Narrative and Science

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

I’m reading yet another history of twentieth century science and will be moving on to Krauss in the next phase. While there’s a little more on real collaboration, such as that between Einstein and the mathematician Marcel Grossman, and clearer linkages between Einstein and later developments in physics and detector technology, the narrative seems common. We begin with relativity, move through background radiation, and end with string theory, which over the past couple of years I’ve come to find a little tiresome. General audience writing about string theory tends to be repetative, regardless of its merits or competition as a unifier for gravity and quantum theory: quantum gravity.

I’m interested in the collaborative element to all this and how hard people work in the pursuit of verification. It’s intriguing that lots of people, Kip Thorne, for example, took a Sagan quandary and went to work on it, and it promoted more interesting questions about blackholes, which relied on questions asked, at another point in the hypertext, by Hawking.

So, what comes next? I’m not interested in time travel or what will happen if we’re struck by an asteroid or even in other life in the universe. It has to do with pick-ups. Joey picks up a rock and finds a scorpion resting under it. He stands up, feeling that cold zero in the bone of Emily Dickinson fame (even though he’s never read her). He looks up and sees the approaching asteroid cross before the sun, perhaps a minute away from impact. He kneels and carefully fits the stone back into its dimple, as if it had never been disturbed.

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