilt, thus extreme variations in climate.

Rate of earth's rotation is correct:

If 1/10th the present rate, plant life would burn during the day and freeze at night.
If faster, wind velocities would rise to catastrophic levels. For example, Jupiter has a 10-hour rotation period and thousand mph winds.

Thickness of the earth's crust is correct:

If the crust was thicker, too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust. If the crust was thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great.

The water vapor level in the atmosphere is as it should be:

If the water vapor level was greater, runaway greenhouse effect would develop.
If water vapor level was less, rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land.

Color of the sun is correct:

If the sun was more red, the photosynthetic response would be insufficient.
If the sun was more blue, the photosynthetic response would be insufficient.

Some Interesting Links:

Ask A Scientist

Conversations with cosmologists

Tribute to Nikola Tesla

The Living Earth

Earth Happy Birthday

Brief history of Cosmology

Carl Sagan


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