Brian Greene offers one of the most ambitious theories ever proposed about the universe. It isn’t the theory of everything has some might suggest, but Greene’s string theory, as proposed in The Elegant Universe, suggests that there is a depth to the universe. There is the possibility of parallel universes. There are 11 dimensions proposed.
In some ways, Greene’s string theory sounds like something that would come out of a science-fiction novel. In reality, it may be the closest thing science has offered to date that helps to explain the basic concepts of the universe.
The entire series of The Elegant Universe can be accessed through PBS, who originally aired the 3-part series in July 2012.
Imagine You Have a Deck of Playing Cards
Brian Greene asks that you imagine the universe as if it were a deck of playing cards. When you shuffle that deck, the number of combinations that may result can be numerous. Those 52 cards can create a number of different orders. If, however, you continue to shuffle those cards enough times, you will begin to notice that a pattern begins to develop within that complexity of order.
At some point, the orders that are created from the action of shuffling will eventually repeat themselves. The same is true for the universe. The universe may be infinite according to our current knowledge, but there are only a finite number of matter complexities available to be “shuffled” within the universe.
That means the way matter can arrange itself will eventually repeat.
Because of the realization, Greene uses his string theory to come to a specific conclusion: that some version of a multi-verse must exist. It might seem like an impossibility to shuffle a deck of cards so that four people each get a royal flush, but it could happen. The same is true about anything involving matter in the universe.
What Is the Purpose of String Theory?
Science has two good theories that discuss the fabric of the universe. There is the theory of relativity from Einstein and then there are explanations for small items within quantum mechanics. These two ideas work well on their own, but when they try to work together, a lot of trouble can begin to happen.
That is where string theory works to provide a solution. It handles the inconsistencies that occur from both sides of the equation by suggesting that “strings” vibrate as part of the universal structure. Some string theories have more than two dozen strings, but the Brian Greene string theory suggests that there are 11. These represent dimensions that we cannot see or currently perceive. It also represents how everything in the universe operates.
Just like a rug is made out of strings, Greene suggests we are living in a reality that is our own giant “universal flying carpet.” Those strings, if they exist, could create “membranes” that offer different planes of reality that function simultaneously with our own. Instead of one universe, there may be multiple universes.
And instead of one reality, there may be multiple realities. It is our perception of those realities that is simply beyond our current understanding.
Can the Brian Greene String Theory Be Proven?
There are some aspects of Greene’s string theory that could be proven with current technologies. Using a large hadron collider, the amount of energy that is measured just before protons collide could be compared against a measurement of energy just after they collide. Greene suggests that if there is less energy after, and that energy presents itself in a very specific way, then it would indicate evidence that is “flying carpet” idea about universal structure is potentially accurate.
For generations, humans have sought after a meaning of life. We have sought to know if we are alone in the universe or if there is life that can be found in the dark vastness of space. We are still quite young when it comes to the science of exploring that vastness or understanding how it works. Only two man-made craft have ever left our solar system and it is a safe assumption that this fact will remain true for future generations as well.
At the same time, however, our perceptions of the universe are changing. The Brian Greene string theory suggests that there may be a depth to the structure of the universe that goes beyond perhaps anything in our wildest imagination. With that sort of reality a possibility, science-fiction may be replaced in the near future with science facts.