Found: A Quadrillion Ways for String Theory to Make Our Universe

“According to string theory, all particles and fundamental forces arise from the vibrational states of tiny strings. For mathematical consistency, these strings vibrate in 10-dimensional spacetime. And for consistency with our familiar everyday experience of the universe, with three spatial dimensions and the dimension of time, the additional six dimensions are ‘compacted’ so as to be undetectable.

Different compactifications lead to different solutions. In string theory, a “solution” implies a vacuum of spacetime that is governed by Einstein’s theory of gravity coupled to a quantum field theory. Each solution describes a unique universe, with its own set of particles, fundamental forces and other such defining properties.”

—Anil Ananthaswamy, “Found: A Quadrillion Ways for String Theory to Make Our Universe.” Scientific American. March 28, 2018.

Note to self: read Brian Greene’s Elegant Universe.

Information Realism

“…the universe is a mental construct displayed on the screen of perception.”

—Bernardo Kastrup, “Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind.” Scientific American. March 25, 2019.

Said better by Spoon Boy, in The Matrix:

“Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth…there is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”

Frauchiger-Renner Paradox Clarifies Where Our Views of Reality Go Wrong

“The experiment, designed by Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, involves a set of assumptions that on the face of it seem entirely reasonable. But the experiment leads to contradictions, suggesting that at least one of the assumptions is wrong. The choice of which assumption to give up has implications for our understanding of the quantum world and points to the possibility that quantum mechanics is not a universal theory, and so cannot be applied to complex systems such as humans.”

—Anil Ananthaswamy, “Frauchiger-Renner Paradox Clarifies Where Our Views of Reality Go Wrong.” Quanta Magazine. December 3, 2018.

Probably the clearest explainer you’ll find. The assumptions are that: quantum theory is universal, quantum theory is consistent, and opposite facts cannot both be true. This thought experiment suggests that at least one is false, and depending on which one either leads to positions that quantum theory collapses into classical physics at scale, observer perspective changes results, or the many worlds hypothesis.

From the Edge of the Universe to the Inside of a Proton

“But we should count ourselves lucky; there have not always been 62 orders of magnitude of universe to explore, and there won’t always be. As Scharf explained, ‘If you turn the clock back far enough to the Big Bang, obviously there was a time when the number of scales that were causally connected were fewer, and space itself was smaller.’ Likewise, ‘if you extrapolate 100 billion years into the future, assuming the current accelerating expansion, it will be essentially impossible for us to see anything much beyond our galaxy or our local group of galaxies.’ Scharf said this seems to mean we’re living at a special time. And he wondered, ‘Would someone in the future be able to figure out how the universe works?’”

—Natalie Wolchover, “A Tour of the Zoomable Universe by Caleb Scharf and Ron Miller.” Quanta Magozine. November 6, 2017

The inspiration for this coffee table book was to update the information in a famous short film, The Powers of Ten (1977):

The Cookbooks of Nathan Myhrvold 

“If you are not passionate, a 2640-page cookbook [Amazon cost: ~$500] is not for you…

…I ask Myhrvold for a simple example of how the knowledge of cooking he has developed might help ordinary home cooking.

‘If you have a steak that is twice as thick as the one you cooked the last time,’ he asks me, ‘how much longer is it going to take to cook?’

I say I don’t know exactly. Somewhat longer.

‘Most chefs can’t even tell you exactly,’ he says, ‘because even though it’s a really basic question nobody taught them. The answer is four times. Heating in a steak works by conduction, and conduction has a scaling law that goes by the square of the depth.’

So is there then no intuition or fingertip knowledge to cooking?

‘Sure there is! A Japanese chef cuts fish more quickly and deftly than I can. But if you talk to the guy at the local steak house, he may have an intuitive sense of how long it takes to cook a steak, but it’s from long experience.’

What’s wrong with that?

‘Three things,’ Myhrvold says. ‘First, learning from experience means that you’ve screwed up a lot. That guy has ruined a lot of steaks! Second, learning from experience doesn’t help teaching people. Why not speed things up by telling learners the principles? Third, sometimes the right way of doing something is counterintuitive, as it was with sous vide, and you’ll probably never find it from experience. Active research can uncover new things.'”

—Nathan Myhrvold, “The Physics of Bread.” Physics World. October 2017.

Modernist Cuisine at Home, at just over a $100, might be worth looking into for those folks with the means and lack a public library option.