The Elegant Universe

This book by Brian Greene about string theory is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. If you haven’t heard about it already, string theory is a relatively new area of physics and mathematics which is working hard to integrate general relatively and quantum mechanics. In case I’ve already lost you, general relatively is that thing Einstein thought back almost 100 years ago to explain gravity across the massive cosmos. He conceptualized gravity as the curvature of space. Quantum mechanics is the seemingly random science that describes the workings of the microscopic universe. These are two theories are mutually exclusive, but most scientists just ignore the inherent contradictions due to them usually just working with one theory of the other.

String theory attempts to bring these two theories together into a “theory of everything.” It proposes a 11-dimensional universe made of infathomably tiny one-dimensional strings that vibrate at different frequencies to create all matter. Sure, it’s pretty far out there – but Greene explains it well enough that almost anyone can understand it (somewhat). He builds up from Einstein’s theories, all the way through the future – which in some cases, is now the present – of string theory. (For example, the Large Hadron Collider he refers to is almost ready for use.) Through the use of diagrams and charts, along with imaginative analogies, Greene is able to conceptualize in everyday terms and experiences a theory that only a few hundred people in the world truly understand.

After reading this book, you can’t help but be amazed by such a ludricious theory that has proven invaluable to physicists across the world. The math just works out, and it does seem a bit elegant, as the book title states. Experiments that will soon take place at the LHC at CERN in Switzerland might possibly offer strong evidence for the legitmacy of string theory. It might also deal it a weakening blow. In short, string theory requires the existance of supersymmetric partners of the particles we know exist. We have never seen any of these supersymmetric partner particles. LHC just might accelerate particles with large enough energy to create them.

You should read the book so you understand what I was just talking about. Maybe then you’ll be excited like I am. I’ll even give you a link to Amazon right now. Buy It.

There’s also a 7-hour show made by NOVA based on the book and I hear it’s pretty good too.


~ by CajoleJuice on December 11, 2006.

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