Cosmology alert: String Theory on PBS 8/28 and 11/4

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Andrew Testa, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    Nova has a special on string theory airing Tuesday 8/28 and Tuesday 11/4. As always, check local listings as air dates may be different. The 11/4 date is a continuing show, not a repeat. It's three hours total of physics goodness.

    The Elegant Universe

    This should be extremely interesting to those who've followed our discussions on cosmology lately.

    Andy
     
  2. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    very cool. i love shows like this. my tivo should pick this up. thanks for the heads-up...
     
  3. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    Explained by a Columbia professor (formerly from Cornell).
     
  4. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Thanks, Andrew. My "String Theory" Wishlist on my TiVo somehow missed this. So thanks for the reminder.
     
  5. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    you have a "string theory" wishlist too? [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  6. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Sure. Doesn't everybody? [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, My "String Theory" Wishlist got bumped by my higher-priority "24" season pass. Luckily, thanks to Andrew, I was able to persuade my wife to allow me to use her TiVo to record Nova's "Elegant Universe" and not miss either show, though I won't be able to catch "24" until the weekend. So much for participating in the watercooler discussions at work tomorrow.

    My wife caught me laughing out loud when the show began discussing how the theory's symmetry, beauty, and compelling nature prevent physicists from discarding it outright, though it's in no way testable or provable. While it's true that physicists will be among the first to tell you that an untestable theory is worthless, they'll also be the first to have their eyes glaze over and say, “But it's so pretty!” when they encounter string theory.

    She caught my eyes glazing over and gave me her “What-a-Geek” eye-roll. I wish I could convey to her how tantalizing it is to ponder such things.
     
  7. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    Yer welcome everyone.

    I haven't watched it yet. Having only one Tivo, however, I was unable to record the second hour due to the previously mentioned 24, which I don't watch, but SWMBO does. I hope they rerun the show soon.

    There's a companion piece in Scientific American this month.

     
  8. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Yeah, what is it with Black Holes and Barney?
     
  9. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    Other than that I would desperately like one to meet the other, I don't know.

    I think the producers (Lion's Gate?) have paid off Tivo so that any wishlist keywords indicating advanced intellect are hijacked and Barney substituted in a ploy to homogenize all our brains and make us easy targets for Snapple commercials.

    Need more aluminum foil. Definitely more aluminum foil.

    Andy
     
  10. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i love you
    you love me
    barney has hijacked your ti-vo t-v
    with a high-tech ploy to take-over-the-world
    this purple dinosaur will nev-er die!
     
  11. David Oliver

    David Oliver Second Unit

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    I have to say I was pretty unimpressed with the show. It seemed to have a hard time moving forward, repeating itseelf time and again. I dunno, it just seemed awfully dumbed down, even for me (not a physicist by any stretch)
     
  12. Bill Slack

    Bill Slack Supporting Actor

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    I already own the book. I'm such a dork. :b

    It's pretty good. I'm not a real physics guy, and it's easy enough to understand, with good explantations and diagrams. It's light (err.. barren, basically) on the math for those of us that stuck to high school physics, but are still curious.

    Apparently the show, like the book, is a little repetitive at times. But you can skip ahead a few pages in the book, so that doesn't bother me. [​IMG]
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Caught this last night. Amusing presentation. Since this thread is going to focus on string theory, aluminum foil, and purple dinosaurs it may as well stay here in After Hours.
     
  14. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    [thumps head]

    Jeeze, I'm so used to posting physics stuff in here that I completely forgot there's a forum for discussing TV programming. Sorry Jack!

    Chalking it up to Barney,

    Andy
     
  15. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Andrew, never any need to apologize to me. As I said, this discussion will be about much more than just the NOVA presentation (which was quite good).
     
  16. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    Very interesting, but yes, a little drawn out.

    With all the blackboards and formulas I was waiting for Klaatu to show up with Bobby, correct the mistakes, give his spiel at the UN, and dash off with Gort to the next recalcitrant third-world world.
     
  17. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Suppose we find our solution to the String Theory equations. (There are an infinite number of solutions, and only one properly/correctly describes our Universe.) Then does it truly matter whether the basic assumptions of String Theory (most notably that the Universe has 11 dimensions) are true? Once we find our Universe's solution to String Theory, we may be rewarded with a compact, all-in-one tool that fully and accurately describes all of Nature. If this is the case, then will anyone really care whether its underlying assumptions are true?

    My guess is that it will bug a lot of people, but that we'll get over it. After all, the Standard Model, praised for its unparalleled accuracy in predicting the nature of Nature, is beginning to get on our nerves, even though its underlying assumptions, though counterintuitive if not sometimes incomprehensible, are generally thought to be true. It's become such a nightmarish combobulation of seemingly unrelated equations that on some days, the best that can be said about it is that “it works.”

    So if something like String Theory were to come along and offer us better (or at least easier) solutions than the Standard Model, would we really care if its gears turned in dimensions that don't actually exist?

    (Sorry if I'm repeating what the show has already covered. I've watched only the first hour of the show so far.)

    Ashley: [​IMG]
     
  18. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    To society at large, I don't think it much matters. Very few changes in physics have resulted in a paradigm shift for the average person. Everyone can spout E=mc^2 but few understand the consequences. Relativity has been around for over 80 years but ask someone about their ideas on frame dragging and you'll likely be told to just get someone to help you carry the frame so you don't have to drag it. Even educated people still can't tell you what the paradox is in the twin paradox, never mind the actual solution. However, popular entertainment is rife with relativity concepts that are completely wrong.

    Quantum mechanics has been around almost as long and I guarantee that nobody in a "man on the street" interview could tell you the fundamental statement from which it rose (Atomic electrons absorb and emit energy in discrete values, not continous values, FYI). The buzzwords are known, "uncertainty principle, quantum jump, etc", but who gives a rats ass about tunneling or entanglement? Just more jargon for the entertainment biz.

    So it will go with string theory. Assuming it can be wrassled into the "theory of everything", then the words would be on everyone's lips, they'd be able to tell you that particles are really wiggly strings, but that's about it. And popular entertainment will be rife with plots about the wierd aliens who live in dimensions 6, 7, and 8 attacking those of us who live in dimensions 1, 2, and 3. The real underpinnings, and thus the real beauty, won't be understood, or probably even contemplated.

    Except by us.

    Now I know the above sounds really cynical, but it's not intended to be. People have an amazing ability to hang on to their worldview regardless of what intrudes. They allow just enough of the intrusion to penetrate to acknowledge it but not enough to really let it upset their preconceptions. For that reason I'm always amused by conspiracy theories that hinge on secrecy for the sake of preventing widespread panic. If the government acknowledged today that aliens did exist and all the Roswell stuff was true, it would be on the front page for a month or so, everyone would talk about it, nutjobs would do the typical nutjob antics, and eventually the average person would be more concerned that there won't be any new episodes of "Friends". And popular entertainment will alter their backstories to include the new aliens.

    Life goes on, focussed on that which directly, physically affects us. The rest has to be actively pursued for it to make a difference in our lives.

    Andy
     
  19. Michael Caicedo

    Michael Caicedo Second Unit

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    Damm Andy, that's right on.
     
  20. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    I'll try to check it out. I'm probably the only HT geek here who doesn't own a Tivo box.

    I don't suppose PBS is broadcasting this in hi-def. Sure would like to see 1080i strings. [​IMG]
     

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