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Nova: The Elegant Universe and the String Theory

 
 
Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 08:51 pm
Anyone else watch Nova last night? I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the overload of information.

Here's a link to PBS's Nova webpage in case you didn't see the program or wish to learn more.

Nova's The Elegant Universe

I'd never heard of Brian Greene before now. Is he the new Carl Sagan?

Here's a link to a series of images to give a sense of the size of strings. It is similar to the Power of 10 demonstration except that it is done in Powers of 100. I especially got a kick out of the last image. Smile

A Sense of Scale

I'm still not entirely clear on exactly what a string is but am reminded of an often quoted statement by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "This world we live in is but thickened light."
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 08:55 pm
littlek talked about this too.

My hubby is very familiar with string theory, though he is a neutrino guy... if you have any specific questions, I can run them by him.

The main thing to remember is what oooh who Oppenheimer? said about the words in physics being poetry, not anything to be taken too literally.

What IS that quote? Off to find it.
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Ceili
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:07 pm
If it's the same show, I watched this program a few years ago. I found it extremely enlightening. It flowed so well, explained so much then I read the book. Brian Greene is highly intellegent but has the soul of an great teacher, I never felt as if he was talking down to me. Thanks for the reminder, I hope they play the show agian.
Ceili
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Butrflynet
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:24 pm
We had quite a scientific night last night on the local PBS station here. They ran both episodes of the Nova show then a bio on Einstein and followed it up with the bio on Einstein's wife.

Rather sad that she gets so little credit for what they both achieved. I think it would be even more fitting if the last picture in the series of images about the scale of strings was one of her rather then Albert.
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littlek
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:29 pm
Ceili - I think this is a brand new show.

I saw Brian Greene speak last saturday. It's amazing stuff!

Butrflynt - I like that quote, but that the strings make up everything - even light. I think there will be a third hour on next tuesday at 8pm.
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littlek
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:29 pm
And, of course, Brian Greene published a book about it.
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Butrflynet
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:39 pm
Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe

Yep, here's a link to the description and reviews of the book. As one reviewer said "I felt my brain growing while reading this!"

That's what made me think of Carl Sagan while watching the show last night. I had the same eye opening bright flash of light experience while watching many of his shows.

It's truly amazing how they've been able to translate such complicated theories into language and experiences almost anyone can understand.

On that Nova website there's a link to a story about what all went into just one scene of the show.

PBS and Nova really reinforced their reputation for excellent educational television with this show. I really hope the powers in Washington who want to rid the public airwaves of PBS do not succeed.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:41 pm
Geez, that was hard to find online. Found the quote, from Niels Bohr:

Quote:
"We must be clear that, when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry."


There are all of these complex scientific concepts that are first understood in the scientific context and then are labeled, somewhat arbitrarily.

I ADORED the article this came from, called "Tongue-Tied by Physics: The Ineffable Lightness of Being," and thought about starting a thread on it but have been WAY busy lately. Thanks for reminding me. Is it a distraction here? I think the issue of how non-physicists and physicists communicate is really interesting, but may be too broad for this topic.

Here's the link to the article just because I had a heckuva time finding it... you need to scroll down.

http://jove.eng.yale.edu/pipermail/eas-info/2003/000642.html
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Ceili
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 09:42 pm
I've just gone to the web site and your right, same guy new show. I wish I could have seen it.
I'll try and find out who did the original show. It was based on Greene's book and the string theorum. It may have been a canadian production.
I'll keep looking none the less.
Ceili
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dyslexia
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 10:03 pm
excellent program, i watched all of it...
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Butrflynet
 
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Reply Wed 29 Oct, 2003 10:09 pm
No distraction at all, Soz. This is the kind of stuff I love talking about.

Bucky Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, Einstein etc.

I don't understand the mathematics behind it all but really enjoy the concepts and learning about the route taken to get there, especially when it is spoken in a language even I can relate to.
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Butrflynet
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 12:46 am
sozobe wrote:
littlek talked about this too.

My hubby is very familiar with string theory, though he is a neutrino guy... if you have any specific questions, I can run them by him.

The main thing to remember is what oooh who Oppenheimer? said about the words in physics being poetry, not anything to be taken too literally.

What IS that quote? Off to find it.


Soz,

Ask your husband for an explanation of that vast void between quarks and the moment strings become visible (as displayed in Nova's example of scale that I posted earlier).

Is that just emptiness between strings in a quark or are there larger concepts we haven't put definition to?

Also, how did they make the journey from quarks to strings without any other landmarks along the way to guide their thought process?
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fishin
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 08:44 am
I watched it too - Great show!

Quote:
Also, how did they make the journey from quarks to strings without any other landmarks along the way to guide their thought process?


This is a good question. As they stressed in the show, string theory is just that... a theory. The jump wasn't made based on something observed through a microscope but by putting together a mathmatical model that unified the world of quantum mechanics with Einstein's time-space.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 08:51 am
I'll ask him that question.

Last night, though, I asked him about string theory in general. Here is a paraphrase of what he said:

It's an interesting idea, but just that, ideas. It is not physics, because it is not measuring anything nor is it measurable. A good, publishable paper in string theory is so called not because of any intrinsic truth -- because something that was predicted was discovered, or because existing results were integrated into a theory -- but because of more subjective criteria, about whether it "makes sense."

He says that physicists sometimes call string theory "mathurbation."

I asked if it was a travesty along the lines of cold fusion, and he said, no, no, it's an interesting idea. I said CAN they ever prove it one way or the other?, and he said well they've been trying for over 20 years. I asked about Einstein's relationship to string theory, and he scoffed. He said that Einstein had his theory of everything/ unified field theory, yes, but was not involved in string theory per se.

My own answer to your question is that string theory was trying to solve a problem that physicists are trying to solve in other ways, my husband included. Right now there is not enough known matter in the universe for general relativity to "work." The jump string theorists made is, well, let's throw out our current thinking and start new. One of the many jumps particle- and astrophysicists made is, well maybe these things that we thought were only light -- neutrinos -- have a tiny bit of mass. There are so many of them, that the tiniest bit of mass can supply some of the missing matter.

In the last 7 years or so, they have found that to be true. Neutrinos have a tiny bit of mass, but it looks like not quite enough to make up the missing mass. The missing mass has collectively been called dark matter, and the search for the rest of the dark matter is on, and that's a new frontier. (Dark matter isn't new, but there are newly interesting discoveries.)

So, most physicists are saying: Einstein's theory almost works, so we are going to keep searching and see if enough measurable evidence surfaces to make it work perfectly. If the measurable evidence seems to contradict his theory, we'll have to revise the theory as we continue to gather more evidence and search for a measurable, objective truth.

String theorists are saying: Einstein's theory almost works, so we are going to create this other, unmeasurable, theory because it makes sense to us.

More on neutrinos/ dark matter:

http://www.ps.uci.edu/~superk/neutrino.html

http://www.astro.queensu.ca/~dursi/dm-tutorial/dm0.html
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rosborne979
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 10:28 am
Dr. Wheeler used to say that the model is just a model. Our models get better and better, but they will never get up and dance. But the Universe *does* dance.

I think what he meant is that the Universe is the perfect expression. And any model that was perfect would *be* the Universe. So we will never have a perfect model.

What's amazing to me is that as our models become more and more accurate, they do so by assuming very different underlying concepts. For instance, Newtonian physics is an accurate model up to a certain power level, beyond which it begins to break down in more and more obvious ways. Einstein's model is even more accurate, at even higher power levels, but in the end, it begins to break down as well. Both models are accurate within a certain range, but look at how different they are at their core.

GR is not only a quantum leap beyond Newtonian physics in accuracy, it's also a totally different animal.

If the next quantum leap in accuracy of our models does the same as the last one, we're going to be seeing not just a new animal, but an entirely new species.

Best Regards,
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ebrown p
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 12:11 pm
I disagree that we will ever get a new animal.

At the core, Newton and Einstein are the same. Newton is a subset of Einstein, but they are not different species.

I am sure the next theory that comes will build on Einstein.

The theories of Newton and Einstein contain both "truth" and beauty.

They aren't the whole truth, but they contain truth none the less. Any work in the future won't replace the work of these giants. The future will epand the fields of view that thy opened.

You don't ever disprove truth. You can only expand it.
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rosborne979
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 12:41 pm
Hi EBrown,

ebrown_p wrote:
At the core, Newton and Einstein are the same. Newton is a subset of Einstein, but they are not different species.


My metaphore is a little loose (as metaphores are want to be), so let me see if I can tighten it a bit...

In 1905, Einstein created the Special Theory of Relativity, in which he demonstrated that measurements of time and distance vary systematically as anything moves relative to anything else. Which means that Newton was wrong. Space and time are not absolute, and the relativistic universe we inhabit is not the one Newton "described".

Then in 1915, Einstein completes the General Theory of Relativity. In which he shows that matter and energy, all the "stuff" in the universe, actually mold the shape of space and the flow of time. What we feel as the "force" of gravity is simply the sensation of following the shortest path we can through curved, four-dimensional space-time. It is a radical vision: space is no longer the box the universe comes in; instead, space and time, matter and energy are, as Einstein proves, locked together in the most intimate embrace.

You may call this the "same" thing that Newton described, but I don't. To me, this vision is significantly different at its core, and it tells me that such differences may happen again, even with the models we use today.

Best Regards,
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littlek
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 05:34 pm
sozobe wrote:
In the last 7 years or so, they have found that to be true. Neutrinos have a tiny bit of mass, but it looks like not quite enough to make up the missing mass. The missing mass has collectively been called dark matter, and the search for the rest of the dark matter is on, and that's a new frontier. (Dark matter isn't new, but there are newly interesting discoveries.)


My question to Greene, which was never answered, was "any correlation between strings and dark matter?".

Any more from you all on that topic? There were similarities between things I'd read, on the bundles in the fabric of space and the ideas of other universes, about both concepts.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 06:47 pm
Hmmm...

I think they are parallel theories that don't really interact that well. Kinda either-or.

Basically, dark matter isn't a thing, it's a lack of anything. It's a bowl waiting to be filled up. It's maybe 1/5th filled by neutrinos, and they're looking around for what else to fill it up with. They expect to find other things, and are making headway.

String theory is saying that strings are the basis of EVERYTHING. So there are strings in neutrinos, etc. So strings can't be the other 4/5ths... they are in everything, or not.

Does that make any sense?
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littlek
 
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Reply Thu 30 Oct, 2003 07:43 pm
Well, the lecture pointed to pockets within the 'fabric of space/time' (love that term, she said with some sarcasm) holding tightly bundles clumps of stuff - was it strings? I don't think so. The point was made because in order for the s.string theory to work, there had to be like 11 dimensions. Perhaps we have parallel universes in which all outcomes from every single point of time exist simultaneously to our own. And/or maybe we have these pockets within the 'fabric of space/time' which are stuffed with stuff. What was THAT stuff!!!!??? Sorry I can't remember.
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