Friday, August 15, 2008

Coffee! Coffee! The number 137 has its own Web page?


Yep. Its own Web page. In fact, several.

One thing about journalism, you learn something new every day.

I've been reading Robert Paster's New Physics and the Mind, in which he writes,
The number 137 has near-Kabbalistic meaning for some physicists.

Kabbalah is Jewish mystic interpretation, which includes numerologic aspects.

Max Born, an early quantum physicist and winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in physics, wrote a 1936 paper "The Mysterious Number 137."

The number represents the fine structure constant, a fundamental parameter of physics, relating electromagnetic force strength to spacetime quanta.(P. 163)
Brent Nelson further advises at PhysLink,
The importance of the constant is that it measures the strength of the electromagnetic interaction. It is precisely because the constant is so small (i.e. 1/137 as opposed to 1/3 or 5 or 100...) that quantum electrodynamics (QED) works so amazingly well as a quantum theory of electromagnetism. It means that when we go to calculate simple processes, such as two electrons scattering off one another through the exchange of photons, we only need to consider the simple case of one photon exchange - every additional photon you consider is less important by a factor of 1/137. This is why theorists have been so successful at making incredibly accurate predictions using QED. By contrast, the equivalent 'fine-structure' constant for he theory of strong interactions (quantum chromodynamics or QCD) is just about 1 at laboratory energy scales. This makes calculating things in QCD much, much more involved.
137 is a prime number, of course, and numerologists offer further odd facts about it.

I am tempted to go on to 138, but I bet there isn't that much to know. See, I was right.

By the way, here's an excerpt from New Physics and the Mind.