In a new study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists from Queen Mary University of London have made a discovery that challenges our understanding of the universe. They found that fundamental constants such as the viscosity of liquids can vary over a certain range, potentially affecting the existence of life within and between living cells. This discovery sheds light on the origin of these constants and their role in shaping life as we know it.
Fundamental physical constants are quantities that are considered universal and remain constant over time. They play a crucial role in shaping the structure of our universe, regulating nuclear reactions and influencing the formation of the molecular structures necessary for life. However, their origin is still a mystery. A recent study has brought scientists one step closer to unraveling the mystery of the origin of these constants.
The link between viscosity and life processes
The viscosity of liquids, including water, is determined by fundamental physical constants. In 2020, the same research team discovered that there is a limit to fluid fluidity based on these constants. They have now extended this insight to the life sciences. The viscosity of fluids is critical to life processes within and between living cells. If the fundamental constants change, so will viscosity, which could make life as we know it impossible.
Prof. Kostya Trachenko, a physicist involved in the study, explains, “Life processes within and between living cells require motion, and it is viscosity that sets the properties of this motion. If the fundamental constants change, the viscosity will change, which will affect life as we know it. For example, if water were as viscous as tar, life could not exist in its current form or at all. This applies not only to water, but to all life forms that utilize the liquid state to function.”
Narrow window for fundamental constants
Any change in the fundamental constants, whether an increase or decrease, will have deleterious effects on the flow and life in the liquid state. The researchers hypothesize that the window for these constants will be quite narrow. Even a change of a few percent in constants such as Planck’s constant or the charge of an electron could make the viscosity of blood too thick or too thin for the body to function properly.
The surprising biological purity of fundamental constants
Interestingly, it was previously thought that the fundamental constants were fine-tuned billions of years ago to create heavy nuclei in stars. At that time, life as we know it did not yet exist, and there was no obvious need for these constants to ensure that cellular life would still be possible billions of years later. However, it turned out that these constants were biologically pure and allowed for exchange within and between living cells.
The role of evolution in the formation of fundamental constants
An intriguing speculation associated with this discovery is that multiple settings may have been involved in the origin of the fundamental constants. This suggests similarities to biological evolution, where traits were acquired independently of each other. Perhaps through evolutionary mechanisms, nature arrived at stable physical structures, including fundamental constants. Studying the principles of evolution may provide valuable clues to understanding the origin of these constants.
This pioneering research at Queen Mary University of London opens up new possibilities for exploring the mysteries of the universe and our place in it. By revealing the variability of fundamental constants and their influence on life processes, scientists are taking significant steps towards unraveling the origins of our existence.