Some properties of the world are fixed by physics derived from mathematical symmetries, while others are selected from an ensemble of possibilities. Several successes and failures of ``anthropic'' reasoning in this context are reviewed in light of recent developments in astrobiology, cosmology, and unification physics. Specific issues raised include our space-time location (including the reason for the present age of the universe), the time scale of biological evolution, the tuning of global cosmological parameters, and the origin of the Large Numbers of astrophysics and the parameters of the standard model. Out of the 20 parameters of the standard model, the basic behavior and structures of the world (nucleons, nuclei, atoms, molecules, planets, stars, galaxies) depend mainly on five of them: me, mu, md, α, and αG (where mproton and αQCD are taken as defined quantities). Three of these appear to be independent in the context of Grand Unified Theories (that is, not fixed by any known symmetry) and at the same time have values within a very narrow window which provides for stable nucleons and nuclei and abundant carbon. The conjecture is made that the two light quark masses and one coupling constant are ultimately determined even in the ``final theory'' by a choice from a large or continuous ensemble, and the prediction is offered that the correct unification scheme will not allow calculation of (md-mu)/mproton from first principles alone.
Reviews of Modern Physics
- Pub Date:
- October 2000
- Unified theories and models of strong and electroweak interactions;
- 23 pages, RevTex, one figure, revised version submitted to Reviews of Modern Physics Colloquia