of theory
October 27, 2003 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Cool. I had a basic understanding of superstrings from here but this website really helped fill in the gaps.
posted by aphelion at 6:29 AM on October 27, 2003

The Calabi-Yau shape has to be one of the flashiest scientific visualizations I've seen in a while. They certainly weren't using the plain old 'colormap jet' on that one! Also otherwise very neat stuff, and Greene continues well the tradition of Feynman. "If you can't explain it to your mother, you don't understand it yourself."
posted by ikalliom at 8:27 AM on October 27, 2003

I highly recommend that if you haven't read it, you get your hands on a copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything. Or you can download it... I'm listening to the audible.com version and unlike 90% of authors that read their own works, Bill Bryson is a very engaging speaker. Forgive the excerpt, but it really is a fine book and I think the the average MeFite would find it interesting.
“...There is a lot of heat now, ten billion degrees of it, enough to begin the nuclear reactions that create the lighter elements--principally hydrogen and helium, with a dash (about one atom in a hundred million) of lithium. In three minutes, 98 percent of all the matter there is or will ever be has been produced. We have a universe. It is a place of the most wondrous and gratifying possibility, and beautiful, too. And it was all done in about the time it takes to make a sandwich.”
Any author that can put ten billion degrees and a sandwich together into one coherent thought gets my vote*.

* for governer of any of America’s fine western states.
posted by i blame your mother at 8:40 AM on October 27, 2003

after reading "The Elegant Universe" twice, I'm still baffled. I'll believe that superstring theory true (though, for me, in much the way that a medieval peasant believed the local preacher who told him what the latin words meant) - but *why* 11 dimensions - why only one time dimension?
posted by Pericles at 8:51 AM on October 27, 2003

but *why* 11 dimensions - why only one time dimension?

You're gonna have to ask God about the "why." Science only deals with the "how."
posted by kindall at 8:57 AM on October 27, 2003

What's more, Nova is going to make the whole series available online for those who miss it.
posted by ph00dz at 12:46 PM on October 27, 2003

Ooooo! Ooooo! Physics!
I gotta go change my shorts.
posted by Goofyy at 6:07 AM on October 28, 2003

That's not entirely true, Kindall. Yes, the final Why is probably beyond grasp, but in this case there's an intermediate -- there are 11 dimensions because that's the only way you can get the equations to work: add higher dimensions and the general relativity falls into your lap, indirectly derived.
posted by Tlogmer at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2003

"the general relativity" ==> "general relativity"

posted by Tlogmer at 12:56 PM on October 28, 2003

but *why* 11 dimensions"

11 dimensions? Jesus, I have enought trouble juggling 9 all day long.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:47 PM on October 28, 2003

I'm watching the show now, and I've got to say, it's annoyingly produced: physics for Mr. Short Attention Span. Lots of fun animations (a Quantum Cafe! cool!) and repetition; lots of chopped-up interviews; not enough fiber. I'll look for the book.
posted by languagehat at 6:05 PM on October 28, 2003

I watched it last night and agree that it was irritating, to say the least. How many times can they say the same things over and over again? Is the book any better?

And, Pericles, I totally agree with you; the first thing that I thought when I started to learn about the String Theory was "but why 11 dimensions?" and I still think the same. It doesn't make sense. There is no logical explanation for why 11 is the magical number and not 12, 15, 64, or infinite except for the fact that they need 11 to get the equations to work.

Which leads me to suspect that there are more forces in nature than human kind has observed until now. For example, what holds those strings of energy together? If you go back to the recent past, we were first told atoms were the smallest particles, than protons and neutrons, then quarks, and now strings. I'm pretty sure someone will come up with an even smaller particle that makes up those strings...

Will this madness ever end?
posted by tuxster at 1:48 AM on October 29, 2003

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