The Theory of Almost Everything

Finished reading a book I borrowed from the library.

Sometimes I like to go to the Science and Maths section in the library, and browse through the books there. There are books describing everything from the origin of the universe to Maths puzzles which are always entertaining (but not always easy to read!)

The other day, I picked up this book called ‘The Theory of Almost Everything’. As in most books, I am often captivated by the title of the book, and this bold title made me pick it up. Flipping through the pages, I quickly whisked past Netwonian physics, Maxwell’s equations and Einstein’s theories. Thinking that it was going to be another dense book about Science, I was about to put it down. But as I read a bit more, I was hooked to the style of writing. It’s always a joy to read a good writer write about Science and to see him or her explain complex ideas in ways that do not confuse or mystify. So I decided to borrow the book and boy was I excited as I read about the colour of quarks and superstrings! Basically the book discusses the Standard Model which the author touts as the most important scientific achievement of the 20th century. In a nutshell, the Standard Model links the equations relating to time, space, light etc. and encapsulates the relationships into a single equation. With only 18 possible variables, it is possible to use the Standard Model to describe (and predict) every natural phenomenon from the cosmos to the nanos. Except. Except gravity. Somehow the Model can’t accommodate gravity, and without gravity, we must agree that the Model, while extremely useful, still lacks in this crucial field…

This book reminds me of another book I read entitled ‘The Universe on a T-Shirt’. Also highly entertaining and lucid, it describes the same quest of modern scientists to unite all the equations pertaining to physical phenomenon in our universe into a single, elegant equation that can be printed on the back of a T-shirt. Like that ubiquitous equation e=mc2. It seems like this is the new Holy Grail of Science in our times.

And what happens if we finally find that equation? Will it allow us to understand completely how the world works? Or will it only bring us closer to the realization that behind our universe stands a God who has been there all this while? Perhaps Einstein got it right when that famous scientist exclaimed: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”

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~ by irwin on September 10, 2008.

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