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The fine-structure constant

September 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

The fine-structure constant and the nature of the universe
Ye cannae change the laws of physics
Or can you?
Aug 31st 2010

RICHARD FEYNMAN, Nobel laureate and physicist extraordinaire, called it a “magic number” and its value “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics”. The number he was referring to, which goes by the symbol alpha and the rather more long-winded name of the fine-structure constant, is magic indeed. If it were a mere 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars would not be able to sustain the nuclear reactions that synthesise carbon and oxygen. One consequence would be that squishy, carbon-based life would not exist.

Tags: physics

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