We characterize the laws of nature using the numerical values of the fundamental constants. How do these laws arise in the first place? Are they laid down from the outset as finely-tuned laws, unchanging, life-enabling, constant throughout an infinite space? Are they immutable in time and space? Might the laws of nature transcend physics, as the most basic possible properties of the universe, disengaged from any aspect of natural cosmological evolution?
Alternatively, could our "local patch" of the universe have particular laws that permit our existence, whilst other regions in the universe are inherently different and inhospitable to life, at least life as we know it? Is intelligent, carbon-based life unique?
Increasingly high quality astronomical data and advances in numerical methods allow us to probe these questions with extremely high precision. The particular “law” we target is the space-time dependence of the strength of electromagnetism, quantified using the fine structure constant. This project aims to make the first 1000 high-precision measurements over cosmological distances and time-scales, using the best data from the world’s best observatories and new AI algorithms, to check whether the electromagnetic coupling constant is truly constant or not. The overall precision we obtain will be unprecedented in the history of the subject.