Brian Greene

Best-selling author and physicist Brian Greene educated the Purdue community Tuesday evening on his ideas regarding string theory.

To put it in simple terms, string theory has to do with the idea of using gravity and quantum physics to explain what the world is made of. A professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, Greene is possibly the most well-known proponent of string theory. He is a Harvard graduate who received his doctorate as a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University. He is well known for authoring several books, including national bestseller “The Elegant Universe,” which introduces string theory and provides a new understanding to the way the universe works.

Greene is known for breaking down his ideas and making them more applicable for a general audience. He has appeared in two films as well as one episode of the popular television show “The Big Bang Theory.” Greene started out his talk by speaking about the struggles of past scientists such as Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, and their lifelong attempts to find answers to some of life’s biggest questions concerning the universe and how it is made up.

Newton discovered the universal law of gravity while Einstein dedicated much of his career to developing his theory of general relativity.

However, as time went on, scientists realized that neither of these two men completely answered the question of the universe. Some of the older ideas simply did not work. Until scientists are able to find a way to meld together the ideas of gravity and quantum physics, a proper conclusion cannot be drawn. “There are deep questions we won’t be able to answer until we can stitch the two together,” Greene said.

This is where string theory comes in. Greene explained that the reason scientists are so excited about this theory is because it is the first proposal that has existed that can possibly bring the two components together and raises a whole new way of looking at things. “A new insight allows you to ask questions you would have never asked before,” Greene said.

The basis of the string theory is the idea that every object of the universe is composed of tiny vibrating strings of energy. If this turns out to be true, other dimensions of the universe that are not currently known must exist.

Greene concluded his talk by saying that it is not whether or not the theory is true that is important to him.

“I don’t care if string theory is wrong,” Greene said. “I want to spend time getting closer to reaching the truth.”

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