Notes on “Euclid’s Window” by Leonard Mlodinow – Part 4

Tomorrow I will post the last of my notes. Small bites in this book. The topic is pretty difficult for me, but so fascinating!

Page 211 “To physicists of the early twentieth century, non-Euclidean space was a fringe area of study. A curiosity, perhaps…not very relevant to the mainstream. The resistance, in Einstein’s case, lasted a few decades, but it gradually faded as the old generation died out and the new accepted what ever made the most sense, which was definitely not a solid permeating all space called ether.” Humans just don’t like change. Conformity is safer. We all generally know this to be true so why don’t we apply that to the world around us? The science will change again just like fashion and, at first we’ll be shocked and afraid of it, then generally accept its veracity.

Einstein was considered an enemy of the state by the Nazi’s in 1933 and sought asylum in the US.

Page 214 “Of his revolutionary work he wrote, ‘When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of the globe, he doesn’t realize the track he has covered in curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it.’” That’s what relativity is, us in curved space and not even realizing it because we are so much smaller than the universe.

Moving on to Witten. String theory leads to M-theory (both of which we know very little). “…but which seems to be leading us to this conclusion: space and time do not actually exist, but are only approximations of something more complex.” Wouldn’t it be crazy if we accidentally opened the door on God, like finding the real Wizard of Oz? The more I learn about theoretical science, the more I am convinced of the existence of God.

Page 219 “The theory had been plagued by other ’embarrassments’ through the years, a physicist’s way of saying that it had implied predictions that seemed to have nothing to do with reality.” I would agree here. I can see why someone would love to spend their lives chasing these rabbit trails and I could see them some day having an impact on the world around us, like some kind of awesome Star Trek warp engine. But I don’t see why the government funds this kind of research. I don’t understand taking money from people by force and giving it to scientist to sit and dream of this stuff.

A Klein bottle helps describe a 5th dimension that helps us understand quantum physics/magnetism.

Page 233 1930’s “The Kaluza-Klein theory was a hint at something, a formal connection between theories, but not a structure that immediately gave anything new.” It was an idea that hinted at a bigger picture and wasn’t really studied again until the 1970’s.

Einstein was bothered by the way Kaluza made money to support his family by tutoring at the college. This is one thing that bugs me about Einstein. Kaluza found a way to make money and take care of his needs while he did his research to solve the physics puzzles he loved. So did Einstein. Why is that such a bad thing?

Page 236 Talking about smashing particles into each other at high speeds to see the parts within. Relating it to smashing cars into each other in the hopes of seeing a bolt throw free that was part of its structure. “There is one big difference, though. In experimental physics, smashing a Chevy into a Ford could result in an explosion of parts from a Jaguar. Unlike autos, elementary particles can morph into each other.” What?!

Page 237 “Do you ‘discover’ a theory or ‘invent’ one? Are physicists kids with flashlights searching the park at twilight for traces of truth, or are they kids with blocks trying to build structures high before they topple?”


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