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

Page 240 Reading about quantum mechanics I swear I’m reading dialog from a Star Trek episode.

Page 242 “Without venturing into the philosophy of science, there is something about the phrase ‘fundamental theory’ which seems to imply that dozens of researchers should not be making their livings measuring its nineteen ‘fundamental’ parameters to accuracies of seven decimal places.” What?

String theorists rebel against the idea that this model is fundamental…their aim is to find a theory completely defined by general principles.” And when we do the Federation of Planets will visit us because we will be at the beginning of interplanetary travel!

This string is made of nothing, for to define a material composition implies a finer structure that they do not possess. Yet everything is made of them.” Sounds like the circular argument of “What created God?”

What does a “particle accelerator” do really?

Page 251 “People applauded politely, then ignored their work. If pressed, they said they didn’t believe it. In defense of these ‘people,’ the mathematics was (and still is) extraordinarily hard and complex. ‘People didn’t want to make the investment to understand it, and without the imprimatur of a statesman, they wouldn’t make the effort,’ says Schwarz.” And why would one want to? I haven’t seen any real application of these theories except just to know and explore, which is fine for some people. But why should an industry or government invest in this type of exploration really?

These chapters on string theory are really starting to put into concrete my ideas about what a mad scientist is. Are they all mad like in movies? They sit around with their big brains thinking about things and coming up with these awe-inspiring theories. And if no one listens or wants to invest in it, they go insane and kill themselves or become raving lunatics?

Page 255 Witten majored in History! Page 257“his work is having a major impact on the direction of modern mathematics, something Einstein’s work never did…driven by insights of mathematics, not physical principles as Einstein’s was.”

Page 259 M-theory! “In fact, not much is known about it at all, except that it seems to exist – a grander theory to which the five types of string theories are merely various different types of approximation.” “Witten used to say that the M in M-theory stood for ‘mystery, or magic, or matrix, my three favorite words.” All of this is beyond me. It sounds like they are just making it up out of thin air. Can you read my confusion?

Page 261 “Nature evolves with hidden order. Mathematics reveals it.” Or does it just try to make sense out of something that looks like it should make sense? The human brain loves patterns. Do we see real patterns in nature or are we creating it in our minds and then trying to put puzzle pieces together without seeing the big picture or knowing we have all the pieces?

Page 264 “Through Euclid’s window we have discovered many gifts, but he could not have imagined where they would take us. To know the stars, to imagine the atom, and to begin to understand how these pieces of the puzzle fit into the cosmic plan is for our species a special pleasure, perhaps the highest.” Science and mathematics may give us the answer to how things work, but they will never answer the why.

To the scientists before us, “we owe a debt of gratitude. They experienced the joy of discovery. For the rest of us, they enabled an equal joy, the joy of understanding.”

I really enjoyed reading this book. There is so much more in it than what I wrote here. I highly recommend reading it yourself, along with Mlodinow’s other books. It’s the joining of history, philosophy, and science that really sparks my curiosity and imagination and encourages me to learn more about a topic I thought I was forever hopeless to explore.


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