Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagNatalie Wolchover

Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

Unexplained — Maybe Unexplainable — Numbers Control the Universe

For example, brilliant physicist Richard Feynman called 1/137, the fine structure constant, “a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man”

In Carl Sagan’s Contact, the extraterrestrials embedded a message in the irrational number pi (the circumference of a circle divided by its radius). But some other numbers are critical to the structure of our universe too — and why they are critical does not make obvious sense. ➤ Perhaps the most fundamental and mysterious one is the fine structure constant of the universe: A seemingly harmless, random number with no units or dimensions has cropped 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 it’s a measure of the strength of the interaction between charged particles and the electromagnetic force. The current…

Empty laboratory test tubes isolated on white

“Nothing But… ” Is Now Creating a Crisis in Science

When science writers (and scientists) start using words like “miraculously,” it’s a clue that they are really stumped

In a recent article in Quanta, science writer Natalie Wolchover discusses a little-advertised fact, that the much ballyhooed Large Hadron Collider supports the idea that our universe is fine-tuned — by an intelligence beyond nature? — and that there are many efforts afoot to reinterpret the findings so as to make the problem go away: The crisis became undeniable in 2016, when, despite a major upgrade, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva still hadn’t conjured up any of the new elementary particles that theorists had been expecting for decades. The swarm of additional particles would have solved a major puzzle about an already known one, the famed Higgs boson. The hierarchy problem, as the puzzle is called, asks why the…