## Posts Tagged ‘**Richard Feynman**’

## “Werner Heisenberg once proclaimed that all the quandaries of quantum mechanics would shrivel up when 137 was finally explained”*…

One number to rule them all?

Does the Universe around us have a fundamental structure that can be glimpsed through special numbers?

The brilliant physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988) famously thought so, saying there is a number that all theoretical physicists of worth should “worry about”. He called it “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man.”

That magic number, called the fine structure constant, is a fundamental constant, with a value which nearly equals 1/137. Or 1/137.03599913, to be precise. It is denoted by the Greek letter alpha – α.

What’s special about alpha is that it’s regarded as the best example of a pure number, one that doesn’t need units. It actually combines three of nature’s fundamental constants – the speed of light, the electric charge carried by one electron, and the Planck’s constant, as explains physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies to Cosmos magazine. Appearing at the intersection of such key areas of physics as relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics is what gives 1/137 its allure…

The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s– and might hold clues to the Grand Unified Theory: “Why the number 137 is one of the greatest mysteries in physics,” from Paul Ratner (@paulratnercodex) in @bigthink.

* Leon M. Lederman, *The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?*

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**As we ruminate on relationships,** we might spare a thought for Georg von Peuerbach; he died on this date in 1461. A mathematician, astronomer, and instrument maker, he is probably best remembered for his streamlined presentation of Ptolemaic astronomy in the *Theoricae Novae Planetarum* (which was an important text for many later-influential astronomers including Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler).

But perhaps as impactful was his promotion of the use of Arabic numerals (introduced 250 years earlier in place of Roman numerals), especially in a table of sines he calculated with unprecedented accuracy.

## It’s all about the ink…

Called “the most remarkable formula in mathematics” by Richard Feynman, **Leonhard Euler**‘s Identity, as the equation in the tattoo is known, was named in a reader poll conducted by *Mathematical Intelligencer* as the most beautiful theorem in mathematics. Another reader poll conducted by *Physics World* named it the “greatest equation ever.” *****

One can find other mathematical and scientific tattoos **here**… and if one wishes to design one’s own, well…

… just click **here**.

**As we steel ourselves for the needle**, we might recall that on this date in 1947, George C. Marshall, a former general serving as Secretary of State, gave the speech at Harvard that laid the foundation for what became known as The Marshall Plan– the program under which the U.S. provided around $12 Billion (a fraction of the sum that the Federal government is “investing” in G.M, but real money in those days… ) to help finance the economic recovery of Europe in the wake of World War II.

Oh, and lest we forget, June is **Accordion Appreciation Month**.

*****Why is Euler’s Identity considered beautiful? Three basic arithmetic operations occur exactly once each: addition, multiplication, and exponentiation. The identity also links five fundamental mathematical constants:

-The number 0.

-The number 1.

-The number π, which is ubiquitous in trigonometry, geometry of Euclidean space, and mathematical analysis (π ≈ 3.14159).

-The number e, the base of natural logarithms, which also occurs widely in mathematical analysis (e ≈ 2.71828).

-The number i, imaginary unit of the complex numbers, which contain the roots of all nonconstant polynomials and lead to deeper insight into many operators, such as integration.

And the equation is “balanced,” with zero on one side.

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