To infinity and beyond: Feeding on string theory

Space-time, infinity and string theory – we take Feeding quantum...

By: Clare Howdle,   2 minutes

Stranger Collective Feeding on String Theory

Image courtesy of Willow and Stone

Quantum physics. Space-time. String theory. Not the sort of subject matter I would have anticipated diving in to for a good Feed, but that’s the beauty of taking a Day 10; you never know where it might lead.

A BBC4 programme started it off. I’ve heard talk of string theory bandied around before and have managed to concentrate until 11 different dimensions and infinite universes get thrown in, at which point the fabric of my mind begins to unravel and I flee, a gibbering wreck, expecting my brain to melt into a pool of mush at any moment.

But this time it was different. It was simple and clear. It was music to my ears. Literally.

The programme used a quartet playing different songs to illustrate string theory, explaining that each of the strings on each instrument could vibrate in numerous different ways to create a range of sounds and melodies. These strings represented strands of energy and the way they vibrated – creating notes and songs – represented how these strands’ movements were responsible for every particle and force in the universe. So far so good.

Then it got really clever. The narrator explained that just as the quartet could play their instruments and vibrate their strings (forming notes) in all sorts of combinations and ways to create an infinite number of different tunes, so too strands of energy could vibrate in all sorts of combinations and ways to create an infinite number of universes.

An infinite number of universes. Daunting. And yet my brain was still pretty much intact. This time I wasn’t running screaming. I was thinking. Thinking about how, although daunting, this scientific theory, this revelation presented by theoretical physics is actually nothing new.

We all exist in a world with infinite possibilities, or infinite universes, if you like. We all lead lives, or build our own personal universes, using essentially the same components, or strings – working, playing, sleeping, eating, loving, laughing – but it’s the infinite different ways that we combine these strings that makes everyone’s universe totally unique, and keeps the world as a whole such an exciting place to live in.

With its other dimensions and alternative universes, string theory might have befuddled me in the past. And true, by bringing it so completely back down to earth – to real life – I’m sure to be over simplifying. But I think there’s something we can all learn from this thread of quantum physics. Every day we wake up with infinite possibilities laid out in front of us. What story we decide to weave from the strings we all have in our hands is entirely up to us.

And now I must sleep. Before my brain explodes.

If you want to learn more about string theory from someone who knows what he’s talking about check out Professor Brian Greene. Now this guy is smart.

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