A Fortunate Universe: Life In A Finely Tuned Cosmos by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes (book review).

Coming across ‘A Fortunate Universe: Life In A Finely Tuned Cosmos’, in ‘Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide To Life’s Biggest Questions’ by Sabine Hossenfelder relating to constants, I thought I ought to investigate further. Australian physicist writers Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes will stop in the nine chapters for a discussion occasionally, showing that they aren’t always in agreement on everything. Their demonstrations are interesting. I loved their idea of changing the bishop’s ability to move in chess by being able to jump over another piece making it capable of achieving checkmate in one move.

I did have a ponder on this and wonder why they hadn’t considered there has to be some sort of symmetry and balancing of such acts as we have in our reality so at least the king would have had been allowed at least one move back. As I wrote this, I took another look at their board and think I would have countered it by placing the black knight in the way because it couldn’t jump two pieces and would have been thwarted.

An interesting point about gravity came up that establishes it as a constant in that it is the same number in different equations.

The second chapter focuses on proteins and how they become organics before moving into the composition of atoms, proving that the particle names are as random as anything else mankind has named them. The Higgs Boson as the god particle is missing a word as it was originally called ‘the god-damn particle because it was so hard to isolate. I’ve also learnt that I’ve been calling ‘boson’ incorrectly and should be called ‘bow-zon’. Also, its counter-part, fermions tend to be forgotten by the media.

With the third chapter, my education in quantum mechanics was re-enforced and I went into over-drive thinking. When they said that photons are carried by massless glutons, you have to wonder where the weight is gone. I took this to a different stage and wondered are we seeing these ‘particles’ as electromagnetic waves only getting mass back when they collide with something. When you add in the slit screen test, it might also explain how a photon could be in two places at the same time as it widens and coalesces.

Their arguments on the state of the radioactivity of the higher mass elements also made me wonder whether or not we live in a totally perfect goldilocks universe or only in the part that is safe. That one is giving me some serious thought for an article.

They cover the four forces of the universe. I like how they explain that electromagnetism versus gravity in that the former can be neutralised but the latter can’t be. I’m also being forced to rethink my thoughts on the weak and strong nuclear forces, being caught out by thinking their names meant they were related when in fact we’re caught on an ancient nomenclature for two different forces. It’s also apparent that they know they’re SF with several references for comparison.

I know Schrödinger’s live/dead cat experiment is always going to by hypothetical but has anyone wondered if lack of oxygen might get the cat first?

I had heard a long time ago that the Conservation of Matter/Energy wasn’t perfect and the writers point to photons losing energy. I’d hesitate saying it would go to dark energy and more likely consider that we haven’t got instruments sensitive enough to track where it goes.

Likewise, their example of ice cubes thawing is reversible. Reduce the temperature of the room and water would return to ice. Granted not as cubes but it is reversible.

The fact that this book is making me think should be a good enough reason for you to read this book yourself. I would advise not to read more than a chapter a day.

I like the precision of them saying that there are 29,019 carbon compounds although it firmly establishes organic life has to have it more than silicon. They also have a look at the grandfather paradox, an old-fashioned SF trope. A time-travelling relative would already be part of the past history so any changes would have happened and already part of history.

Their final chapter is them talking between themselves as to whether there is a deity manipulating the universe and the reasons probably not.

Although this book does not go into the 26 constants as I hoped, they do note a lot of books that should be worth investigating so watch this space for some of them. Again, this is another book that has made me stop and think and if it can do the same for you then worth a read.

GF Willmetts

September 2022

(pub: Cambridge University Press, 2020. 373 page lightly illustrated indexed large paperback. Price: I pulled my second edition copy for a little under £14.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-108-74740-0)

check out website: www.cambridge.org 


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

2 thoughts on “A Fortunate Universe: Life In A Finely Tuned Cosmos by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes (book review).

  • The Higgs Bosun sounds as if it’s in the navy…

    Boson, surely. (You really need to proof your reviews and articles a bit better – they seem to be getting less and less readable, I’m afraid.)

    That was intended as a mild whine, having read through your notes on reviews and submissions once again.


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