Tiny Numbers Can Predict Sizes of Objects in the Universe

Just a few numbers could be used to predict the sizes of objects large and small in the universe, researchers say.

The paper, published Jan. 27 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that a handful of fundamental constants, such as the speed of light or the charge of an electron, could predict everything from the tallest potential mountain on a planet, to a neutron star’s size, to how humans walk.

“What we wanted to do is bring together the physical argument that shows that numbers that are usually used in the context of laboratory experiments, or things in the small, can inform even the largest things in our universe,” said study co-author Adam Burrows, a physicist at Princeton University. [The 9 Most Massive Numbers in Existence]

Universal constants

Everything in the universe obeys the fundamental laws of nature, and a few physical constants crop up in many of the laws. In fact, some researchers even argue the universe is made of math.

The idea that a few critical numbers could be used to predict the behavior of much larger objects isn’t new; since the 1970s, scientists have been predicting the minimum and maximum sizes of stars using some of these constants.

But the extent to which this technique could be useful wasn’t fully explored.[More-Livescience]