By MBPDLPayday Loan

February 20, 2008 | Science & Technology

# Large Numbers Are Funny. That’s Why.

This, according to Scott Funkhouser (quoted in Nature), is what the answer to life, the universe and everything could look like:

```0000000000000000000000000000000000000000 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00```

Or something like it, because I’m not exactly sure what 10122 should look like. I’m not sure who Scott Funkhouser is either, as the article doesn’t make it clear. Could be a physicist, could be some guy the author of the article met in a park while eating his lunch one afternoon. What I do know is that Scott Funkhouser is from the Military College of South Carolina, which might be great, but doesn’t really shout “Princeton” or “Caltech” or “MIT”.

It is remarkable enough that the parameters of nature should somehow produce one large-number coincidence. For the same basic set of parameters to produce two large-number coincidence problems is essentially preposterous — unless the two problems are related.

No, coincidences aren’t really remarkable when you start working backwards from the coincidence itself. Take any coincidence you like, work backwards, and what do you have? Well, a coincidence. Plus some causes. Use fuzzy logic to hop and skip over the separate chains of events which led up to the coincidence, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find some matches. Remarkable? If there were no patterns discernible in something as big as the universe, that would be remarkable.

Still, a thoroughly enjoyable article. Because large numbers are funny.

[Update: thanks to Scott for a link to the actual paper, entitled A New Large-Number Coincidence and a Scaling Law for the Cosmological Constant.]

## Related Posts

1. February 20, 2008

I was amused to find your discussion of the review of my article in Nature. I am a real PhD scientist (PhD Berkeley, MS Yale, BS UVirginia), and the Citadel, where I am a professor, is an excellent school. Judging from your comments you might benefit from reading the actual published paper which is freely available at http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0611115
The coincidences I address are definitely real and not some post-ipso-facto trickery. The important point is that the the double coincidence I identify might explain how much dark matter there is in the Universe.
Regards,
Scott Funkhouser

2. February 20, 2008

Sorry about that, it definitely was meant tongue in cheek. I Googled your name immediately after reading the article, and the Berkeley PhD sold it! I really didn’t know the Citadel, but several of my engineering friends have subsequently e-mailed me to tell me what a dunce I am. It’s a pity Nature doesn’t link directly to arXiv.org papers, although I guess they prefer keeping their readership closer to home.

I did mean what I said about it being an enjoyable read, and there’s a lot of food for thought for mortals like me in there. Although I do expect non-random coincidences in any sufficiently large data set, the possible correlation for calculating the amount of dark matter in the universe does appear to rule out randomness. And if we expect the universe to support a concept of “building blocks”, regardless of what they might be, a pattern should not be surprising at all.

And large numbers really are funny, aren’t they, in both the senses of “humorous” and “curious”?