• Just Six Numbers

  • The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
  • By: Martin J. Rees
  • Narrated by: John Curless
  • Length: 6 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (54 ratings)

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Just Six Numbers

By: Martin J. Rees
Narrated by: John Curless
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Publisher's Summary

How did a single "genesis event" create billions of galaxies, black holes, stars, and planets? How did atoms assemble - here on earth, and perhaps on other worlds - into living beings intricate enough to ponder their origins? What fundamental laws govern our universe? 

This audiobook describes new discoveries and offers remarkable insights into these fundamental questions. 

There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the microworld. Just six numbers, imprinted in the "Big Bang", determine the essential features of our entire physical world. Moreover, cosmic evolution is astonishingly sensitive to the values of these numbers. If any one of them were "untuned", there could be no stars and no life. This realization offers a radically new perspective on our universe, our place in it, and the nature of physical laws.

©2000 Martin Rees (P)2018 Recorded Books

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Old Fine-Tuning Book


This book is a bit out of date, and I found not very enlightening.
The author discusses just six numbers:

Epsilon - Nuclear efficiency
Omega - Density parameter
Q - Ratio of gravity to rest mass energy
D - Spacial Dimensions
N Ratio of nuclear force to gravity
Lambda - Cosmological Constant

Why just these six? That was not completely clear, other than those were a framework to discuss "fine tuning".
There are actually quite a few (about 29) constants, each if tweaked would lead to a different universe.

Cosmological Constant
Gravitational Structure Constant
D
Q
Fine Structure Constant
Strong Structure Constant
15 particle masses
4 quark mixing
4 neutrino mixing

Not only are there a bunch of constants...they can be reformulated in many, many different ways. Thus these should not be considered "fundamental" constants, but just one basis for describing our current measurements..

You might notice the speed of light and Plank's constant are not on the list. Those can be set to 1.0 to define u111111nits in a natural way.

I am very dubious of fine-tuning arguments.
The "fine tuning" argument has been used as evidence for a Creator or a Multiverse.
Yet neither of these arguments seem valid.
We just don't know what we are talking about here.
We are sure our current theories are not completely correct, as our two major theories don't work together.
When we understand the actual mathematics of the universe, there very well may be connections between these many measured constants tieing them to fewer constants, or maybe even fixing all of them.

I find the exercise of using our existing (wrong) mathematical theories to predict what the universe would be like if each of these constants was varied (and the others held constant) to be dubious at very best, and silly at worst. I am also dubious of treating such constants as on a continuum when then universe itself appears to be quantum (discrete) in nature.

I have read a bunch of fine tuning books and this was not one of the best.

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Tour de Force of Cosmology! Still relevant.

"Just Six Numbers" is an immensely entertaining and thoughtful exploration of our universe across every conceivable scale. I am familiar with all of the science described in this book, but was impressed with the easy connections Martin Rees draws across time and space. The tone is conversational, but the impact is mind-blowing! Yeah, I liked it.

Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, presents an evocative overview of cosmology, as of about 1999. While the science has advanced, the central mysteries still exist, so the book remains as relevant as when it was written. Rees presents information and anecdotes relevant to these numbers that serves as a 'grand tour' of particle physics, astronomy, and cosmology. While his presentation is approachable, he doesn't shy away from the science at a conceptual level.

The six numbers that serve as guideposts from quantum physics to cosmology are:
N ≈ 1036: the ratio of the electrostatic and the gravitational forces between two protons
Ω ≈ 0.3: the ratio of the actual density of the universe to the critical (minimum) density required for the universe to eventually collapse under its gravity
λ ≈ 0.7: The ratio of the energy density of the universe, due to the cosmological constant, to the critical density of the universe
ε ≈ 0.007 ratio of mass lost to energy when hydrogen is fused to form helium
Q ≈ 1/100,000 The energy required to break up and disperse an instance of the largest known structures in the universe expressed as a fraction of the energy equivalent to the rest mass m of that structure, namely mc2
D dimension to equal three

Some reviewers fault the selection of only six numbers or dispute the selection of these six. The author never states these numbers are exclusive of any others. Rather, per Wikipedia referring to "Just Six Numbers," "Any plausible fundamental physical theory must be consistent with these six constants, and must either derive their values from the mathematics of the theory, or accept their values as empirical." Criticisms regarding these specific six numbers fail to see the forest for the trees. Rather, the larger context of a small set of physical values inextricably relating to the larger universe is the most compelling message of the book.

The author does not shy away from the universe's fine tuning which opens possibilities of intelligent design and multiverses, among other ideas. I think this is a natural progression of cosmology: to consider how the universe in which we exist itself came into existence. Rather than settling on one possibility over another, he takes a scientific perspective that what we cannot understand today may be understandable in the future.

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Outdated

Many have happened in cosmology in the last 20 years. Disappointed, he did not mention LeMaitre, the first person to propose the bigbang theory, a Catholic priest.

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  • slipperychimp
  • 12-15-18

Worth it

Came across the author after his contribution within the compilation works “The Universe” (also recommended).

I was pleasantly surprised as this isn’t a book on “just six numbers” but a great discussion on the structure of the universe, the 6 numbers being how the author has structured and laid the foundation for the works.

Although this book is a few years old now, it’s still relevant, and if anything it’s really interesting to see how quickly the field is moving at the moment, for example the author raises some points on string theory towards the end of the works as a new an exciting idea, so much progress has been made on string theory in just a few years it seems.

If you’re interested in the cosmos I’m sure you’ll find this book as interesting as I did.