Understanding the Fundamental Constants

  • Brandon Carter


In order to avoid confusion I wish to make clear at the outset that in this discussion the term “fundamental constants” is not intended to refer to what would be better described as “standard dimensional coefficients”, such as Newton’s gravitational constant G whose value is well defined only with respect to some(more or less arbitrarily chosen) system of dimensional standards. I intend that the term fundamental constant should be interpreted as refering to quantities that play a genuinely fundamental role in physical theory. At the present stage of development of physics the most important examples are coupling Fonstants such as the electromagnetic(“fine structure”) constant e2 / ħc and the proton gravitational coupling constant Gmp 2/ ħc whose values(which are roughly 1/137 and of the order of 10−39 respectively) are independent of the choice of measuring standards. Since I do not wish to prejudge the question of whether such quantities can vary in time or space it would perhaps be better to refer to them as fundamental “parameters” rather than “constants”.


Neutron Star Planetary System Fundamental Constant Main Sequence Star Gravitational Coupling 
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  1. R.H. DICKE(1961) Nature 192, 440.ADSMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. B. CARTER(1974) in Confrontations of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data. P-P.291–298. Proceedings of 1963 IAU. Symposium, ed. M.Longair).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon Carter
    • 1
  1. 1.Groupe d’Astrophysique RelativisteObservatoire de ParisMeudonFrance

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