Why Is 137 the Most Magical Number?

What’s the fundamental to unlocking the mysteries of the universe? Whenever you are awaiting an incantation in some old language, uttered by a holy man sitting trot-legged on a mountaintop, this answer would possibly perhaps well more than probably disappoint you.

It can per chance well more than probably appropriate be the number 137.

These three digits, because it turns out, procure prolonged been the uncommon object of fascination that bridges the gulf between science and mysticism.

“137 continues to fire the creativeness of every person from scientists and mystics to occultists and folks from the a long way-flung edges of society,” Arthur I. Miller, an emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at University College London and creator of the 2009 guide “137: Jung, Pauli and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession,” says by email.

The Comely-structure Constant

To physicists, 137 is the approximate denominator of the sexy-structure fixed (1/137.03599913), the measure of the energy of the electromagnetic force that controls how charged classic particles such because the electron and muon work alongside side photons of sunshine, in step with the Nationwide Institute of Requirements and Technology. The horny-structure fixed will not be any doubt one of many fundamental bodily constants of the universe. “This immutable number determines how stars burn, how chemistry occurs and even whether or now not atoms exist in any respect,” as Michael Brooks explained in a hottest Unique Scientist article.

And, in a paper published Dec. 20, 2020 in the journal Nature, a team of 4 physicists led by Saïda Guellati-Khélifa at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory in Paris reported doubtlessly the most accurate size but of the sexy-structure fixed. The team measured the fixed’s designate to the 11th decimal keep, reporting that α = 1/137.035999206.

The contemporary size is virtually three cases extra accurate than the old handiest size in 2018 by a community led by Holger Müller at Berkeley, with a margin of error of appropriate 81 ingredients per trillion.

The horny-structure fixed “characterizes the energy with which topic couples to light, e.g. the chance that an aroused atom will decay in a obvious time,” Paul Davies, Regents Professor of Physics at Arizona Narrate University and a handiest-promoting creator of 30 books on science, explains in an email. If the fixed became bigger, “atoms would decay faster. It’s a long way major too because it’s miles a pure number – a ratio of portions with equal units. No longer like, dispute, the speed of sunshine, which is either 186,000 miles per second or 300,000 kilometers per second, reckoning on which units you put off.” (Davies wrote this 2016 article on the sexy-structure fixed for Cosmos.)

In this video, British physicist Laurence Eaves explains that if the sexy structure fixed became a obvious designate, “physics, chemistry, biochemistry would be totally different – and we couldn’t be around to chat about it.”

Miller continues: “The language of the spectra – the spectral traces the keep Sommerfeld chanced on it – is a lawful tune of the spheres in some unspecified time in the future of the atom,” he wrote. “Of us asked why it has this particular designate. Physicists would possibly perhaps well more than probably easiest terminate that it can well perhaps’t procure this designate unintentionally. It’s a long way ‘available,’ just of the structure of our minds.”

But in 1929, English astrophysicist Arthur Eddington – who accomplished a key role in organising the validity of Albert Einstein’s Overall Idea of Relativity and became an early recommend of the Wide Bang intention, amongst other things – began expressing it as 1/137. He also observed it as having better, non secular implications. “Arthur Eddington sought a recent mysticism which would emerge from the pure sciences,” Miller says. “Maybe, he conception, the clue lay in numbers, namely the number 137. Eddington’s reputation as no doubt one of many perfect astrophysicists of his day keep a pleasing deal of weight on this model.”

Relativity and Quantum Idea

As Miler’s guide particulars, Austrian-born quantum physics pioneer Wolfgang Pauli modified into aroused by the number as successfully, because it figured in the mysterious intersection of relativity and quantum intention that he explored with the serve of his buddy, psychoanalyst Carl Jung. The scientific fixation on the sexy-structure fixed became such that in 1936, Nature published an editorial titled “The Mysterious Number 137.”

But as Pauli learned in the 1950s from a non secular scholar, 137 had another significance. It became the number associated with the Kabbalah, an esoteric procure of Jewish mysticism – what Miller calls “an unparalleled hyperlink between mysticism and physics.”

As this article by Billy Phillips from Kabbalahstudent.com particulars, the number 137 also appears progressively in the Torah. Or now not it’s the lifespan in years of figures equivalent to Ishmael and Levi, for instance, as successfully the age of Abraham when he mosey his son Isaac to an altar in preparation to sacrifice him. And as Phillips explains, if the selection of letters in the Torah — 304,805 — is cleave up into the numerical pairs and reversed, the is the numbers 50, 84 and 03. Add those together, and in addition you get 137. Past that, the connection of the sexy-structure fixed to light in physics parallels the Kabbalists’ theory of connecting with light, or changing into enlightened by shedding the ego.

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