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Eddington, Sir Arthur - The Expanding Universe - Curved space and the number of atoms

Identifier

014144

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

In Sir Arthur Eddington's 'Expanding Universe', he examines one of the fundamental equations in physics, the

wave equation for a hydrogen atom, that is to say for a proton and electron”.

He conjectures that there might be a correlation between this and the curvature of space (which he denotes as R).  In doing so he compares the radius of the hydrogen atom, which was at the time estimated to be

“of the order of 10 to the minus 8 centimetres'

and the unit R which he had worked out to be

'of the order of 10 to the power 27 centimetres'.

His first attempt was to substitute R in the wave equation, since R was a universal unit of measure, but he found this did not produce a satisfactory correlation....

'the radius of the hydrogen atom in terms of the natural unit is of the order 10 to the power minus 35'

In other words there is no correlation between the radius of a hydrogen atom and the curvature or 'radius' of space.  He then looked for a more simple coefficient.  After some study, he concluded that

'there are direct reasons for assuming that the number of particles in the universe – N – will occur in the coefficients of the wave equation – N is about 10 to the power 79'.

What is this saying?  This is saying that the number of particles in the universe has some correlation with the curvature of space.  As Eddington carefully remarked..........

A description of the experience

Sir Arthur Eddington – The Expanding Universe

Wave mechanics defines N as the number of independent wave systems existing in the universe and therefore equal to the number of separate constituents of the energy of the universe..... It is quite possible that the number N approached in this way will be found not to be arbitrary, but to have some definite theoretical foundation, but that is pure conjecture, and for the present we regard it as the one arbitrary element in the design of the actual universe.

The source of the experience

Eddington, Sir Arthur

Concepts, symbols and science items

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

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