The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Elegant Universe

I've never been very mathematically minded, except for biostats, so I've always been the one who sits and listens in awe while the engineers on Star Trek gush technobabble about the warp engines, while scoffing at their medical jargon. (The visual cortex is at the *BACK* of the head, Dr. Crusher!)

Anyway, a while back I thought to rectify this, so I went to Google and typed in "string theory for dummies", since I accurately predicted that would be the appropriate level for me. I found a wonderful website that explains many things at close to my level, in video format that can be watched on-line. The series is called "The Elegant Universe". I understood about 80% of it, even though it was massively dumbed down, but enjoyed every minute. Finally, I had an inkling of what those Trek engineers were talking about.

The series is narrated by Brian Greene, who is himself a string theorist and professor at Columbia University. He's also a very good story teller. The contents of The Elegant Universe are also available in much more detailed book form, and have a companion volume called The Fabric of the Cosmos. I was so enthusiastic that I ran out and bought both of them, but silly me should have realised it would take me years to get through the material. I'm still trying.

So if you've ever wondered about string theory and particle physics, and despaired that you didn't ever have a hope of understanding, check out the Nova website and enjoy.

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P.S. If anyone is physics savvy, maybe you can explain the following to me: Dr. Greene states that we cannot travel faster than the speed of light because as particles accelerate, they increase in mass. As they approach light speed, they get so heavy they can't be moved forward. Well photons are described as particles, so why isn't light heavy? And does this only apply when there is a gravitational field to create the experience of weight? Anyone know? See, I still don't get it.

2 comments:

E A said...

I probably shouldn't comment when I'm this tired but...

"Well photons are described as particles, so why isn't light heavy?"

Because light is light, not heavy.

*runs away* - sorry - couldn't help it ;-D

8 days till "book day"!!

Jennifer Rahn said...

Ahem. Let me rephrase that. Why aren't *PHOTONS* too heavy to travel at light speed?