In "The Torment of Tantalus" we find out that the Alliance of Four Great Races used 146 elements to communicate.

Now the question is, why 146?
To expand, does it mean there are only 146 chemical element in the Stargate multiverse or were 146 elements chosen for a purpose?

From chemistry and/or physics point of view, why not 150, 170, or 172?
For the communication part, are base 146 or 146 symbols in any way better to use in communication?

Is there an out of universe answer?

  • stargate.wikia.com/wiki/HU-2340 – Valorum Jul 8 '16 at 23:00
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    Although there's some chatter in the physics world about "Islands of Stability" in the higher elemental numbers, I suspect the reason such a high number was chosen was simply to show that these aliens are very advanced. – Valorum Jul 8 '16 at 23:04
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    And I suspect the specific number chosen was deliberately to not line up with a familiar or aesthetically pleasing number, much like with the 38 minutes a wormhole can be established (give or take a few seconds)... which makes sense as there's nothing to bias something like the discovery of elements or wormhole physics to nice round numbers. – starpilotsix Jul 9 '16 at 20:05

Physical Theories

From a physics standpoint, there is not much of an indication to whether there should be as many as 146 elements.

The Wikipedia article on Extended periodic table is a great read for this

Consider that Richard Feynman proposed that there couldn't be an element above 137. Since basically the electrons would have to move around the nucleus at or above the Speed of Light.

Now since then theories have been postulated that the actual upper limit should be around 173

146 does not have seem to have a real significance in any of these theories. Most notably element 146 would be in the same group as Plutonium is. In the 8th row.

Pure speculation: In-Universe maybe they had a joint facility for creating heavier and heavier elements looking for the Island of Stability When they reached element 146 they created some kind of Superplutonium that destroyed the facility immediately after being created.

Or: Element 146 is Naquadah and the pivotal element within the aforementioned Island of Stability and any Element above that has a Half-Life close enough to the Planck Time to be considered non-existent for all intents and purposes

Linguistic Theory

Perhaps the choice of 146 had nothing to do with the actual number of elements the four Races had discovered.

It might have been chosen in regards to their actual inter species language that may have been comprised of 146 Symbols

Numerical Theory

The Ancients have been discovered to utilize the base 8 number system in the episode The Fifth Race

Well the Base 8 representation of 146 is 222. Kind of neat isn't it? So maybe the creator(s) of the "language" were fans of Repdigits

Further noteworthy properties of 146 are:

... an octahedl number is a figurate number that represents the number of spheres in an octahedron formed from close-packed spheres.

An untouchable number is a positive integer that cannot be expressed as the sum of all the proper divisors of any positive integer (including the untouchable number itself).

So 146 could have been chosen for any combination of it's properties.


Note that, through the use of Wikipedia you will find interesting properties for almost any number! See the (humorous) Interesting Number Paradox for that. Or this Numberphile Video on the topic.

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