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Most of our Newtonian views of the universe are wrong, like the idea that space is static. Scientists don’t understand most of the universe, which is made of dark energy and dark matter. Because of Einstein’s brilliant mathematics, physicists now understand that space-time is like a fabric that bends. Gravity is wrapping of space-time caused by the objects in it. The moon moves in a curve in space caused by the drag of planet earth. We think of space as empty but quantum mechanics knows it’s teeming with fluctuating fields. The CERN accelerator in Switzerland aims to find the Higgs particle, perhaps the basic component of the field, by recreating the Big Bang that occurred 14 billion years ago. When Peter Higgs presented his theory in 1964, he was ridiculed. The moral of the story is our senses are very subjective and innovators usually meet opposition.

In Brian Greene’s Nova series on physics[i] he explains that the sub-atomic world of Quantum Mechanics, studied since the 1920s, has different laws than the larger world defined by Isaac Newton and later by Einstein in his theory of General Relativity. (Newton is the greatest scientist according to Greene). Einstein spent the last part of his life trying to figure out how to unify the two sets of laws. For example, black holes operate according to both tiny and huge processes. The quantum world is unpredictable except for being weird and crazy, with potentialities perhaps manifesting in parallel universes. Einstein was uncomfortable with Quantum Mechanics, saying “God doesn’t throw darts,” so he looked for predicable laws. Greene suggests that String Theory could provide the unifying theory with tiny vibrating strings, like violin strings, as the basic building block of the universe. Quantum Mechanics defies common sense: Our bodies seem solid but are mostly empty space, for example.


[i] His book The Fabric of the Cosmos is the basis for the November series, 2011. Episoded will be streamed at video.pbs.org.

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Comments on: "space is not what we think; it’s like fabric" (1)

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