Dec 26, 2023

Unlocking The Mystery Of 137: Why This Number Is So Important

Posted by in category: physics

A s the mathematician De La Soul famously stated, three is the magic number. But if physicist Richard Feynman is to be believed, that figure is off by a factor of about 400. For Feynman, you see, the “magic number” is around 1/137 – specifically, it’s 1/137.03599913.

Physicists know it as α, or the fine structure constant. “It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered,” Feynman wrote in his 1985 book QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. “All good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it.”

It’s both incredibly mysterious and unbelievably important: a seemingly random, dimensionless number, which nevertheless holds the secret to life itself.

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