Galactic Gumbo

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast is a lot of fun (recent fun episode here). Love people like him because they can excite people outside of the scientific community about scientific things.

This particular episode touches on a number of cool topics. Since I wrote about Stephen Hawking’s death, I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite related books.

The Elegant Universe by Briane Greene is one of those. It’s an accessible overview of string theory (published in 1999, so a lot has probably happened since). String theory is a theoretical framework that, among other things, attempts to reconcile incompatibilities between Einstein’s relativity and quantum mechanics.

To grossly oversimplify, the stuff Einstein discovered explains big things really well (like the positions of stars), while quantum physics explains little things really well (like how lasers work). The two branches are incompatible – they cannot both be true in a sense. Which doesn’t make sense because both are true. So, string theory is a major candidate for the theory of everything, AKA the uniting holy grail of physics. Fundamental answers to the fundamental questions.

Briane Greene made me see beauty in science. He communicates the elegance of complex things perfectly… books like his put me at ease and brings back the wonder that is beaten out at times by the day-to-day grind.

JB

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