Saturday, March 5, 2016


We’re are all influenced by numbers psychology. The most basic is the notion of size. Our tendency to infer larger sizes or more of something from larger numbers. To downplay a 30-day service penalty, therefore, simply referring to it as a one-month suspension might help. Conversely, bigger numbers are used to convey increases in nutritional benefits (1,000 milligrams of fiber, not one gram) or mobile phone talk time (660 minutes, not 11 hours) to make us feel as though we are getting better deals.

But numbers are much more than that. There are a lot of important numbers out there. Some, like 42 had become popular among fans of the comic science fiction genre. You might recall in the radio series and the Adams’ first novel, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the Question was.

Later Adams was asked why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed, including that 42 is 101010 in binary code, that light refracts through a water surface by 42 degrees to create a rainbow, that light requires 10−42 seconds to cross the diameter of a proton. Adams rejected them all. In November 1993, he said “It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought 42 will do; I typed it out. End of story.”

So I was saying there are many number of significance. Sure your girlfriend’s number is probably most important, but there are numbers and then there are numbers. Some numbers define our very existence. Some of these may well define the very workings of the universe. Consider for example Avogadro's number. This is the number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon, and is approximately six followed by 23 zeroes. The number of atoms can also be calculated using Avogadro's Constant (6.02214179×1023) / one mole of substance.

Then there is Planck's constant. The universe packages energy in finite multiples of a smallest amount, much as the atomic theory proclaims that the universe packages matter in finite multiples of atoms. These small packages of energy are known as quanta, and Planck's constant, abbreviated h, tells us the size of these packages. The fundamental constant, equal to the energy of a quantum of electromagnetic radiation divided by its frequency, with a value of 6.626 × 10−34 joules.

When we turn our attention to the history of the universe; There are really only two possibilities for the universe: Either it has always been here, or it had a beginning. It turns out that the universe is expanding; everything is flying apart. The relationship between the speed at which a galaxy appears to be moving away and its distance from earth is given by Hubble's constant. The constant H is one of the important because it may be used to estimate the size and age of the Universe. The Hubble constant is given by H = v/d.

Other important numbers include Boltzmann's constant, Schwarzschild radius, Chandrasekhar limit, Omega, Absolute zero, the speed of light.

The granddaddy of numbers, in my opinion is 496. This is most notable for being a perfect number, and one of the earliest numbers to be recognized as such. As a perfect number, it is tied to the Mersenne prime 31 25 − 1, with 24 (25 − 1) yielding 496. Also related to its being a perfect number, 496 is a harmonic divisor number, since the number of proper divisors of 496 divided by the sum of the reciprocals of its divisors, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 31, 62, 124, 248 and 496, (the harmonic mean), yields an integer, 5 in this case. In 1984, Green and Schwarz realized that one of the necessary conditions for a superstring theory to make sense is that the dimension of the gauge group of type I string theory must be 496. Their discovery started the first superstring revolution.

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