In particular, a weakless universe is constructed to have atomic physics and chemistry identical to standard atomic physics and chemistry. The dynamics of a weakless universe includes a period of Big Bang nucleosynthesis, star formation, stars with sufficient fuel to burn for billions of years, stellar nuclear synthesis of heavy elements and also supernovae that distribute the heavy elements into the interstellar medium.
Motivation and anthropics
The strength of the weak interaction is an outstanding problem in modern particle physics. A theory should ideally explain why the weak interaction is 32 orders of magnitude stronger than gravity; this is known as the hierarchy problem. There are various models that address the hierarchy problem in a dynamical and natural way, for example, supersymmetry, technicolor, warped extra dimensions, and so on.
An alternative approach to explaining the hierarchy problem is to invoke the anthropic principle: One assumes that there are many other patches of the universe (or multiverse) in which physics is very different. In particular one can assume that the “landscape” of possible universes contains ones where the weak force has a different strength compared to our own. In such a scenario observers would presumably evolve wherever they can. If the observed strength of the weak force is then vital for the emergence of observers, this would explain why the weak force is indeed observed with this strength. Barr and others argued that if one only allows the electroweak symmetry breaking scale to vary between universes, keeping all other parameters fixed, atomic physics would change in ways that would not allow life as we know it.
Anthropic arguments have recently been boosted by the realization that string theory has many possible solutions, or vacua, called the “string landscape”, and by Steven Weinberg's prediction of the cosmological constant by anthropic reasoning.
The hypothetical universe without the weak interaction is meant to serve as a counter-example to the anthropic approach to the hierarchy problem. For this “weakless universe”, other parameters are varied as the electroweak breaking scale is changed. Indeed, string theory implies that the landscape is very big and diverse. The ostensible habitability of the weakless universe implies that anthropic reasoning alone cannot explain the hierarchy problem, unless the available vacua in the landscape are severely restricted for some other reason.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for a habitable weakless universe is the necessary existence of stars. Our sun works through fusing two protons to deuterium, which proceeds through weak interactions. In the weakless universe of Harnik, Kribs, & Perez this is overcome by ensuring a high primordial deuterium to hydrogen ratio during Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN). This permits long-lived stars fueled by direct deuterium-proton burning to helium, which proceeds through strong interactions. The high initial deuterium/hydrogen ratio (~1:3 by mass) is arranged by simply reducing the overall baryon to photon ratio, which allows the BBN deuterium to be produced at a lower temperature where the Coulomb barrier protects deuterium from immediate fusion into 4
Another potential problem for a weakless universe is that supernova explosions are necessarily neutrinoless. The resulting efficiency of production and dispersion of heavy elements (in particular, oxygen) into the interstellar medium for subsequent incorporation into habitable planets has been questioned by Clavelli and White.
- Jenkins, Alejandro; Perez, Gilad (December 2009). "Looking for life in the multiverse". Scientific American.