Physicists have come to realize that mathematics, when used with sufficient care, is a proven pathway to truth.
Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding...
Understanding requires insight. Insight must be anchored.
...quantum mechanics—the physics of our world—requires that you hold such pedestrian complaints in abeyance.
According to inflation, the more than 100 billion galaxies, sparkling throughout space like heavenly diamonds, are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky. To me, this realization is one of the greatest wonders of the modern scientific age.
A hundred billion years from now, any galaxies not now resident in our neighborhood (a gravitationally bound cluster of about a dozen galaxies called our “local group”) will exit our cosmic horizon and enter a realm permanently beyond our capacity to see unless future astronomers have records handed down to them from an earlier era, their cosmological theories will seek explanations for an island universe, with galaxies numbering no more than students in a backwoods school, floating in a static sea of darkness. We live in a privileged age. Insights the universe giveth, accelerated expansion will taketh away.
String theory is not the only theory that can accommodate extra dimensions, but it certainly is the one that really demands and requires it.
When you drive your car, E = mc2 is at work. As the engine burns gasoline to produce energy in the form of motion, it does so by converting some of the gasoline's mass into energy, in accord with Einstein's formula.
The main challenge that television presents is that I have a tendency to say things with a great deal of precision and accuracy. Often a description of that sort, which will work in a book because people can read it slowly - they can turn the pages back and so on - doesn't really work on TV because it interrupts the flow of the moving image.
Science is very good at answering the 'how' questions. 'How did the universe evolve to the form that we see?' But it is woefully inadequate in addressing the 'why' questions. 'Why is there a universe at all?' These are the meaning questions, which many people think religion is particularly good at dealing with.
Black holes provide theoreticians with an important theoretical laboratory to test ideas. Conditions within a black hole are so extreme, that by analyzing aspects of black holes we see space and time in an exotic environment, one that has shed important, and sometimes perplexing, new light on their fundamental nature.
In any finite region of space, matter can only arrange itself in a finite number of configurations, just as a deck of cards can be arranged in only finitely many different orders. If you shuffle the deck infinitely many times, the card orderings must necessarily repeat.
All mathematics is is a language that is well tuned, finely honed, to describe patterns; be it patterns in a star, which has five points that are regularly arranged, be it patterns in numbers like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 that follow very regular progression.
I can assure you that no string theorist would be interested in working on string theory if it were somehow permanently beyond testability. That would no longer be doing science.
The central idea of string theory is quite straightforward. If you examine any piece of matter ever more finely, at first you'll find molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles. Probe the smaller particles, you'll find something else, a tiny vibrating filament of energy, a little tiny vibrating string.
Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer.
Physicists are more like avant-garde composers, willing to bend traditional rules... Mathematicians are more like classical composers.
The tantalizing discomfort of perplexity is what inspires otherwise ordinary men and women to extraordinary feats of ingenuity and creativity; nothing quite focuses the mind like dissonant details awaiting harmonious resolution.
String theory has the potential to show that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe - from the frantic dance of subatomic quarks to the stately waltz of orbiting binary stars; from the primordial fireball of the big bang to the majestic swirl of heavenly galaxies - are reflections of one, grand physical principle, one master equation.
I've seen children's eyes light up when I tell them about black holes and the Big Bang.