Monday, July 21, 2008

String Theory and My Lost Socks

I've enjoyed listening to a number of TED talks lately, and today was no different. Brian Greene, a physicist, gave a talk on string theory. It is basically the search for a unification theory for the universe. Apparently, the answer doesn't revolve around ice cream sundaes on a warm summer evening. At least, for physicists.

Being a former physics genius (I once taught, or maybe a better word is "stumbled through" a basic physics lab for one semester), let me give you a basic summary: there are more dimensions out there than the three dimensions of space + time. How do we know this? Because it makes our cool looking calculations work if there are 11 dimensions.

I'm all for it. I mean, those socks go somewhere. And they reappear as lint in places that must come from some freaky dimension. If anyone asks me why I'm investing in the company Little Miss Matched, I say it's because there are too many dimensions for me to keep track of.

As if 4 wasn't enough. Just watching people drive should convince us to at least go back to 3.

Anyway, apparently below the atoms and within all that empty space of neutrons and protons and those zippy electrons, there are vibrating strings at the core of everything. These strings vibrate in different ways to produce what we are. This is actually a pretty cool image - Jimmy Hendrix is himself a complex guitar. It also gives me something to say the next time I blow it: "I'm just a little out of tune at the moment."

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