Professing to be Wise: A Brilliant Atheist Bumps Up Against the Alpha (and Omega)

In Science by eric holmberg0 Comments

FineStructureConstantIn physics, the Fine-Structure Constant, also known (significantly I think) as ALPHA (α), is a fundamental physical constant characterizing the strength of the electromagnetic interaction. It is also mysteriously related to a number of other fundamentals in physics: e.g. the square of the ratio of the elementary charge to the Planck charge; the ratio of the velocity of the electron in the Bohr model of the atom to the speed of light; in Quantum Electrodynamics as the probability of interaction between Light and Matter.

Shades of the anthropic principle, ALPHA is one of those finely-tuned constants that describe the fundamental structure of our cosmos. And if it was just the slightest bit different, stars, planets and we would not exist.

Like Pi (3.14) ALPHA is commonly referred to by the first 3 numbers of its inverse: 137. (More precisely it is 137.03599173(44)). 137 is made up of three prime numbers and moreover is a unusually beautiful prime (some numerological speculation here) in that it consists of Unity (1, God) and a prime division of Ten (10 = 3 + 7), with echoes of the Trinity and Perfection, Fulness, and the Seven Spirits of God.

Here is what Richard Feynman, Nobel prize-winning physicist, one of the originators and early developers of the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED) and an atheist had to say about ALPHA

“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 (by corey jefferson). 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!” (Richard P. Feynman (1985) QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Princeton University Press. p. 129)

Feynman died in 1988, sadly with no evidence of ever having embraced the Author (the Alpha and the Omega) of α. What a tragedy! For there can be no question that living in God’s presence and having eternity to know Him and plumb the mind and heart of the One who “pushed the pencil” would be a joy unspeakable and full of glory.

I will close with this observation concerning ALPHA from Max Born, another renowned physicist and a man who saw “religious professions and churches as a matter of no importance.” (Greenspan, Nancy Thorndike (2005) The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born. New York: Basic Books, p. 61-62)

“The fact however that alpha has just its value 1/137 is certainly no chance but itself a law of nature. It is clear that the explanation of this number must be the central problem of natural philosophy.” (Max Born, A.I. Miller (2009) Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. W.W. Norton & Co. p. 253)



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