As a physicist, I find it immensely satisfying when new ideas challenge my brain. But it was particularly fascinating for me to witness two popularizers of science-Brian Greene and Lawrence Krauss-cause chaos during their debate about string theory.
This theory proposes that elementary particles are replaced with vibrating strings, much as musical notes produce specific sounds when oscillated. Strings can bend and twist in various ways to mimic particles.
1. It’s a Theory of Everything
Generations of physicists have harbored hopes that one day there would be an explanation that can account for all aspects of nature. Their motivation stems from Platonian ideals of mathematical simplicity and symmetry embodied in most monotheistic faiths – including Jewish and Christian belief systems which hold that science will eventually reveal God himself.
Einstein dreamed that his ultimate discovery would be an equation which described how all physical forces work simultaneously, creating a grand unification theory uniting gravitation, electromagnetism and nuclear weak- and strong interactions in one. He called this “Grand Unification.”
Since the 1970s, many physicists have attempted to develop this Grand Unification with theories like Kaluza-Klein and string theory. Recently, however, new approaches such as M-theory (with no defined acronym) are being explored; this theory suggests there may be six or seven dimensions instead of just four and allows different strings to vibrate to create particles with unique mass and force charges.
2. It’s a Theory of Gravity
Gravity is a widely held theory, yet it contains serious flaws. Based on limited evidence and incorrect in key respects, it should not be taught in schools; furthermore, its core idea–that what goes up must come down–has an alarmingly socialist and communistic sound that threatens national moral fiber.
Physics scholars are currently engaged in creating a quantum theory of gravity – a new mathematical framework to bring all four fundamental forces of nature together in one mathematical structure. It isn’t easy work: Newton spent much of his life grappling with it. His original theory held that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. Einstein demonstrated this wasn’t true and developed his more sophisticated general relativity theory in 1917, showing how mass grips spacetime to make its curving paths, with matter moving along them.
3. It’s a Theory of Time
Physical theories often reveal insights into the nature of time. Einstein’s 1915 theory of general relativity drew out this theme, asserting that space and time are inextricably linked, with massive objects distorting spacetime through gravity effects.
The B-theory of time, also referred to as block universe theory like /h3xqzgxoc5q, asserts that there is an orderly series of events occurring within an inert four-dimensional block of spacetime whose temporal relations remain static over time. This view refutes A-theorist claims about time being dynamic and shredding the sequence of events it separates out, while disproving any notion that all events must exist simultaneously in some particular present time and space.
Note: This entry does not provide information on consciousness, perception, or experience of time (sometimes called “phenomenology”). For a more general representation of these views please see the SEP entry on experience of time.
4. It’s a Theory of Music
Musical theory is not meant to serve as a blueprint for composers; rather it serves as an explanation for why pieces in a given style work or don’t. Similar to how scientific theories help us make sense of nature, music theories seek to explain and predict observations about musical practices while at the same time explain our observations about other things we might experience in life.
Music theory helps musicians communicate more easily amongst themselves and share ideas more freely. If you’re curious, ask local music teachers for their top recommendations on books and apps that can get you started, visit prominent music schools’ websites to explore their learning materials, or read up on magazine articles that may be available for free online reading.