At Carl Sagan Contact, The aliens have embedded a message in the irrational number pi (the circumference of a circle divided by its radius). But some other numbers are also crucial to the structure of our universe – and why they are crucial doesn’t make any obvious sense.
- Perhaps the most fundamental and mysterious is this fine structure constant of the universe:
A seemingly innocuous random number with no units or dimensions has popped up in so many places in physics and seems to control one of the most fundamental interactions in the universe.
Its name is the fine structure constant and a measure of the strength of the interaction between charged particles and the electromagnetic force. The current estimate of the fine structure constant is 0.007 297 352 5693 with an uncertainty of 11 for the last two digits. The number is easier to remember because it’s inverted, roughly 1/137.
If it had any other value, life as we know it would be impossible. And yet we have no idea where it comes from.
PAUL SUTTER“LIFE AS WE KNOW WOULD NOT EXIST WITHOUT THIS HIGHLY UNUSUAL NUMBER” AT SPACE.COM (24 MARCH 2022)
Many famous scientists have thought about 1/137:
The brilliant physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988) famously thought so when he said that there is a number all theoretical physicists should “worry” about. He called it “one of the great damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us without human understanding”…
What’s special about alpha is that it’s considered the best example of a pure number that doesn’t need units. It actually combines three of nature’s fundamental constants – the speed of light, the electric charge carried by an electron, and Planck’s constant, as physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies explains to Cosmos magazine. Appearing at the intersection of key areas of physics like relativity, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics is what makes 1/137 so appealing.
Paul Ratner“WHY THE NUMBER 137 IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MYSTERIES OF PHYSICS” AT THINK BIG (OCTOBER 31, 2018)
First question to the devil
The Nobel Prize winner Wolfgang Pauli (1945) is said to have said: “When I die, my first question to the devil will be: What does the fine structure constant mean?” In any case, he thought about it a lot in his life.
Laurence Eaves, a physics professor at the University of Nottingham, believes that the number 1/137 would be good for communicating with intelligent extraterrestrials as they would likely be aware of it and realize they were dealing with other intelligent beings.
- Here is another number to make you think. Consider the irrational number known as phi (ϕ) or the golden ratio. Jordan Ellenberg Author of Form: The hidden geometry of information, biology, strategy, democracy and everything else (2021):
Among the mysteries of the irrational, one number holds a special place: the so-called golden ratio. The value of the golden ratio is about 1.618 (but not exactly 1.618, as then it would be the ratio 1.618/1.000 and therefore wouldn’t be irrational) and is also denoted by the Greek letter φ, which is pronounced “fee” if you are a mathematician and “fie” if you’re in a fraternity. If you want an accurate description, the golden ratio can be expressed as (1/2)(1+√5).
JORDAN ELLENBERG“THE MOST IRRATIONAL NUMBER” AT SLATE (JUNE 8, 2021)
The “divine proportion”
We also find this number everywhere:
The golden ratio is sometimes referred to as the “divine proportion” because of its frequency in nature. For example, the number of petals in a flower is often a Fibonacci number. The seeds of sunflowers and pine cones rotate in opposite spirals of Fibonacci numbers. Even the sides of an unpeeled banana are usually a Fibonacci number – and the number of ridges on a peeled banana is usually a larger Fibonacci number.
RESOURCE LIBRARY“THE GOLDEN RATIO” AT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
- Then there is pi (π), which (outside of Carl Sagan’s novel and film) ripples forever without forming a pattern, but is also fundamental in nature.
Read the rest below Mind Matters Newspublished by the Discovery Institute’s Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence.