Our Knowledge of Reality Through Fundamental Physical Constants


Project Overview

We know the values of the most fundamental physical constants to upwards of 10 significant figures — these high precision measurements constitute the most impressive epistemic achievement in the history of science.  Yet what exactly do physical constants tell us about the world?  On the one hand, knowledge of constants supports counterfactual reasoning, so it outstrips mere description of the observable phenomena; on the other, measurement of constants has improved monotonically across changes in high level theory, so it must be in some sense independent of abstract theory. This project aims to articulate the exact knowledge provided by high precision measurement of the physical constants, a knowledge of physical regularities and counterfactuals that falls somewhere in the grey area between observation and theory.


Project Events

An initial, Eidyn-supported, workshop Physical Constants between Observation and Theory will occur at the University of Edinburgh December 5th & 6th, 2019. The programme is available here. Registration is limited and any interested attendees should contact the organisor, Alistair Isaac, directly to register at a.m.c.isaac@ed.ac.uk. The participants at this event are as follows:

  • George E. Smith (Tufts)
  • Graham Machin (NPL)
  • Nadine de Courtenay (Université Paris Diderot)
  • Isobel Falconer (St. Andrews)
  • Michela Massimi (Edinburgh)
  • Peter Vickers (Durham)
  • Teru Miyake (Nanyang Technological University)
  • Jo Wolff (Edinburgh)
  • Sally Riordan (Wolverhampton)


Project team: 
  • Alistair Isaac (Edinburgh)
  • Teru Miyake (NTU, Singapore)
  • Eran Tal (McGill, Canada)
  • George Smith (Tufts, USA)