What I Learned From Brian Greene This Summer

What I Learned From Brian Greene This Summer

I enjoy watching Brian Green on Colbert or sparring with Richard Dawkins. Several years ago I read his book “The Elegant Universe.” His way of presenting and explaining concepts was easy on the physics jargon and abundant in the joy.

I got a paperback copy of Greene’s 2011 book “The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos” (Vintage Books, New York.) It waited patiently in line as I finished a few other books.

What is this book about? Maybe these multiple universes are like “The Wizard of Oz” or “City on the Edge of Forever.” I can tell from Greene’s presentation that there’s not much science that supports this idea of many universes.

Here’s what I learned from Greene’s book:

Multiverses? Apparently multiverses are just a “proposal” based on ”one perspective.” And parallel universes? Greene states clearly on page 9 that he’s “ not convinced…no one should be convinced” on the subject of parallel universes.

According to Greene, Einstein “refused to be mathematics’ pawn” when he learned about George LeMaitre’s expanding universe.   This reaction is a wonderful contrast to the story that Einstein said “God doesn’t play dice.” p. 13

Sir Isaac Newton apparently left his fellow scientists clues to the next mystery. How

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 6.19.14 AM
Brian Greene uses string theory to support multiverses.

does Newton’s gravity exert its influence over objects? Newton told his readers that he would leave that question to their “consideration.” p. 14

Not until Einstein did anyone seriously consider that question. With curved space-time, Greene notes that the “time” part of the situation gets under-described in popular media, then shares a wonderful description. p.14

Time, according to General Relativity, passes slower the closer one is to mass. “All objects ‘want’ to age as slowly as possible. From an Einsteinian perspective, that explains why an object falls when you let it go.” P. 15

The art of theoretical physics is the art of knowing what to ignore. p. 17

If you’ve seen one 100-million light-year chunk of the cosmos, you’ve pretty much seen them all. p. 18

Uncertainty Principle analogy: think about photographing a fly.  If your shutter speed is high you’ll get a sharper image that shows location, the position of the fly, but less information about the motion of the fly.  Which way os it going?  How fast?  If we use a slower shutter speed, we can get more ideas about the motion of the fly, but less about the exact position. p. 35+

We can’t see the magnetic field around a magnet, but we can see it’s effects. There are other kinds of fields. p. 56

The Inflation field, important in the concept of multiversese, is only hypothetical p. 57

WhenI was about a third of the way thru the book, I was listening to a presentation by a cosmologist and she was asked about multiverses. She said that for her, the idea was more like a science fiction topic than a science topic. I thought back to all the qualifiers I had read in this book.

proposal, conception, “I’m not convinced” if…,   possibilities

I enjoy Greene’s style of writing, and found this book easy to read. To be more exact, I found the first third that I read easy to read.  I kept on bumping into disclaimers that warned me that this was not a topic I would find helpful in understanding and teaching astronomy..

Is the topic of multiverses and parallel universesa science fiction for me, too?

Yes, I decided. Multiverses might be a topic for science-fiction.. I like scify, but I want more action in my scify stories.

So I stopped reading after only 158 pages, and moved on to my next book.


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