Linking strategy

What is the easiest tool to explain the most complex ideas in physics? Lego

Ashley Csanady of the National Post spoke this week with University of Toronto professor Amanda Peet about the theory and how plastic bricks can help light it up

Content of the article

Advertising

Content of the article

We apologize, but this video failed to load.

Imagine if you could use the world’s most abundant toy to explain its most complex ideas? This is precisely what Amanda Peet, theoretical physicist and professor at the University of Toronto, seeks to do. At a public lecture Wednesday night at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., Peet will use Lego as an analogy to string theory, a complex idea in quantum physics that could explain everything from the Big Bang to black holes. Reading will air live on NationalPost.com at 7 p.m. EST. The National postAshley Csanady spoke with Peet this week about the theory and how plastic bricks can help light it up. Here’s a condensed and edited version of their conversation.

National post: How does Lego take your explanation of string theory into account?

Advertising

Content of the article

Peet: I wanted a metaphor to make string theory more accessible to people who found it scary or too abstract. For example, you might have seen the difference between a Lego fire truck and a real fire truck.… The Lego fire truck has small doors that open and some of its features make it somewhat realistic to describe a fire engine, but it is not. have all the features of a real fire truck, it is just a model of fire truck. I’d like you to think of string theory like my Lego set. I cannot, and no one in the world can, build you a fully realistic model of all the things that we really want to understand all the details of in physics, but what we are looking for is the most realistic model we can. to build. String theory is a work in progress and that’s why I like to use the Lego analogy, just to give people an idea that it’s still something that we are working to refine and build better Lego sets at. as we move towards realism.

Advertising

Content of the article

NP: What is string theory?

Peet: When you went to high school you probably learned that things like apples are made of particles, which are made up of atoms that contain subatomic particles. When we heard about this in school, we were always taught that the fundamental building blocks of everything, the most basic Lego from which everything is made, are particles.

They are point objects (the idea that they are so small that they are infinitely reduced to points and are dimensionless), they have no structure inside them. These are supposed to be the most basic things in the universe. But string theory comes up and says, well, there are a number of puzzles in particle physics that seem to be incredibly difficult to solve, and what if we just dared a bolder idea, than instead, the fundamental Lego of the universe are not zero three-dimensional particles but tiny little one-dimensional strands of energy that we call strings.

Advertising

Content of the article

NP: So string theory is like the most sophisticated Lego pieces, with different shapes?

Peet: String theory has a few advantages over particles, as strings are more versatile Lego pieces. They can vibrate in different ways, they don’t have just one way of moving around the world; they can squirm as well as move in space and time. This string versatility allows the strings to do some things that particles cannot. One of the things that helps is to build better theories than Einstein’s gravity to describe the very extreme physics involved in the Big Bang that created the universe in the first place and the other really powerful gravity situations that we have. in the universe, which are black holes.

Advertising

Content of the article

NP: So everything we were taught in high school is wrong?

Peet: I would like to give you a better word than bad. I like to talk about string theory as an evolution of the theories of gravity. Newton’s theory of gravity, which was invented three and a half centuries ago, you can think of it as Gravity 1.0. It was the first version of gravity that was presented by physicists. And it was good enough to land men on the moon, in terms of accuracy. It describes the physics of baseballs here on Earth and the movement of moons around planets, and planets around suns and suns around the centers of galaxies. Then Einstein came in in 1916, almost a century ago, and he produced what I like to call Gravity 2.0, he has a fancy name called General Relativity. In a familiar regime (like Earth) where you could apply Newton’s theories, Einstein’s theories would boil down to Newton’s. I like to say that Einstein’s theory replaced Newton’s theory but it didn’t make it jump out of the water, it relied on it.
And string theory, which is one of the possible theories of quantum gravity, is trying to build Gravity 3.0, so we’re trying to build something that replaces Einstein’s theory. If all you want to do is land a man on the moon, then Newton’s theory is pretty good. If you want to explain the curvature of light by the sun … then use Einstein’s theory. But if you want to ask the most sophisticated questions (like how the Big Bang happened), you need the most sophisticated theory and that’s what String Theory provides.

Advertising

Content of the article

NP: Is there an Einstein or a Newton in string theory?

Peet: I think time will tell. There were several co-inventors of string theory and it’s been over 40 years of work so far, so it would be unfair to name just one person to take credit for the whole enterprise.
This is one of the hallmarks of modern science: it is much more teamwork than it was in the days of Newton and Einstein, where one person could make a very big difference. contribution to much of physics.

You can connect to Peet’s chat on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to watch live here . The conference will also be archived if you cannot follow it live.

Advertising

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour of moderation before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread that you follow, or if a user that you follow comments. Visit our Community rules for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail The settings.


Source link