2. Matter is more precious than energy ---------------------------------------- Previous - Next - Contents

Babette has flown to Sydney for a few days, so I am in dogs baby sitting mode. I am also following through with my lunchtime reading of The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene, great. Today I have entered the realm of the String theory and I must say it is most enlightening.
A strange thought first : Brian Greene entered College in 1984, the same year I started at the Jazz College in Adelaide. I can strongly identify with the enormous grasp and eloquence with which he presents his thoughts and materials. Within the far less intelligence intense environment of music I feel exactly the same. It is the result of a long and sustained period of material absorption combined with a very creative, sometimes intuitive insight. It is reflected in my written lessons but also in the ever improving effortless flow of my keyboard improvisations. It is a quite wonderful experience.

But now some serious stuff.
Here is Albert Einstein's famous equation : Energy equals Matter times the squared Speed of Light.
What can you get out of this in an everyday practical sense ?
Take a single unit of Mass. How much Energy do you need to make it ? The formula on the right gives you the answer : a hell of a lot. To produce just one single unit of Mass you need 1,000 million times 1,000 million comparable units of Energy !   No wonder that when you achieve the reverse, transforming Matter back into Energy you produce a heck of a big bang, a huge release of Energy, an atomic bomb.
Einstein's famous equation
What does this mean ? It means that in our everyday lives we usually think the wrong way around. To us energy is precious, to drive our cars, light, cool or heat our house, run our washing machine. It all costs money. Matter, dirt, rock, it is all around us, plenty of it, so we tread it with disdain. So here on Earth to us Matter does not matter.

Symphony Orchestra But from the perspective of the Universe we live in it is exactly the opposite. There is oodles of Energy around, planets, burning stars, galaxies all moving like the clappers. The Universe itself is expanding at an ever increasing rate. Energy galore, everywhere you look in the Universe.
Matter however is scarce, it is the most precious commodity there is. It has been created by numerous life cycles of burning stars birth - growth - decay - death (more about this later) over a period of 15 billion years, converting enormous amounts of energy into small quantities of Matter.
So the next time you kick a stone, pick a flower, or look at yourself think about that. Every single atom of your body is very very precious and you should feel enormously privileged to have it !

Electrons and Quarks are Strings What about this String theory I mentioned. What has that got to do with it ? The answer is "everything".
For most of the 20th Century scientists actually believed, and worked on the thesis that Energy did convert into Matter and that the tiniest particles they were discovering like electrons, quarks and a heap of others (and considered to be the fundamental building blocks of all Matter) were real particles.
In 1984, just when Brian Green entered his College, all that suddenly changed. String theory was born. It had taken 14 years of relentless research by two lone scientists (John Schwarz and Michael Green), ignoring the general opinion of most scientists around the world, to come up with this enormous breakthrough.

Those tiniest Matter building blocks like electrons, quarks and all the others are not particles at all ! They are tiny tiny vibrating strings. And the beauty of it is that all the strings for the various different (presumed) particles are exactly the same. The difference between one type of particle and another is that the strings vibrate differently.
Think of a string of a violin, guitar or bass for example. You can produce different sound pitches on the same string by simply tightening or loosening its tension. Simple isn't it. A good theory is simple and elegant and the String theory certainly features both.

In terms of this String theory therefore think of yourself as a huge symphony orchestra of trillions and trillions of tiny strings. And you are the conductor who creates, through your actions, thoughts, feelings, your own vibrating music. Is that not wonderful ?   But let me leave you with a thought. When finally the musicians pack up their instruments and go away, the music stops !   I invite you to think that one through to its ultimate consequence.

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Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner