Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Elegant Universe

I've heard about String Theory for years, but I never read about it because I figured it's probably far too complex for me to understand. Nevertheless, I bought a book - The Elegant Universe - several months ago and started reading it last night. The author, Brian Greene, is an outstanding writer who opens the book masterfully:
Calling it a cover-up would be far too dramatic. But for more than half a century - even in the midst of some of the greatest scientific achievements in history - physicists have been aware of a dark cloud looming on a distant horizon. The problem is this: There are two foundational pillars upon which modern physics rest. One is Albert Einstein's general relativity, which provides a theoretical framework for understanding the universe on the largest of scales.... The other is quantum mechanics, which provides a theoretical framework for understanding the universe on the smallest of scales.... But these same theoretical tools inexorably lead to another disturbing conclusion: As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right.
What a great opening! The authors of mysteries, thrillers and spy stories need to open their books so compellingly. As you can guess, the remainder of the book aims to demonstrate that string theory (also known as superstring theory) resolves the problem. I've been aware of the theoretical conflict for years, so I'm looking forward to reading about how it may be reconciled.

If you haven't already bought and read the book, and you don't want to run out and get it right away, here's another little teaser that asks the question, Was Einstein Wrong? Read it and find out how we can know so much about our universe and yet have so much more to discover.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I think I want to read it when you are done.