Math_department

Math is the Common Currency of the Cosmos

It seems to me that our communication will begin in terms of mathematics and physics.

I’m a mathematical physicist, so you might say "Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?" but I really do think that this is the common currency of the cosmos and so we will want to communicate about our understanding of mathematical physics, so we could tell them things that we have discovered in the realm of mathematical physics, but there is stuff that I would like to know.  

There are some famous problems like how to bring gravitation and quantum physics together, the long sought after theory of quantum gravity.  That’s one thing that I would like to know.  It may be hard to understand the answer that comes back.  There is something that is perhaps a little easier.  There is a quantity in the theory of quantum electrodynamics called the fine-structure constant.  I’m getting technical here.  It’s a particular quantity.  It’s a fundamental constant of nature.  It has a value of about 1 over 137.  Nobody knows why that number is as it is.  It’s a pure number.  It doesn’t matter what units you use and it’s long been an interest of mine as to how that number has arisen in nature, why that particular number and none other. So I would like ET to give me the explanation for that. 

Of course the answer might be we don’t know either.  It’s not clear that ET will be all knowing. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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