Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 64, Issue 6, pp 721–751

An anthropic myth: Fred Hoyle’s carbon-12 resonance level

Article

Abstract

The case of Fred Hoyle’s prediction of a resonance state in carbon-12, unknown in 1953 when it was predicted, is often mentioned as an example of anthropic prediction. However, an investigation of the historical circumstances of the prediction and its subsequent experimental confirmation shows that Hoyle and his contemporaries did not associate the level in the carbon nucleus with life. Only in the 1980s, after the emergence of the anthropic principle, did it become common to see Hoyle’s prediction as anthropically significant. At about the same time mythical accounts of the prediction and its history began to abound. Not only has the anthropic myth no basis in historical fact, it is also doubtful if the excited levels in carbon-12 and other atomic nuclei can be used as an argument for the predictive power of the anthropic principle.

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© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science StudiesUniversity of AarhusAarhusDenmark

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