String Theory

Andy and I went to listen to Dr. Brian Greene last night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. According to his page on Wikipedia:

Greene’s area of research is string theory, a candidate for a theory of quantum gravity, which attempts to explain the different particle species of the standard model of particle physics as different aspects of a single type of one-dimensional, vibrating string. One peculiarity of string theory is that it postulates the existence of extra dimensions of space – instead of the usual three dimensions of space, there must be nine or even ten spatial dimensions to allow for a consistently defined string theory. The theory has several explanations to offer for why we do not perceive these extra dimensions, one being that they are “curled up” (compactified, to use the technical term) and are hence too small to be readily noticeable.

Somehow I thought the astronomy class I took four years ago and countless hours of watching Nova had educated me enough that I would grasp what Dr. Greene was lecturing about. Yeah…, it didn’t. Add that and a really long work week and I was actually having issues keeping my eyes open. But I did learn a few things. Although I did know that the universe was expanding, I didn’t know that it was continuing to expand at a faster rate than it originally started at. I learned that the Large Hadron Collider will probably not create a black hole that the Earth will be sucked into. I also learned that although you might discover something first, someone else might win the Nobel prize for it. Dr. Greene shared an instance where a scientist discovered background radiation but didn’t get credit for it because no one took him serious. He also briefly described what string theory is. Please, do not ask me about it.

All in all, it was a great lecture. Dr. Greene was funny, passionate, and well a hottie! I really liked how he talked about how great scientists retain that childlike questioning of ‘why’. He gave several examples of how children sometimes force us to rethink about the ‘why’. I think I enjoyed this lecture more than Music and the Mind.


4 responses to “String Theory

  1. Wasn’t that dude on 90201? 😉

  2. I’m envious. Greene’s a great explainer, and other physicists seem to love or hate him. String Theory’s tough stuff to grok (I barely do, too) but also appeals to the Buckaroo Banzai in us, if nothing else. I didn’t like his Nova shows–really overproduced and didn’t tell us enough. His books are very readable, though–although it’s more of a head-nodding experience unless you have a significant background in physics (I have two friends, one a systems science professor, the other a physics professor, who think his ideas have merit, and another friend whose SO thinks he’s focused on stardom instead of science–oh, those jealous types, like when Pavarrati destroyed opera by bringing it to the “masses.”)

  3. P.S. I blogged today about strings in another context. Synchronicity or Silly String Theory? (Why doesn’t this idiotic spell checker know “synchronicity?”)

  4. You’re being way to circumspect about your knowledge of physics. I saw you explaining String Theory to Art at the Deschutes brewpub, using wet rolled up bits of napkins, a lemon wedge, and the salt and pepper shakers (using the latter to stand in for dark matter smacks of brilliance)–he was totally befuddled so I knew you were getting it right.

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