A universe like ours requires laws of nature, initial conditions, and fundamental constants. For the fundamental constants, if the values were to change by the slightest number we wouldn’t have structures like atoms, planets, or stars. Scientists repeatedly measure the constants because of such weighty implications. A new measurement has provided affirming evidence for the standard model of particle physics and for creation.

The fine-structure constant is one of the most fundamental constants of physics. It describes the strength of the force of electromagnetism between elementary particles in what is known as the standard model of particle physics. In particular, the fine-structure constant sets the strength of electromagnetic interaction between light (photons) and charged elementary particles such as electrons and muons.

In a recent issue of Nature four physicists report on their experiment in which they measured the value of the fine-structure constant to unprecedented accuracy.1 They determined the value of the inverse of the fine-structure constant to be 137.035999206 ± 0.000000011. Their probable error calculation includes both statistical and systematic errors. Their measurement is 2.5 times more accurate than the previous best determination.2

The researchers achieved their precision measure through a sophisticated experiment. They used "matter-wave interferometry to measure the recoil velocity of a rubidium atom that absorbs a photon."3

Greater Accuracy Affirms Standard Model of Particle Physics
This achievement ranks as yet another triumph for the standard model of particle physics. The team's result establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the electron is truly an elementary particle. The electron cannot be comprised of smaller particles. If it were, it would have a "different magnetic moment, contrary to observation."4

The team's measurements also establish stronger constraints on the particles that comprise dark matter. Dark matter is comprised of particles that either do not interact with light (photons) or interact with light at a very weak level.

The composition of the universe is 26.25% dark matter.5 The only dark matter particles that have been discovered, however, are the electron, tau, and muon neutrinos. These neutrinos comprise less than 1/5 of the universe's dark matter.

More than 30 different dark matter particles have been proposed to make up the remainder of the universe's dark matter. The physicists' measurement shows that dark-sector particles likely do not exist. The space-time fabric of the universe is filled with a sea of virtual particles. These particles—through quantum fluctuations—briefly pop into existence before returning to the quantum space-time foam. If dark-sector matter particles make up more than a small fraction of virtual particles, they would shift the magnetic moment of the electron in tiny ways that the experimenters would detect. No such shift was seen.

More Evidence for Creation to Come
Several physics research teams, including these four physicists, are gearing up to make much more sensitive measurements of the fine-structure constant. Within two or three years, these teams promise to measure the value of the fine-structure constant with an accuracy of about 10 parts per trillion, a factor eight times superior to the measurement attained by the team of four. At that level of precision, possible effects of the tau lepton (a heavier cousin of the electron) on the fine-structure constant can be probed. Such probing will yield even stronger constraints on dark-sector particles and identify the properties of possibly existing dark-sector particles.

The standard model of particle physics is intimately linked with the standard ΛCDM (Lambda cold dark matter) big bang model. By achieving a superior measurement on the fine-structure constant, these physicists have provided yet more evidence for both the creation of the universe and the creation of fundamental particles. Their work also demonstrates the biblical principle that the more we learn about the realm of nature, the more evidence we uncover for the supernatural handiwork of God.


Featured image: Instrument Used to Measure the Fine-Structure Constant Image credit: Morel et al., Nature 588 (2020): 61–65.

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  1. Léo Morel et al., "Determination of the Fine-Structure Constant with an Accuracy of 81 Parts per Trillion," Nature 588, no. 7836 (December 2, 2020): 61–65, doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2964-7.
  2. Richard H. Parker et al., "Measurement of the Fine-Structure Constant as a Test of the Standard Model," Science 360, no. 6385 (April 13, 2018): 191–95, doi:10.1126/science.aap7706.
  3. Morel et al., "Determination of the Fine-Structure Constant," 61.
  4. Holger Müller, "Standard Model of Particle Physics Tested by the Fine-Structure Constant," Nature 588, no. 7836 (December 2, 2020): 37–38doi:10.1038/d41586-020-03314-0.
  5. Simone Aiola et al., "The Atacama Cosmology Telescope: DR4 Maps and Cosmological Parameters," Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics vol. 2020, no. 12 (December 2020): id. 047, doi:10.1088/1475-7516/2020/12/047.

About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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