Oh Wow!

Last night I woke up around 3:00 and had trouble going back to sleep. I did what I often do… I grabbed my tablet and resumed reading my current book. This one is called, The Cosmic Landscape by Leonard Susskind. This is not the kind of book you have trouble putting down even if you are sleepy, so it seemed perfect for some reading while the mind was trying to settle down.

I ordered The Cosmic Landscape after watching a YouTube ™ in which Leonard Susskind was interviewed. He had such a clear way of explaining things, and seemed like a pretty nice fellow. So I went to Amazon ™ and bought his book then and there. I’ve been reading it for some time now and am just a bit over half way through. I will admit it has been a bit of a slog now and then, but I’ve hung in there with him, and boy am I glad I did.

My main reason for choosing this book is because it promised to explain string theory. I’d heard this before, but had not yet encountered the writing that explained it to my satisfaction. I’ve long thought that we are multi-dimensional creatures that have evolved with 3 dimensional senses. This gives us the illusion that there are only 3 dimensions, but string theory predicts there are 9 (plus one for time). Thinking about the complexity of moving from 1 dimension (a line) to 2 (a plane) to 3 (a cube), I had trouble wrapping my head around what 4,5,6 dimensions must be like. We believe that a tesseract is the shadow of whatever 4 dimensions looks like, but as near as I have been able to figure out, no other clues of dimension 4 have presented themselves.

Leonard Susskind is an original discoverer of string theory. He has also spent his life as an academic, and it shows in his writing. He has a knack for explaining things, and uses language to keep the reader interested. I’d just made it part way through his chapter on string theory when I was starting to get sleepy. But the content was interesting. He talked about how strong these strings were, and how long they could become. For a string that holds subatomic particles together, it can be long indeed, spanning the entire universe.

I like to think we exist inside bubbles. They are invented and maintained by ourselves, and the purpose for them is to have a model of the universe at hand. Instead of having to figure out any new piece of information that we encounter, we file it inside the model if it fits. If it doesn’t, we often toss it, because it is dangerous to start messing around with our model.

As I was reading the chapter about strings, I could feel some excitement, as though a breakthrough was about to happen. It was almost like pieces of a lance are swirling around in my head, and at some point, the lance assembled itself and pierced my bubble. I had a glimmer of what strings might be and how they work together to stitch our universe together. I had an “Oh Wow!” moment.

I suppose we all get them now and then, but I can say I cherish these moments every time they come along. I get them in the Grand Canyon sometimes, and at art museums. Music sometimes does it for me. It seems to happen when the current model is no longer adequate to explain something, and a hole gets pricked. The light from outside comes shining through for a brief time before the hole heals itself. I wonder if the bubble got a little bigger because of the event, or if it just patches itself and resumes as before. I hope it gets bigger, because that is what I think growth is. If you don’t look at things from a new perspective now and then, you’re doomed to just relive the same series over and over.

I now have another Oh Wow! behind me, and am eagerly anticipating the next. I’ll see you in the 4th dimension.

3 Responses to “Oh Wow!”

  1. Steven J Cantin says:

    I printed some of your blogs and put them in a notebook at the reunion. they were enjoyed immensly. keep writing…

  2. Dina Ariel says:

    String theory is fascinating, as there is something similar in Chassidic Kabalistic thought that i have been learning about. Regarding bubbles, i have had to pierce and expand my bubble of world assumptions several times in my life. It has been an exciting process, sometimes voluntary and sometimes not.

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