Cosmology and the Constants of Nature

Just a brief post to advertise a very interesting meeting coming up in Cambridge:


Cosmology and the Constants of Nature

DAMTP, University of Cambridge

Monday, 17 March 2014 at 09:00 – Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 15:00 (GMT)

Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Constants of Nature are quantities, whose numerical values we know with the greatest experimental accuracy – but about the rationale for those values, we have the greatest ignorance. We might also ask if they are indeed constant in space and time, and investigate whether their values arise at random or are uniquely determined by some deep theory.

This mini-series of talks is part of the joint Oxford-Cambridge programme on the Philosophy of Cosmology which aims to introduce philosophers of physics to fundamental problems in cosmology and associated areas of high-energy physics.

The talks are aimed at philosophers of physics but should also be of interest to a wide range of cosmologists.  Speakers will introduce the physical constants that define the standard model of particle physics and cosmology together with the data that determine them, describe observational programmes that test the constancy of traditional ʽconstantsʼ, including the cosmological constant, and discuss how self-consistent theories of varying constants can be formulated.


John Barrow, University of Cambridge

John Ellis, King’s College London

Pedro Ferreira, University of Oxford

Joao Magueijo, Imperial College, London

Thanu Padmanabhan, IUCAA, Pune

Martin Rees, University of Cambridge

John Webb, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Registration is free and includes morning coffee and lunch. Participants are requested to register at the conference website where the detailed programme of talks can be found:

For enquiries about this event please contact Margaret Bull at

3 Responses to “Cosmology and the Constants of Nature”

  1. From the website: The conference is open to university research staff and current postgraduate students in physics and philosophy of science.

    I guess they need to keep out the riff-raff. :-| Otherwise, I might have gone, but on the following Saturday I’ll be off to the Moriond cosmology meeting, where the skiing is better than in Cambridge. :-)

  2. I’d like to go but I’m not eligible either. John Webb et al have looked at variations of the fine-structure constant, which is a running constant, see NIST. People tend to say α=e²/4πε0ħc varies because effective charge e varies, forgetting about conservation of charge and forgetting that virtual particles are not real particles. When the effect of that conserved charge varies it’s because the surrounding space varies, so ε0 and/or ħ and/or c have to vary, and of course c = √(1/ε0μ0). Joao Magueijo will doubtless be talking about the varying speed of light, which I back because the coordinate speed of light varies with gravitational potential. Only it was slower in the early universe, so expansion looked rapid, ergo inflation. John Barrow is on side AFAIK, and Martin Rees probably isn’t and will talk about the “fine tuned” constants and the goldilocks multiverse. I don’t know about the other guys. But it sounds like real interesting stuff.

  3. It’d be nice if they had some new (post-2010) data about alpha to talk about though :-)

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