Thursday, August 7, 2008

String Theory

I love math and physics the way men love women - it's all so mysterious and irresistible, and can drive you out of your mind. Yet those sweet moments of inspiration make it all worth while. String theory is definitely irresistible. You don't have to understand it all to notice its beauty. To fully appreciate it, you would need the discipline required by a mathematician or physicist. In the end, all math and physics is but a koan, as in - "what is the sound of one hand clapping?". Or, my husband's favorite: "If a man speaks in the woods, and there is no one there to hear him, is he still wrong?"

String theory's hadrons, and friends like leptons, quarks, and my favorites - gluons, I am getting very fond of - maybe because of the names, or maybe just because they are so very, very little - the inherent virtue of smallness. String theory even has kaons - which are not koans, but something small enough to blow your mind anyway.

Interestingly, as we consider the smallest of the small, our sense of the infinite vastness of the universe expands. Maybe when we get down to nothing - God will become clear. Atheists will be right - "there is no God" - and Muslims, too, when they add..."but God". There is no place where God is not, yet there is no God. His very non-existence makes God omnipresent. This may drive a mathematician out of his mind. Then again, maybe not - they are used to logic problems like this.

God's infinite powerlessness is his infinite power. If you don't understand the power of powerlessness, you haven't spent much time with a baby. The power of small things is very clear to mothers and physicists.

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