137

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kg

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I finished the book The God Particle by Leon Lederman a couple weeks ago.  Early in the book he makes a big deal about the number 137.  It had something to do with the probability that an electron would emit or absorb a photon?  I didn't understand what it represented or why he was so baffled by it.  I would think that a simple three digit number that was such a concern to physics would have certainly been linked to the works of Nostradamus and the Mayan calander to predict the date that the aliens were going to return Elvis to us... or some such thing.  I don't think I've ever seen a reference to it outside of that particular book.  Anyway, the book was written with a good deal of humor which helped to make it remarkably readable.  I was just wondering if Lederman was pulling the readers leg somewhat?   
 
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centsworth_II

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<p><font color="#333399"><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I finished the book The God Particle by Leon Lederman a couple weeks ago.&nbsp; Early in the book he&nbsp;makes a big deal&nbsp;about the number 137.<br /> Posted by kg</DIV></font><br />http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_structure_constant&nbsp; Good luck.<img src="http://sitelife.space.com/ver1.0/content/scripts/tinymce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-laughing.gif" border="0" alt="Laughing" title="Laughing" /></p><p>Here is a quote by Richard Feynman from the Wiki article:</p><p>"It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it. Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to &pi; or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It's one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the 'hand of God' wrote that number, and 'we don't know how He pushed his pencil.' We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don't know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!" &mdash; Richard P. Feynman, 1985. <em>QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter</em>. Princeton University Press: 129. </p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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emperor_of_localgroup

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_structure_constant Good luck.Here is a quote by Richard Feynman from the Wiki article:"It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it. Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to &pi; or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It's one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the 'hand of God' wrote that number, and 'we don't know how He pushed his pencil.' We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don't know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!" &mdash; Richard P. Feynman, 1985. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Princeton University Press: 129. <br />Posted by centsworth_II</DIV></p><p><font size="2">Can some genius tell me what's the so big deal about this? I heard of many times but why is it taken as something mysterious? It's a constant, like e^n/h&nbsp; or h/(pi*C^80), so what? Is it because the value is the same 137 in all units? I don't think this is the only constant which has the same value in all units. Please shine some interpretative light on this.&nbsp; Thanks.</font></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="2" color="#ff0000"><strong>Earth is Boring</strong></font> </div>
 
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BoJangles

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<p><font size="2">I&nbsp;Found this -</font></p><p><font size="2">The fine-structure constant is a <strong>unitless numerical constant</strong> - whose value is approximately equal to: <strong>1/137</strong>. If fact the exact value of the fine-structure constant is: <strong>0.007297351 +/- 0.000000006</strong>. Accepted symbol for the fine-structure constant is <strong>Greek alpha</strong> (<img src="http://www.physlink.com/Education/askexperts/fsymbols/alpha.gif" border="0" alt="" width="12" height="9" />). </font><font size="2"><br /><br />What is the physical origin of this constant? Well, it is related to the so called Fine Structure - closely spaced groups of optical spectrum lines of elements like: hydrogen and helium. These optical spectrum lines are in a way the fingerprint of the element's energy levels. Since the energy levels of any given element are quantized (i.e. only discrete energy levels are available) the optical spectrum appears as a series of lines instead of a continuous spectrum. With each such optical spectrum line one can associate three numbers: <br /><br /><strong>n</strong> - the principal quantum number<br /><strong>l</strong> - the azimuthal quantum number<br /><strong>j</strong> - the angular momentum quantum number<br />(an additional quantum number also can be considered that will give rise to <strong>spin-orbit interaction</strong> in atoms with more than one electron) <br /><br />Each group of spectral optical lines mentioned above has a same n - number, but different values of l and j numbers. According to </font><font color="#000080">P.A.M. Dirac's</font><font size="2"> relativistic quantum mechanics, energy levels of a one-electron atom (hydrogen is a good example) which have the same n and j numbers will coincide exactly - but their value will be different from that predicted by the Bohr's theory by an amount that is proportional to the <strong>square of the fine-structure constant (alpha)</strong>. </font></p><p><font size="2"><em>---</em></font></p><p><font size="2"><em>August 2001</em> - Evidence published in the Physical Review Letters that the fine structure constant may be slightly different to what we believed&nbsp; <-- if anyone can find info on this id be intersted</font></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p align="center"><font color="#808080">-------------- </font></p><p align="center"><font size="1" color="#808080"><em>Let me start out with the standard disclaimer ... I am an idiot, I know almost nothing, I haven’t taken calculus, I don’t work for NASA, and I am one-quarter Bulgarian sheep dog.  With that out of the way, I have several stupid questions... </em></font></p><p align="center"><font size="1" color="#808080"><em>*** A few months blogging can save a few hours in research ***</em></font></p> </div>
 
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kg

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I&nbsp;Found this -The fine-structure constant is a unitless numerical constant - whose value is approximately equal to: 1/137. <br />Posted by BoJangles</DIV></p><p>So the reason it is a mystery is because it's hinting at some unseen structure to the universe?</p>
 
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MeteorWayne

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>So the reason it is a mystery is because it's hinting at some unseen structure to the universe? <br />Posted by kg</DIV><br /><br />The mystery really is why it has the value it has. None of the current grand theories of the Universe epxplain or predict that value. It just is what it is. Many other constants in the Universe have theoretical explanations, and some even have values that are derived from the underlying theory.</p><p>This one just is, and it's value is very important in causing the current structure and behavious of the Universe.</p><p>To wit, from Wiki:</p><p>The fine-structure constant has a number of physical interpretations including:</p><ol><li>The square of the ratio of the elementary charge to the Planck charge; </li><li>A ratio of certain energies; </li><li>The velocity of the electron in the Bohr model of the atom divided by the speed of light; </li><li>A constant representing the strength of the interaction between electrons and photons; </li><li>The strength of the electromagnetic interaction, which may change, depending on the strength of the energy field. </li></ol><p>Also a great quote from one of the masters of Physics:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><li>"It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it. Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to &pi; or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It's one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the 'hand of God' wrote that number, and 'we don't know how He pushed his pencil.' We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don't know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!" &mdash; Richard P. Feynman, 1985. <em>QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter</em>. Princeton University Press: 129. </li> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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Gary_Peck

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<p>Hi There,</p><p>I don't have a clue what you are on about. I bet somewhere down the line all life on Earth is based on and around Prime numbers. I bet if you apply these to Space, Time, and everything else contained in the Universe you will find the answers to your questions. </p><p>What do you think?</p>
 
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MeteorWayne

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Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Hi There,I don't have a clue what you are on about. I bet somewhere down the line all life on Earth is based on and around Prime numbers. I bet if you apply these to Space, Time, and everything else contained in the Universe you will find the answers to your questions. What do you think? <br />Posted by Gary_Peck</DIV><br /><br />I think you should stop posting babble like this in Science fora until you make an effort to educate youself about the underlying physics, and the reasons for the current understanding. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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Gary_Peck

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Has anyone tried using prime numbers to make sense of the universe. It's a simple question.
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Has anyone tried using prime numbers to make sense of the universe. It's a simple question. <br />Posted by Gary_Peck</DIV><br /><br />It's a simple question with a complicated answer. Do you have a point related to the subject of the forum, which is Physics? <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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derekmcd

Guest
<p>I think Lederman chose to focus on 137 because it is directly related to his field of study.&nbsp; It's really no more mysterious than any of the other constants of the universe such as the speed of light, the mass of an electron, Plancks constant, etc.&nbsp; I think 137 might be more interesting to those that understand its value due to the fact is shows up in their equations frequently.</p><p>I enjoyed Lederman's book myself.&nbsp; I thought it was funny how he mentioned that if you were a physicist in a large city that was stranded and needed help and preferred to attract another physicist... Just walk around with a sign that says "137" on it and another physicist is surely to recognize it and help ya out. </p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div> </div><br /><div><span style="color:#0000ff" class="Apple-style-span">"If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing." - Homer Simpson</span></div> </div>
 
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