Number 137. Was this the key to understanding the Universe? Or was it an impossible Dream?
It was a kind of Dream Team. One was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics. The other was an internationally famous psychiatrist. They both were interested in Dreams. Other than that, they are an odd pair. So was their relationship.
He had felt like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He didn’t know what to do about it. He was a Rational. He was a scientist, and the leading scientific skeptic: the gadfly of quantum mechanics. He had the ear of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg – the supreme Rationals of the day. They put up with his caustic wit for he was good at finding problems with their theories: the Mephistopheles of Physics. Successful professionally, but his private life was a mess. What was he do?
By the day he was about Science, at night he had frequented the bars of the red-light district of Hamburg: he knew his relationships with females was out of control. His Mister Hyde — he hid this from his colleagues – he was embarassed. He felt he was in crisis. He decided to consult with that famous psychoanalyst, Carl Jung – secretly.
Carl Jung was interested in the “mind.” He viewed himself as an intrepid explorer of psyche. He had adopted Freud’s interest in analyzing dreams, but he had his own unique, and lucrative techniques. Those rich female European ladies of Vienna and Zurich had money to burn and all the time to talk, and maybe other things. “Archetypes” was his word, and the “collective unconscious” was his game. What did all those dreams mean? Symbols, myths, intuition, ESP — what was the truth? The Idealist, Carl Jung was eager explore and analyze The Rational, Wolfgang Pauli’s, dreams.
Carl Jung, a Counselor Idealist, and Wolfgang Pauli, an Inventor Rational, — quite a pair. Both Carl Jung and his initial mentor and eventual opponent, Sigmund Freud, were interested in exploring things that are not observable — “thoughts,” “feelings.” Not scientific by hard science standards. And both Freud’s and Jung’s favorite, “dreams,” served as a major part of their research methodology. And as it turns out, for many years, many of the “dreams” that Jung analyzed and published in his volumious works were Wolfgang Pauli’s.
Pauli never acknowledged in his lifetime that his interaction with Jung was significant — that he had done some “psychoanalysis” with Jung for his problems. But, he did benefit from it, he felt better eventually, being able to “talk about things,” — maybe. And Pauli believed not everything in Science was accessible by reason. Pauli eventually would write down his own dreams and communicate them to Jung. He corresponded with Jung the rest of his life. Pauli’s personal crisis had passed, but he hoped that he could make progress in physics by examining his dreams – his “unconscious” and his numeric “archetypes” – like 137, the mystical number associated with the fine structure constant.
“Deciphering the Cosmic Number” is a book about Wolfgang Pauli and his science, and Carl Jung and his interaction with Pauli – and underlying problem of the limitations quantitative (objective science) and versus the limitations of qualitative (subjective science). Pauli died before he could solve the 137 mystery. Moreover, he noticed that the hospital room he ended up in when he was hospitalized: “It’s [room] 137, I am not going to get out of here alive.” He didn’t. His last request was to speak to Carl Jung.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
and next year’s words await another voice.
Explaining the fine structure constant, 1/137.035999 — a mystery number to this day — is a dream of mine.