Theoretical Physicist Brian Greene

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Greene about it. However, we did talk to the good doctor a couple of days ago, to ask about the whole string-theory thing in general, and we daresay it was more enjoyable than an inflatable Calabi-Yau Manifold : Austin Chronicle : OK, I've got just a couple of questions here before we get into it so far over my head that I don't know what we're talking about at all … What is it in early childhood — or whenever it was, if there was some specific instigating event — that starts a man on a path that leads to becoming a theoretical physicist?

Brian Greene : Well, for me it's two things, and you can take your pick of which resonates. But when I was young — real young, around four or five — my dad taught me the basics of arithmetic.

Science As a Full Body Experience: Brian Greene On 12222 World Science Festival

And I just became fascinated with numbers, that you could do things with numbers that no one had ever done before — because they thought it wasn't interesting. But it was wonderful to me, this universe of numbers. And a little later on, in high school, I learned that numbers — math — could be used to describe real stuff , not just a game, then I was really overtaken with a passion to use mathematics to try to understand the universe.

AC : And, from there, doing what you do — in addition to your research, you're now the premier explainer of this esoteric subject. And so what kind of a joy is that for you?

The festival runs from May 22 to June 2 in New York City.

To explain these things to people? BG : The big joy of doing physics is the insight that it gives us into the nature of reality. And how people who don't know mathematics, who don't know physics because they haven't gone to graduate school, how these people can have whole vistas opened up by learning about what's happening on the cutting edge of research.

It's thrilling to talk to people about these ideas — to kids, to adults — to those who are just curious or really want to study the subject. The whole gamut of people can get so much out of the insights that physics has revealed. AC : And this is where my ignorance begins to make itself apparent. What meager shred that I understand of string theory — and I'm quoting from Wikipedia here — "There must be ten spatial dimensions and one dimension of time to allow for a consistently defined string theory.

Can you tell me, in layman's terms, where does this "must" come from — and can it be tested? What if reality is like, "To hell with that, I'm composed of an infinite number of dimensions and string-theory consistency can kiss my ass?

An elegant multiverse? Professor Brian Greene considers the possibilities

Because the place where that idea of extra dimensions comes from … we ordinary human beings live in a world that seems to have three dimensions in space — left, right; back, forth; and up, down — and if we throw time in there, too, as Einstein taught us we should — it gives us a total of four. But string theory, when you study the equations of string theory, the equations don't work.

They fall apart if you only have three dimensions of space and one of time. But, miraculously, the equations all suddenly snap together and work really well if the universe has ten dimensions of space and one of time. But, as you're saying, that's a bizarre idea, we don't see those other dimensions, and it could be that string theory is plain wrong and the universe doesn't care about the math.

And the only way to try and determine whether string theory is right and the universe really does care about it and has these other dimensions … is to do experiments which will, hopefully, be able to test these ideas.

Brian Greene | Biography, Books, & Facts |

The problem, which has been an issue for string theory for twenty or thirty years now, is that the ideas of string theory only manifest themselves in a realm that we have difficulty accessing with today's technology. AC : Because they're so small? BG : Exactly. The ideas of string theory really come to life on extremely tiny-tiny scales — billions of times smaller than even the scale that we can reach with the Large Hadron Collider.

Even that machine probably can't go small enough. So that's the quandary that we string theorists are in: We have these ideas and, mathematically, they hold together; but as of today we don't whether they're right or wrong, and it's not clear when we'll have the capacity to test these ideas.

So it's a subject that's very exciting , but one that's very much in a state of … uncertainty — as to whether or not we're describing reality. AC : But if the current technology isn't capable of testing the physical facts of these theories, how do we know that that same current technology — operating up here in the level where Einstein's general relativity seems to run the game — how do we know the current tech is accurately representing events on the quantum level in the first place?

BG : Well, we don't know that it is. AC : Oy. BG : The only evidence that we have is that, when we use quantum mechanics to make predictions about little particles like electrons, to provide a really good example, the truly remarkable thing is that the mathematics and the experiments that we can do on electrons, both the math and the observations agree to ten decimal places. And when you see that kind of an agreement, it kind of knocks you off your chair.

And it gives you some degree of confidence that the methods you're using are heading toward truth. We then push those mathematical methods even further to hopefully reveal aspects of reality that we can't yet see. AC : So you guys aren't using mathematics to drive the idea of how the universe is composed, you're more seeing that the math matches up at this level and therefore it should also match up at smaller levels. BG : Precisely — that's the idea. Icarus at the Edge of Time. Speaking Topics. His main presentation at our high school assembly was enthusiastically received by all.

In fact, teachers across the disciplines were so impressed they brought their classes to the small group sessions beyond the usual science classes. As a result, we had great participation in every aspect of his visit. Greene was extremely well received among the OSU community. Many audience members had questions, and Dr.

Greene was captivating in explaining the information. Greene to any other University. He has a remarkable talent to make complex ideas very accessible.

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Students quickly gained confidence to ask questions as they saw that he would take them seriously. At the same time, he was engaging and challenging with faculty, advanced students, and community in thoughtful — and often humorous — ways. Excellent selection for our campus and community.

Both in his interactions with Lecture Board members and in his amazing speech, he was personable and entertaining. Brown Lecture Board and the sold-out crowd really enjoyed having him here. He was entertaining, charming, mind-expanding and thrilling. Our audience was buzzing. Greene's speech was absolutely fabulous! It made both fellow professionals as well as the general public feel involved, educated and entertained altogether. My son even admitted getting "goose bumps" listening to the talk.

We had record attendance on-campus-roughly a thousand people. Dr Greene's visit represented a truly wonderful launch to our annual Nelson Series! He was my first choice as well as by far the most informative and entertaining. He really had the audience's attention for the entire hour, and they sat spellbound in their seats for a few questions and answers. He was all that you said he would be. Most of our crowd did not have any physics knowledge and yet felt that his highly entertaining presentation really opened up a new and facinating world to them. I think he did the best job that anybody we've ever had to be quite honest with you, and I think that's shared by everyone here.

We've had rave notices from everybody, including our board of trustees. He is great on stage with a lot of enthusiasm. His PowerPoint was excellent.

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Greene was a tremendous hit among all our guests. His speech was very dynamic and engaging. It is frankly incredible to me that someone can give a coherent talk explaining certain crucial features of special relativity, general relativity and quantum mechanics, the source of the conflict between relativity and quantum mechanics, and the way that string theory resolves the conflict " all in one hour. Major success " students, faculty and town people. They even had students and faculty from other colleges in the surrounding community. Could not have been better. The students were very engaged in his classroom visit and his lecture was amazing!

He was energetic, funny, and very easy to understand.

The campus is still buzzing about how great it was.