Over the weekend, we went to Toronto to be interviewed for William Shatner’s show, Weird or What? We were supposed to talk about Wolfgang Pauli, the theoretical physicist who won a Nobel in 1945 for his exclusion principle and also collaborated with Carl Jung on synchronicity. Specifically, we were there to talk about the Pauli effect – i.e., the spontaneous breakdown of laboratory equipment in his presence. And this seemingly psychokinetic effect was to be presented as a possible theory for what’s happening to a woman who believes she’s the victim of government mind control.
Pauli was also known for his connection with the number 137, one of the unsolved mysteries of modern physics, the value of the fine structure constant , the DNA of light, as author Arthur I Miller put it in his book, Deciphering the Cosmic Number: the Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. 137 is a prime number – a number that can be divided by 1 and by itself. Or, put another way, a prime number is a positive integer that cannot equal the product of two smaller integers.
The number became so puzzling to physicists that the famed Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, said that physicists should put a sign in their offices to remind themselves of how much they don’t know. The sign would be simple: 137.
This number confounded Pauli for much of his adult life. When at the age of 58, he entered the hospital for routine surgery and discovered he would be in room 137, he reportedly told a friend: “I won’t get out of here alive.” And he didn’t. He died before he could be released.
Now here’s the synchro. We were picked up at the airport on Friday evening by a service Shatner’s production company provided. The car was spacious, comfortable, and gave us a chance to sit back and take in the city as the driver made his way through Friday rush hour traffic. At one point, the line of cars came to a complete standstill and I glanced up from whatever I was doing and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
There, on my right, was a building with prominent white numbers on the front: 137, Pauli’s number. And we were here to talk about Pauli.
I quickly nudged Rob and we both laughed. Then I noticed that the building was a gym – Good Life Fitness – which struck me as strangely ironic. 137 had proven to be Pauli’s death number, but we were here to talk about one facet of his life.
Something similar and more dramatic happened to physicist F. David Peat when he was invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the opening of Jung’s institute in Zurich. But in both instances the message was the same: we, like Peat, were to talk about Pauli when the number appeared.
The synchro, though, continued. On Sunday, we had some time before we were to be picked up at our hotel, so we walked around downtown and found ourselves on Yonge Street, where the gym was located. I wanted to get a picture of the 137, so we walked until we found it and I took the photo at the top of the post. We continued our walk and after a few blocks one of us mentioned Pauli again. At that moment, we both noticed a prominent sign across the street: WE’VE MOVED to 137 YONGE. It was apparently the former site of the gym.
When we returned to the hotel, we sat in the lobby and I started emailing the photos on my Blackberry to myself so I could download them to my computer. I emailed the 137 picture to a couple of friends whom I knew would enjoy it and as I checked my iPad to make sure the photos were going through, I suddenly noticed that the 137 photo had been emailed at 1:37. I snapped this photo of my iPad:
Pauli greeted us hello as we entered the city and waved good-bye as we were waiting to leave.