The Enigma of 137: Science's Most Magical Number

By: Patrick J. Kiger & Austin Henderson  | 
number 137, physics	number
From physics, mathematics and science to mysticism, occultism, the Kabbalah and the Torah, the number 137 may just be the most magical and important number in the universe. Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

In the vast realm of numbers, some stand out with an allure that captivates both scientists and spiritualists alike. One such number, which has been the subject of intrigue for decades, is the seemingly ordinary three-digit number: 137.


The Allure of 137

For many, the number 137 is more than just a numerical value. It's a bridge between the tangible world of science and the intangible realm of mysticism.

"137 continues to fire the imagination of everyone from scientists and mystics to occultists and people from the far-flung edges of society," states Arthur I. Miller, an emeritus professor of history and philosophy of science at University College London. His book, 137: Jung, Pauli and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession, delves deep into this fascination.


The Fine-structure Constant: A Cosmic Clue

To the world of physics, 137 is synonymous with the fine structure constant. This constant, represented as approximately 1/137.03599913, gauges the strength of the electromagnetic force, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This force governs how charged elementary particles, like electrons, interact with light's photons.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology describes the fine-structure constant as one of the universe's key physical constants. Michael Brooks, in a New Scientist article, explains, "This immutable number determines how stars burn, how chemistry happens and even whether atoms exist at all."


In this video, British physicist Laurence Eaves explains that if the fine structure constant was a different value, "physics, chemistry, biochemistry would be totally different – and we might not be around to talk about it."

In December 2020, the journal Nature reported a breakthrough. A group led by Saïda Guellati-Khélifa at the Kastler Brossel Laboratory in Paris reported the most precise measurement of the fine-structure constant. Their findings, which were almost three times more precise than the previous best measurement in 2018, showcased the constant’s value to the 11th decimal place.


The Metaphysical Significance of 137

Beyond its scientific importance, 137 has been seen as a number with deeper, metaphysical implications. English astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, a pivotal figure in validating Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, viewed 137 as a number with spiritual ramifications. He believed that perhaps the mysteries of the universe could be unraveled through numbers, with 137 being a key.

The intersection of quantum theory and relativity, explored by quantum physics pioneer Wolfgang Pauli with the help of Carl Jung, also highlighted the significance of 137. This number's allure was so profound that in 1936, Nature published an article titled "The Mysterious Number 137."


137 in Mysticism and Religion

The number 137 doesn't just resonate with scientists. It holds significance in the Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. As this article by Billy Phillips from details, the number frequently appears in the Torah, marking the lifespan of figures like Ishmael and Levi. The Kabbalists' concept of connecting with light, or achieving enlightenment, mirrors the fine-structure constant's relationship to light in physics.

Recommended Reading

For those looking to dive deeper into the mystery of 137, consider adding the book "137: Jung, Pauli and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession" to your library. It offers a comprehensive exploration of this enigmatic number's history and significance.


The Everlasting Enigma

The number 137, whether viewed through the lens of science or spirituality, remains one of the greatest mysteries of our time. Its dual significance in both realms makes it an important number that continues to intrigue good theoretical physicists and spiritualists alike.