Considering String Theory

We’ve all heard about it.  String Theory.  It’s the (relatively) new big idea in physics.  It could even lead to the mythical Theory of Everything.  Some speculate that it could explain, predict or someday prove the existence of parallel universes.

When physicists engage in creative speculation, science fiction authors get excited.  No one creates impressive sounding buzz words like a physicist.  Supergravity, Mirror Symmetry of Six Dimensional Manifolds, String Dualities, 11 Dimensional M-Theory, Two and Five Dimensional Membranes, 12 Dimensional Two Time Theory, etc.  Each one is like an eagerly anticipated birthday present.

Sure, some authors dive deeply into the hard science, wrestling with the formulas, contemplating theoretical constructs, and stretching their brains to the breaking point.  They eagerly pour over complex geometries, undetectable dimensions, nuclear forces, and the uncomfortable glares between General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory.  Others take a different approach.

For many years, science fiction has played in the space beyond what is currently known and proven by science.  Want characters to get from one star to the next within the reader’s lifetime?  Hyperspace!  Want to blur the lines between man and machine?  Cyborgs!  Want to consider alternate histories?  Parallel Universes!  Want to explore the mind-bending ramifications of causality problems?  Time Machine!

For the average person, scientists can sometimes appear as wise Seers of Ultimate Truth.  They perceive things mere mortals can’t begin to understand.  When we ask them to explain, we can’t understand the explanations (or the drawings).  We are sometimes surprised when we discover that some of this science began as a flight of fancy in someone’s imagination.

Imagination plays a big role in our lives.  We foster it and encourage it as children.  We praise it in our artists, authors, and musicians.  We frequently challenge one another to “think outside the box” or to be creative problem solvers.  It’s not hard to see similarities between the imaginations of a physicist and an author.  Both speculate on the nature of reality, alternative scenarios, and logical outcomes.  They both attempt to create a plausible and believable worldview.  They both build on what is known and look ahead to what might be.  Obviously, one of those professions is more noble and respectable than the other, but we can’t all be authors.


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