Mostly Bollogs, I'm afraid

But occasionally, a glimmer of truth.
If you find one, please let me know.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Superstring theory, P-Branes, and God.

I couldn't think of anything to write about, so I chose something dull and pointless. And, incidentally, something about which I know next to nothing.

A few years ago, Dr Prof (Emiritus) Stephen Hawking dictated a book called "A Brief History of Time". Not a bad book at all. Went into some stuff about cosmology. Easy stuff, that everyone could understand. Black holes and exciting things like that. Event horizons. Remarkable drawings of toruses (tori?) and where light goes when space bends.

At the end of the book, Hawking indicates that there is some sort of God, who was/is/will be responsible for the Big Bang, when a great big pile of not much turned into an even bigger pile of hydrogen, which got very hot, and turned itself into helium, then argon, neon, nitrogen, oxygen, berylium, strontium 90, uranium, McDonald's Big Mac and Fries, Nectar Points and, eventually, people.

Every schoolboy knows that the universe is expanding, and that the further away you get from the middle (I don't understand this bit, for I don't know exactly where the middle is) the faster it expands. Everybody knows, also, that the speed of light is the only constant, and that the outside bits of the universe are expanding approximately twice as fast as that. Which is clearly cobblers.

So, I can understand this. Even the guitarist from Queen can. Jolly fun.

But, near the end of the this book, Hawking goes into explaining string theory. This, in itself, is not too difficult to understand. But in order for "what the fuck is happening" to fit the theory, it needs a bit more embellishment. Superstring theory. P-Branes. Vibrating wotsits that have to purr around a good half-dozen dimensions to work at all, and in at least 26 to work properly.

Fair enough, I say. At this point, I sort of give up. I can work in dimensions, in the same way as I can work with the imaginary number i, even though it isn't a real thingy.

The last sentence of this book finishes: "we will know the mind of God".

No, we won't, Stevie Boy. No. I knew that at the time. But NOW, Mr Hawking has come up with another theory, which is based entirely on the last theory, except that he has got a huge hole in it.

Now, a chap called Ptolemy, who was a famous mathematician and astronomer in Greece (or wherever he was from, I don't do research), a few thousand years ago, worked out that all the planets, and the sun, went round the earth. Fair. He was standing on the earth, and we are egocentric. If you're not, let me know, and I'll explain why you're wrong.

He spent a lot of time outside doing plotting of where the planets were, relative to him, and found that they were not entirely in proper orbits. Proper being where he would've liked them to be. So he invented all sorts of constants and bodges and kludges to put them right. He was hailed a hero.

Hawking, and all of the clever chaps, would like everything to fit into their model. They would have liked to have a GUT (Grand Unified Theory) of everything, explaining why everything does what everything does. But it doesn't go like that. It DOES, however, if you invent dimensions, and try to shove the results into those frameworks. It DOES.

So, sadly, the latest theory has been born. Trust me, there will be another one in my lifetime. If not many more. When the observed data won't fit, the boundaries will change, another squiggle will be invented, and Yay! It will all fit again.

Look. It is what it is. I don't need to know any more. And you clever bods probably don't know very much more than me in the grand scheme of things.

What we DON'T need, at this cycle in the development of "I've got a God and he's better than your one so we're going to start a fucking WAR" humanity, is someone like you agreeing with the prick Dawkins and starting yet ANOTHER bloody spate of man-against-man stupidity.

So I won't be buying your new book.


Anonymous said...

Excellent reasoning. Couldn't have put it better myself.

Yours sincerely,

Prof C Corkings.

Pam Nash said...

Hmm, yes. Then again, man v. man stupidity may be the only thing to remove Coulson and the never-ending Lab leadership pantomime from the front pages. Which would be good. So..........

Billy Blofeld said...

Excellent post.

I am a science junkie and read exactly this sort of shit all the time. I often wonder why I read it at all - cos there is not one scrap of evidence. The whole thing is theory.

....even Socialism works on paper - and we know what a total clusterfuck that is.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Even the guiarist from Queen can understand it? I should bloody ell think he can.

Brian May:

May studied physics and mathematics at Imperial College London, graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree and ARCS in physics with Upper Second-Class Honours. He then proceeded to study for a PhD degree, also at the Imperial College London departments of Physics and Mathematics, and was part way through this PhD programme, studying reflected light from interplanetary dust and the velocity of dust in the plane of the Solar System. When Queen became successful he abandoned his physics doctorate but did co-author two scientific research papers: MgI Emission in the Night-Sky Spectrum (1972)[28] and An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles (Part I) (1973),[29] which were based on May's observations at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife. He is the co-author of Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe with Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, which was published in October 2006.[30] More than 30 years after he started his research, in October 2007 he completed his PhD thesis in astrophysics,[31] entitled A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud,[32] passed his viva voce, and performed the required corrections.[33][34][35][36] He officially graduated at the postgraduate awards ceremony held in the Royal Albert Hall, on the afternoon of Wednesday 14 May 2008.

On 17 November 2007, May was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University,[15] taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008.[16]

Asteroid 52665 Brianmay was named in his honour on 18 June 2008 on the suggestion of Sir Patrick Moore (probably influenced by the asteroid's provisional designation of 1998 BM

But no, I don't think I'll be buying it either - and I thought Brief History of Time was crap too.

Fat Jacques said...

The latest theory may well be wrong and a new one will replace it. But you are wrong about evidence. The development of cosmological theories is dependent on observations. As new discoveries are made, theories are changed or scrapped to accommodate new information.
New theories make predictions and evidence is then sought to substantiate. If countercevidence is found, the theory falls.

Socialism doesn't work on paper, Adam Smith showed that.

Uncle Marvo said...

Ah, Mr Jacques. But you miss the point. It is simples. EVERY theory, in physics, in particle physics (quantum mechanics, if you will), is simples. OK, it has the odd quirk like the square root of minus one to slow you down a bit, but even Einsten's special theory, viz e=mc2, or Euler's Identity, viz e^(pi*i)+1=0 is intrinsically simples. They've lost it. If you have to make God out of 26 dimensions, the tail wags the dog.

Carry on.

Fat Jacques said...

I agree with you, a theory can be embellished and tweaked in it's death throws as it tries to accommodate new facts. But until a better theory comes along, its still the best description we have of how the universe works.

I'm betting they won't find a Higgs or any dark matter, either, these look like band aid on flakey theory too. But still the best theory we have, which works, most of the time.