Astronomical reach of fundamental physics

Adam S. Burrows, Jeremiah P. Ostriker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Using basic physical arguments, we derive by dimensional and physical analysis the characteristic masses and sizes of important objects in the universe in terms of just a few fundamental constants. This exercise illustrates the unifying power of physics and the profound connections between the small and the large in the cosmos we inhabit.We focus on the minimum and maximum masses of normal stars, the corresponding quantities for neutron stars, the maximum mass of a rocky planet, the maximum mass of a white dwarf, and the mass of a typical galaxy. To zeroth order, we show that all these masses can be expressed in terms of either the Planck mass or the Chandrasekar mass, in combination with various dimensionless quantities. With these examples, we expose the deep interrelationships imposed by nature between disparate realms of the universe and the amazing consequences of the unifying character of physical law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2409-2416
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 18 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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