What did Paul Dirac describe as “the most fundamental problem of physics?”. What did Richard Feynman call ” a magic number that comes to us with no understanding?” The answer is the Fine Structure Constant or α- constant, which works out at close to 1/137 (see below)
Today we’ve got a piece of really good, clear science journalism for you by Natalie Wolchover of Quanta magazine. * For over a hundred years now physicists working over a whole range of advanced problems- light, electromagnetism, the structure of matter, you name it, keep finding that the calculations keep coming back to this strange, mysterious and recurring number. Because its so important, the race is on to measure it more and more precisely. Good science journalism makes the work of really clever people easy for us ordinary mortals. Natalie takes us lightly through a tour de force of work by scientist Saida Guellati-Khélifa and her team,who have fine-tuned it down to 1/137.035999206, with an uncertainty of 0.000000011. Was that about what you were expecting? Natalie has the first link, but we’ve posted another, just in case you want to dig deeper.* Passé Criswell, we predict: with all these new forces and theories turning up, the world of physics is in for an exciting ride in the next decade.
we thank Mr Gary Herbert of Buckinghamshire for this story
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