The Fine Structure Constant

Today is November the 13th, and another sunny but somewhat cold day here in Copenhagen.

Like I have in my last blog-update already noted, Nov.13. is my maternal grandfathers birthday. Born in 1880 he might thus have been 137 years old today.

The figure 137 brings to mind another of my more recent posts (from July.2016 – ) which is in danish, though. However I’ill grab today’s opportunity and convert a few highlights into English.

Back in 1990 I used much of my summer holidays to write a rather massive complaint to the then Ombudsmand of our Parliament. (more here ).

When I finally, after much toil and trouble, had finished my long and detailed letter to the much respected office of the Ombudsmand and was about to add my signature and date I realized the day was the 13th of July, or like we write in danish, 13.7.

In those days I knew next to nothing about the wide field of esoterica. However I knew incidentally that an american very well known top scientist at some point had characterized a certain cosmic constant containing the figure 137 as “a f*cking magic number”.

The scientist was Richard Feynman and the somewhat candid expression is from his account of the so called alpha-constant (short for ‘the fine structure constand’) in his textbook ‘The Feynman Lectures’.

In this basic cosmic constant ‘alpha’ you find the figure 137 because alpha has been defined (or calculated) to be 1 divided by 137 (or 137.035999 with the first 6 decimals).

Somewhere else I have since read, that alpha represents the relation between the speed of light and the speed of the electron in its orbit around the atomic nucleus.

And Wikipedia has recently confirmed for me that this relationship was in fact the original interpretation by the physicist Arnold Sommerfeld, who in 1916 introduced ‘alpha’ in theoretical physics.

Eventually this constant has been given several other ‘functions’. But basically and in plain ‘talk’ alpha says, that the speed of the electron around the atomic nucleus, and in its innermost orbit, is just about 1/137 of the speed of light in empty space.

Which relation calculates to very roughly 2000 km/sek, or 8 million km/hour. Which seems quite surprisingly fast, especially when you consider the minuteness of the orbits in which travdels the electrons.

The electron is ofcourse incomprehensibly small: If you could place electrons side-by-side until stretching 1 mm (or abt. 1/25 inch) you would need 1 million billion electrons. And that’s a lot!

The electron, incidentally, is about the same size as the quark, of which there is said to be 3 flipping and spinning inside each proton (se also , please scroll down for english text).


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