The Fellowship of the Ring

The Elegant Universe – Overview

In Part I of The Elegant Universe, “The Edge of Knowledge,” Greene introduces the central problem of modern physics: the incompatibility of Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics. He then lists the physical curiosities—properties of the motion of light, gravity, and the behavior of particles at the subatomic level—that have prevented physicists from …

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The Elegant Universe – Part III: The Cosmic Symphony

Chapter 6: Nothing but Music: The Essentials of Superstring Theory The standard model, which describes the elementary particles of the universe as amorphous, zero-dimensional points, is not comprehensive because it ignores gravity. Superstring theory, on the other hand, describes the most basic ingredients of matter as Planck-length strings that vibrate perpetually, like tiny rubber bands. …

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The Elegant Universe – Part II: The Dilemma of Space, Time, and the Quanta

Chapter 2: Space, Time, and the Eye of the Beholder In the mid-nineteenth century, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell discovered that electric and magnetic forces are unified in the electromagnetic field. Maxwell calculated that light moves at a fixed speed: it always travels at the speed of light. Visible light is just another kind of …

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The Elegant Universe – Part IV: String Theory and the Fabric of Spacetime

Chapter 10: Quantum Geometry George Bernhard Riemann, a nineteenth-century German mathematician, figured out how to apply geometry to curved spaces. Einstein recognized that Rienmann’s geometry accurately described the physics of gravity, and Reinmann’s theories supplied him with the necessary mathematical foundations to analyze warped space. The curvature of spacetime, Rienmann found, is expressed mathematically as …

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The Elegant Universe – Part V: Unification in the Twenty-First Century

Chapter 15: Prospects Every important theory of twentieth-century physics has a single underlying principle that sums up its basic idea. In special relativity, this underlying principle is the constancy of the speed of light. In general relativity, the underlying principle is the equivalence principle, which posits that accelerated motion and gravity are indistinguishable from each …

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The Elegant Universe – Part I: The Edge of Knowledge

Chapter 1: Tied Up with String Greene begins The Elegant Universe with an analysis of the puzzling incompatibility between the two “foundational pillars” of twentieth-century physics, Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics. General relativity deals with the universe on the large scale—stars and galaxies—while quantum mechanics attempts to explain the universe on the small scale—molecules, …

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