Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Enigma variations," by John D. Barrow. New Scientist, 7 September 2002,pages 30-33.

This article discusses some of the fundamental numbers that arise in physicsand cosmology, such as the fine structure constant. If these constants did nothave exactly the values they have, the universe would be a very differentplace. Barrow, who directs the Millennium Mathematics Project at theUniversity of Cambridge, describes theoretical work he carried out withcollaborators to examine whether changes have occurred in the fine structureconstant. ``Finding the complete explanation of these constants is thegreatest challenge that physicists face,'' Barrow writes.

--- Allyn Jackson