PHYSICS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Elegant Universe
By Brian Greene

Narrated by Erik Davies

Brian Greene (Author, American Theoretical Physicist)

Who cares about physics?

If the world is orderly and predictable, physics is the key to that orderliness and predictability; the key to our future. (Knowing what E = mc2 reminds us of the importance of understanding physics.)

A unified field theory has been the goal of physicist’s since Einstein’s break through discovery of the equivalence of mass and energy.  Brian Greene excites a listener’s appreciation of string theory and its potential for becoming the basis for a unified field theory.

Greene is a theoretical physicist that helps bridge the gap between sciences’ understanding of the universe and an uninformed public.  He links analogy with obscure conceptual physics. Many concepts addressed by Greene remain obscure (“Calabi-Yau manifolds” for example) despite his valiant effort to analogize his way to our understanding.  But, “The Elegant Universe” does open doors for a non-physicist’s understanding.  

Greene explores the theory that elemental particles are made up of strings that vibrate at different frequencies.  Those vibrations determine the elemental nature of particles that make up the world; one string can become different particles based on the frequency of its vibration.  These strings move through out the galaxy to make all we see and think we know of the universe. 


“The Elegant Universe” unfolds the concept of vibrating strings.  The concept, of course, is called “string theory”. With this theory, quantum mechanics becomes a verifiable structure for physics; something that Einstein could not accept in his life time.

Conceptually, strings make up all matter and energy and have characteristics that maintain and repair the fabric of space. String theory has the potential of explaining how the universe works.  Quantum mechanics, ideas of equivalence (energy and mass), duality, symmetry and super symmetry are explored by Greene in “The Elegant Universe”. 

The truth of string theory either obviates or combines the reality of space, time, and dimension.  However, the future of string theory rests on experimental observance and measurement.

Advances in string theory demand predictability and comprehensibility. The problem is that these “strings” are so small, they cannot be measured with current technology. Without measurement, the theory cannot be tested. Without tests, the theory can only be a theory.

Of course, that was true at the time of Einstein’s theory of the equivalence of energy and matter. Since Einstein’s discovery, atomic energy and atomic bombs have proven his theory’s validity. Not so, at least yet, for “string theory”.

There are significant objections to this avenue of research by fellow scientists like Richard Feynman (now deceased), and Lee Smolin. Smolin believes “String Theory” is blunting sciences’ effort to find a more plausible explanation of the nature of the universe.

Unraveling nature’s mysteries may or may not be accomplished with this exploration but string theory has the potential of being the greatest discovery since Newton’s theory of gravity and/or Einstein’s theory of relativity.   

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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