Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brian Green lecture on String Theory

I went to another JCC lecture today and man, it was amazing... insightful, current, witty, inspiring, and just downright glorious. It was a lecture by Brian Greene, the world-renowned Physicist and author of "The Elegant Universe" - a 1999 book explaining String Theory to the masses.

Pretty interesting topic, and certainly something I had no idea about. I haven't taken Physics since high school, so it's been about 7 years since I last did anything Physics-y... but his explanations were SO clear, brilliantly worded, and just so easy to understand. I think you definitely benefit from at least a basic mathematical or scientific background, this helps grasp the concepts. But even if you didn't I think you could still take a lot from his talk. He is the rare kind of Ph.D Physics Professor - he actually has a brilliant command of the English language, he's very clear and succinct in his explanations... and he has a sharp sense of humour too. This combination makes for an absolutely brilliant Scientific mind that can actually be explained to someone without any prior knowledge of the topic. Amazing.

The interviewer, Timothy Ferris, was undoubtedly one of the finest interviewers I've seen at the JCC thusfar. He was perfect for this setting, had a great rapport with Brian Greene and all of the questions he asked were excellent. Another slam-dunk event.

I decided to buy "The Elegant Universe" after the lecture from the booksellers who were there, and I got it signed!! Awesome.

The Elegant Universe

Signed copy!!!

To summarize what String Theory actually is, I'll just copy over the Wikipedia entry... 'cause compared to Brian Greene, my summary based on his lecture today is going to be pretty rough. So here's what Wikipedia says:
String theory is a still-developing mathematical approach to theoretical physics, whose original building blocks are one-dimensional extended objects called strings. Unlike the point particles in quantum field theories like the standard model of particle physics, strings interact in a way that is almost uniquely specified by mathematical self-consistency, forming an apparently valid quantum theory of gravity.

String theory is of interest to many physicists because of the mathematics involved, and because of the large number of forms that the theories can take. String theory strongly suggests that spacetime has eleven dimensions, as opposed to the usual three space and one time, but the theory can easily describe universes with four observable spacetime dimensions as well.
So it was as fantastic and exciting as it was interesting and wild. I just loved it.

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