Jul 20, 2015

Quantum Gravity

7/20/2015 — cori

That is the title of the chapter in the book that I got stuck on.  The title of the book is A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking.  The good news is, I made it all the way to chapter 9.  The bad news is, I have no clue what anything I'm reading means.

Gavin recently read A Brief History of Time and loved it and encouraged me to read it so we could discuss it together.  First of all, that is very kind of him to think that I have the brain capacity to understand a book like that.  Second of all, I love that he enjoys sharing what he's learning with me. He even said that A Briefer History of Time would be even easier to understand since it's shorter and has more pictures. Unfortunately, even though I read and speak English fluently, I don't have a clue what any of the words I'm reading mean.  Seriously.  I'm reading and reading yet nothing is sticking to my brain.  I need the kindergarten version of these concepts.

Take today's reading for instance from page 90:
That means that for more precise measurements of position, when you will have to employ a more energetic quantum, the velocity of the particle will be disturbed by a larger amount.  So the more accurately you try to measure the position of the particle, the less accurately you can measure its speed, and vice versa.

That means nothing to me.  I don't know how to interpret that.  I went to Gavin with my tail between my legs and asked him, "Um, Honey, if I don't read the whole, entire book...would you be upset with me?  I already skipped ahead and read the Conclusion Chapter and the glossary but I'm having a really hard time with all this Quantum stuff.  See, let me read you the last thing that I read....".  I read the quoted portion from the above paragraph and he responds, "Oh ya, that's Heinsenberg's Uncertainty Principle."

And I'm like, "You understand this stuff?!"

And he's like, "Yes."

So I'm like, "Can you please explain it to me on a much lower level.  Like draw me pictures or something.  My mind just keeps blanking out when I read the word 'quantum' anything."

Then he asks, "Well, have you gotten to the part on String Theory?"

And I'm like, "Um. Nope. What's that?"

And he's all like, "Well...blah, blah, blah, blah...".  That's not what he said, but that's what I heard.  I confess, I am not at all scientific minded.  I try my hardest to have intelligent conversations with Gavin, but often times they fall ridiculously short.

To his credit, he's incredibly patient and an excellent teacher.  He really is able to take these impossibly hard concepts for me to understand and/or picture and put them into words and pictures I can relate to.  And he doesn't make me feel stupid for not understanding it on his level.

After Gavin read the Hawking book he shared with me some interesting thoughts.  He comments, "I find it interesting that for someone who is an atheist, he sure mentions God a lot in his book - and not in a negative way.  If I didn't believe in something, I wouldn't even mention it."  And today when we were discussing faith versus science he had a remarkable insight, he says, "If people who have faith in what is unseen have no problem believing in God who is unseen, then why do these same people have trouble believing in scientific evidence that has been mathematically proven?  You would think if you have that much faith it would be easier to believe things that are already true."  We went on to have a wonderful discussion about how so many people feel that faith and science are incompatible when we are both of the opinion that they fit together beautifully.  God is a genius. He's not threatened by scientific questions at all. Just because we're understanding more about our universe scientifically doesn't mean people are pushing God out of the equation, it means we're better able to marvel at his sheer genius, creativity and magnitude.

photo credit: http://www.loopquantumgravity.org/

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