Having basically been gorging* myself on science documentaries and lectures this last year I got to wondering...

How stable are the physics of our Universe?

Given what we know about how our universe works, and how things change over time (especially long periods of time), are the 4 fundamental forces and the particles that make up the standard model behaving/acting the same today as they did say 14 billion years ago just after the formation of the initial universe.

Thanks
JB

*please note I am a follower of all the sciences but I have no formal education in any of them past High School

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Jay,

First a caveat - I'm an amateur scientist like you, but have a faded Physics degree and still love to try to keep up with developments as best I can.

I think your question is very interesting. Each basic physics equation contain a relationship between variables controlled by some physical constants. While practically all physicists consider that the basic relationships hold throughout time and probably throughout all possible universes, the true constancy of the physical "constants" has been often questioned over the last century.

Dr. Martin Rees, in "Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe" (1999) suggested that constants may be subject to some changes at the birth of a universe, changing from the values inherited from a parent universe in an evolving "multiverse". This possibilty for "constants" to change at such singularities (black holes also) is generally accepted.

Now whether constants can change in general over the lifetime of a universe is a question that has been raised since the dawning of quantum mechanics, which was so astounding & revolutionary that all established Physics assumptions were revisited. For instance in 1937 Paul Dirac considered whether the universal gravitational constant (G) may change over time. More recently Joao Magueijo considered whether the speed of light (c) has changed since the Big Bang (see Magueijo's "Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation" (2003). This idea is now known as the Variable Speed of Light or VSL concept.

I think these ideas are troubling to most physicists (as in "Gee, as if it wasn't difficult enough already!") and I'm sure I would be concerned too if I was in the field. If the constancy of c falls then what is to protect the invariance of all the other constants? And if they turn out to be variables instead of constants then what deeper laws of Physics govern their transformation over time? Would those laws themselves have rock-solid constants? What governs the constancy of a constant, how can we trust any of them?

Interesting and difficult questions, I hope practicing physicists here can shed more light.

Martin.
Recent Adtronomical observations have shown something truly unexpected. As we look further away in space (further back in time) gravity appears to have been stronger. The differences are so tiny that no one can yet agree, except to the extent that further study is needed, but it appears that gravity is getting weaker as time passes. Or it could be that something - maybe dark matter - has a repulsive gravitational force. Certainly many scientists are reinstating Einstien's Cosmological Constant into the equations of General Relativity - an unknown number that he invented to stop the universe flying apart for ever simply for reasons of personal taste at the time.

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