Tuesday, April 13, 2010

QUANTUM GRAVITY and the BATTERY DUDE, a Super-Short Story

My first, probably-pathetic, and possibly last attempt to add yet another science-fiction story to the Human Race, inspired by discussion with Sabine "Bee" Hossenfelder, here.


Once upon a time there was a little dude who lived in a civilization inside a car battery. He was brilliant, but had no idea that there were two posts on the outside of the battery, an anode and a cathode.
So he surmised that power must come from somewhere, and so he then incorrectly surmised a single "ode" he called a "superode".

It simply must be, he said. Two "odes" would unnecessarily complicate my sulfuric acid universe.
One day he dreamed a dream and connected with his also-dreaming "god," the owner of the car in which he resided, and asked him if his theory was right.

"No," said the owner. "There's two battery posts, an anode and a cathode. They operate somewhat differently, but they exist in your universe at the same time."

"Really? Damn."

"Or toughski shitski as they say in Poland."

"What's a Poland?"

"Nevermind. So, what are you going to do now? Abandon your theory and work on the correct one?"

"Heck no."

"Hmm? Why not?"

"Because, I don't believe you or anything else I can't see. I'm a Positivist! Anyways, the politicians who fund me don't know anything about Science, and they know nothing about this conversation. I'm going to request even MORE money for Superode Theory!"

"Hmm, well you could be open-minded like Lee Smolin in our Universe and request funding for all possibilities."

"Yeah, maybe. I'll think about it."

"Or you could ask the Engineers."

"What? The friggin' gearheads?! What do they know?"

"Limits and constraints?"

The End


Jérôme CHAUVET said...

So Steven I am asking you for the limits and constraints in Quantum Gravity theory...

Personnally speaking, I think one should take Einstein's equation and other stuffs of general relativity on one side, take the equations of quantum theory etc. on the other side, crush them together, then fix what is going wrong with this mix... Nice idea, isn't it?

Steven Colyer said...

In a nutshell, then...

The theoretical limits are there are no limits, theoretically. We certainly need more people focusing on the problem, but governments are loathe to pay on things with little immediate or near term payout. Susskind quoting tHooft says Superstrings may take hundreds of years to pay off, for example. Personally and as we've discussed better Mathematics may be needed, in particular improved notation. However I am not a Mathematician so I assume the math boys'n'girls know what I'm saying and on on the job. The answers when they come may come from Compyter Science, in particular simulations. Shrug, we'll see.

On the technology front the limits are being expanded, but how fast? Currently we have the Scanning Electron microscope, the Tunneling microscope, and the Atomic Force microscope (and what else) to verify the world of the small. The "hot" thing is to use the wonderful space satellites now up and collecting data. Then we have accelerator/colliders at work making near-light speed train wreck collisions of elementary particles, the data of which take years to analyze.

In this story I simply explored the possibility, which I hope is wrong, that we simply live in a Universe with 2 sets of rules: Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, that may not be combined.

It would be nice if one theory gave way to the other at some length scale, but there is no such place, rather to say it's a bit of a blur, as lasers and Bose-Einstein condensates (superfluidity, superconductivity, and quantum hall effect) have shown.

The good news is we learn more every day, and each new fact yields something like 4 new questions. That's good because the number of questions will be greater than the number of Scientists available to solve them, so there will be plenty of work for everyone!