Tools to Build a Livable Universe

Tools to Build a Livable Universe

My recent venture into home construction convinced me of the importance of using the proper tools. While an electric breaker works great for busting up existing concrete, a tico nailer is the tool of choice for putting plywood on the roof and walls. Using the right tools helps make my new addition livable in the quickest possible time.

In a similar fashion, four essential tools govern the development of this universe, namely four forces called the electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. Each tool functions most noticeably in different settings. As more familiar examples, gravity determines how objects in the heavens move, whereas the electromagnetic force governs how chemical reactions take place. Of the two remaining less familiar forces, the strong nuclear force plays the dominant role in determining what elements exist in the universe. The big bang and the interior of stars provide locations for making these elements, but the strong nuclear force “decides” which elements are formed.

Researchers have discovered a great deal of fine-tuning regarding this last force. However, scientists have struggled to provide reliable calculations that demonstrate how the strong nuclear force arises from its basic constituents—quarks and gluons—the fundamental particles of matter. Recent work has begun to bolster this shortcoming.

People are made from atoms. Atoms are made of protons and neutrons, collectively known as nucleons. Nucleons are composed of quarks and gluons. The strong nuclear force arises from how quarks and gluons interact. However, determining the properties of nucleons from their constituent quarks and gluons presents unique challenges. For example, it takes only three quarks to specify many of a proton’s characteristics, but the mass of the proton exceeds the mass of these three quarks by at least a factor of sixty! Where does the remaining mass arise? It comes from fluctuations where quark-antiquark and gluon-antigluon pairs pop into and out of existence in the location of the proton.

While the quantum mechanical rules governing this process are well understood, scientists have not had the ability to calculate the masses of the proton and neutron based on the fluctuations. Using state-of-the-art hardware and software, a team of particle physicists have now performed such calculations. Their results match the experimentally measured values within 2 percent.

More important than calculating the mass, these results demonstrate the ability to model other properties of subatomic particles that present far more difficult challenges to measure experimentally. Thus, this advance provides scientists another tool to probe the highly fine-tuned strong nuclear interaction. RTB expects future advances to reveal even greater fine-tuning of the tools God used to prepare this universe for life.