Do you know what a quark is? How about a brane? Have you ever heard of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)? If you read books or watched television shows devoted to new theories of physics, you probably have. If not, I hope I have peaked your interest.
To listen to a scientist talk about the latest theories in physics one wonders if he, she, or you has stepped into the “Twilight Zone.” When Lisa Randall, Michio Kaku, or Bob Greene appears on the “Daily Show”, “Colbert Report” or some other popular television show to discuss their latest book on quantum physics and you can understand what they are talking about, you know something has changed.
The other night I found myself watching a talk on Book-TV by Lisa Randall physics and the importance of science education. Ever since the Russians launched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, in 1957, educators and scientists have been talking about the importance of science and math in American schools. The theme is still relevant.
In my old age I’ve gotten interested in our place (the world’s) in the realms of space. There is an irony in that interest: when I was in school I stayed away from science and math because I didn’t think I was smart enough to understand them. I still don’t think I am that smart, but more scientists are writing so lay people like me can understand what they are talking about. Lisa Randall is one of those.
Lisa Randall’s latest book, which she was discussing of Book-TV, Knocking on Heaven’s Door and her earlier work, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions deal, at least in part, with theories concerning hidden dimensions in our world and beyond; with smallest (particle physics) and the largest (Cosmology). Randall reveals the hidden dimensions are so small they are visible to naked eye. She also tells the reader about the work of the Large Hadron Collider which will hopefully lead scientists to the origin of dark matter and proof of extra dimensions.
Similarly, Brian Greene has worked to make the work scientists who study quantum physics understood by the lay person. Beginning with The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, and continuing with The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality and Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, Greene as the subtitles reveal has similar interests to Dr. Randall.
In addition to Randall and Greene, John D. Barrow, a British scientist, has explored a number theories of the universe in his book The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos. Universes are the theme of Barrow’s book: all sorts of universes. Universes we can see and those we can’t, because they are in a different dimension.
But these theories are not new to the 21st century. If you are an aficionado of the Nat Geo, Science, or Public Television channels, you are probably familiar with Michio Kaku, another theoretical physicist. Kaku, the co-founder of the string theory, wrote Hyperspace: a Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension in 1994. Ten years later Randall, Greene, and Barrow are elaborating on his ideas.
After you have read even one of these books, you will understand the theories prevalent in contemporary physics. You may even know what the Large Hadron Collider does and why it won’t create a black hole to swallow the earth.