## “Hand Of God,” Wrote That Number, And “We Don’t Know How He Pushed His Pencil”

There is a most profound and beautiful question associated with the observed coupling constant, e, the amplitude for a real electron to emit or absorb a real photon. It is a simple number that has been experimentally determined to be close to −0.08542455. (My physicist friends won’t recognize this number, because they like to remember it as the inverse of its square: about 137.03597 with about an uncertainty of about 2 in the last decimal place. 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 p 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. 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! R. P. Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

## Why the number 137 is one of the greatest mysteries in physics

Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe. The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s. The number 1/137 might hold the clues to the Grand Unified Theory. Relativity, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.

Since the early 1900s, physicists have postulated that the number could lie at the heart of a grand unified theory, relating theories of electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and, especially, gravity.

1/137 was once believed to be the exact value of the fine-structure constant. The fine-structure constant, a dimensionless physical constant, is approximately 1/137, and the astronomer Arthur Eddington conjectured in 1929 that its reciprocal was in fact precisely the integer 137, which he claimed could be “obtained by pure deduction”. This conjecture was not widely adopted, and by the 1940s, the experimental values for the constant were clearly inconsistent with the conjecture, being roughly 1/137.036.

Physicist Leon M. Lederman numbered his home near Fermilab 137 based on the significance of the number to those in his profession. Lederman expounded on the significance of the number in his book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? noting that not only was it the inverse of the fine-structure constant but was also related to the probability that an electron will emit or absorb a photon. Feynman’s conjecture. He added that it also “contains the crux of electromagnetism the electron, relativity the velocity of light, and quantum theory Planck’s constant. It would be less unsettling if the relationship between all these important concepts turned out to be one or three or maybe a multiple of pi. But 137?” The number 137, according to Lederman, “shows up naked all over the place”, meaning that scientists on any planet in the universe using whatever units they have for charge or speed, and whatever their version of Planck’s constant may be, will all come up with 137, because it is a pure number. Lederman recalled that Richard Feynman had even suggested that all physicists put a sign in their offices with the number 137 to remind them of just how much they do not know.

The fine-structure constant of physics continues to convince esotericists that the universe has numerological fine-tuning: for example, the age of the universe could be considered as roughly 13.7 times 1 billion years.

The term esoteric has been adopted in the spiritual community in a more philosophical sense, it is used to describe a practice or a person who seemingly has a deep knowledge of the universe and the lessons within it and actively works to connect with those things.

The Bible says that Ishmael, Levi, and Amram all lived to be 137 years old. The three appearances make it the most common lifespan of individuals in the Bible.

According to the verse in Genesis (17:17), there was a ten-year age gap between Abraham and Sarah. Sarah died at the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1), thus Abraham was 137 years old at her death. According to Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 23:2, Sarah died when she heard that Isaac had almost been sacrificed, thus Abraham was 137 years old at the Binding of Isaac.