What is a Fundamental Constant?

# What is a Fundamental Constant?

Day-to-day reality appears to operate according to an underlying
set of fixed rules. The reason I can say that is because physics has
very successful at finding such rules, and writing them down as
equations. Some of these equations are known to be astonishingly
accurate.

The equations contain constants - like **C**, the speed of
light, in Einstein's famous

E = M C ²

There are a dozen-odd fundamental constants, total, with names like
*Planck's Constant* and *the fine structure constant*. These
are numbers, and they are fundamental if we don't know how to
calculate their values. We have to learn the fundamental values by
experiment.
Physics still has unsolved problems. So, physicists are looking for
what some call the TOE - the Theory Of Everything. There was even a
book a while back called *Dreams of a Final Theory.* Any new
theory would be considered very impressive if it correctly predicted
one of the constants. If the new theory became accepted, that constant
would no longer be *fundamental*: it would be a *derived*
constant.

If someone were to find a TOE which predicted all of the
dimensionless
fundamental constants, then that would be perfection.

Last modified: 6 July 1997
#### Email a comment.