Dude, what if…Back in college–well before college actually–my friends and I often wondered about the nature of the universe and how it might actually be just some experiment being conducted by a higher alien intelligence. Those were heady days. But like unfinished furniture, those philosophical discussions were eventually painted over with the “realities of existence” that so often coat our perceptions of modern life. Now, it seems, those crazy teenagers back then might not have been that far off the mark. That’s because string theory–an explanation of the universe that posits multiple dimensions of “vibrating strings” at the quantum level–is coming closer to being proven. At least, that’s what I understand.
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” ~ Alan Watts
In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.
Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena’s ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive.
In two papers posted on the arXiv repository, Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan and his colleagues now provide, if not an actual proof, at least compelling evidence that Maldacena’s conjecture is true.
Curiouser and curiouser. It seems that the more we know, the less “reality”make sense.” There’s something comforting, though, in this quest for knowledge about something that has mostly been relegated to conjecture and the province of religion. I like that we don’t know the “why” of the universe–there is, for me, comfort in that ignorance. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind string theory (I leave that up to Sheldon and the rest of the gang on Big Bang Theory). But the possibility that we are getting–mathematically, at least–closer to an understanding of how the universe actually works is fascinating stuff. For me, it puts things into perspective. These latest findings make all the more important the moments we have in this particular realm before we pass into the next one–whatever that happens to be…
Yours in Mental Hygiene,
The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness