Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why I Love Physics

One reason, at least ...

Historically, the very first hints of string theory came in 1968, when two young researchers at CERN, Gabriel Veneziano and Mahiko Suzuki, were each looking for mathematical functions that could be used to describe the behavior of strongly interacting particles.  They each, independently, noticed that a function written down in the nineteenth century by Leonhard Euler, and called the Euler beta function, might fit the bill.  This turns out to be the mathematics underpinning string theory; but it was Nambu who turned the mathematics into physics.

- Footnote found on page 154 of John Gribben’s The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything

Oh to be those young researchers!  Imagine them poring through Euler’s voluminous works, or any of the voluminous works of the ten or twenty top mathematicians of that era, all the while visualizing real-world outcomes from those esoteric – magical! – formulas and functions.  What did they feel when they realized that a half-blind court mathematician wrote down an equation that would, a hundred and fifty years later, describe the behavior of sub- sub-atomic entities?

The nerd in me is shivering with awe.

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