Tuesday, September 20, 2011

String Theory, Multiverses, and Folgers Coffee

Here at PCPPP we love science. We can’t get enough of it - science articles, science experiments, science flavored cereal, you name it! If it is the name of science then we would be more than happy to change our last names if it was legal to marry it in this state. I even wanted to name my daughter Scientifica but the wife just had to go with the name of a deceased cherished loved one that was both thoughtful and touching to everyone involved. Pshhh.

Thus, in the name of science, for this week’s post, we are going to debate String Theory. Is it a valid theory? Will it someday explain the basics of everything? Or does it not provide enough quantitative experimental predictions and therefore should be debunked?

Umm... you should start this one Pat.  

Pat:  I like strings. I remember those elementary art projects we did where we nailed nails into a board and then ran string back and forth between them, making a beautiful design. I have a theory that kids should do that activity in school. That is my string theory.

Christian: Excellent argument! But I’m really interested in hearing your take on the String Theory’s (the science one) effect on the theory of relativity and umm... math? Explain away! No detail is too small!

Pat:  String Theory fits into the category “Things I Know Nothing About But Like To Pretend I Do, And Will Continue To Do So Until Someone Smarter Calls Me Out.” Shall I proceed anyway?

Christian: I first thought about making fun of you for not knowing what String Theory is but it then occurred to me that I don’t know either. So now I’m thinking that maybe we should have figured that out before we started this topic.

(EDITOR PAT’S NOTE:  What Christian does not realize is that by merely suggesting the duality above, he has in effect created TWO REALITIES, both of which are equally plausible according to the “multiverse” theory as first posited in 1895 by American philosopher and psychologist William James, and then developed later by Hugh Everett, father of Eels frontman Mark “E” Everett, into the “many-worlds interpretation”. Let’s have fun and play out BOTH scenarios and watch as Christian’s head fills with mind-boggling possibilities. That, and we switched his normal coffee with Folgers™ brand instant coffee. Should be fun!)

(Multiverse 1)
Christian.1:  Oh man I can’t believe you don’t know what String Theory is! That’s rich. Were you raised in a non-sub-atomic barn or something? Oh boy!

Pat.1:  Sorry, man.  I was NOT raised in a barn, non-sub-atomic or otherwise. I was born in a certified hospital and raised in a split-level ranch style suburban home in the lone suburb of Eugene, Oregon. They DO have a particle accelerator or some such nuclear thing at the University of Oregon, which is also located in Eugene.  

I’d be willing to bet you money, by the way, that your fancy string theory is nothing more than an idea some science technician came up with while on snack break and admiring the seemingly unending strands of cheese pulled from his stick of mozzarella. Science schmience!

(Multiverse 2)
Christian.2:  OK, I don’t know what it is either. Maybe we should switch the topic from debating the validity of the String Theory, to trying to figure out what it is. What do you think it is? I bet it involves quarks and stuff.

Don’t ask me what a quark is.

Pat.2:  I know that quark is a sour cream like substance that seems popular only in Germany or one of its many German speaking colonies.

I think string theory is the idea that, at the smallest level, everything is made up of little (i.e. REALLY little, like...tiny!) strings. Those strings find other strings and get together to make bigger strands of strings. That whole process happens over and over again until you get...US! And all the other stuff that exists on the planet, like trees and cats and rivets and muffins. And they could get together to make things we haven’t even dreamed of yet, which is what makes it so exciting. With string theory, you never know WHAT’S going to happen.

Christian1: Wait what’s going on here? Who is this Christian2 and Pat2?

Pat1: They are alternate reality versions of us.

Pat2: We are alternate reality versions of you guys.

Christian2: Hi!

Christian1: So this other Christian, Christian2, is another version of me?

Christian2: No, you are another version of me. So anyways, back to your explanation Pat2. What you are saying makes...

Christian1: What?  Hold on. I still don’t understand what’s going on.

Christian2: Excuse me but we’re trying to have a conversation here.  

Christian1: But I don’t understand what’s happening!

Christian2: *Sigh*. What is it that you don’t understand?

Christian1: Where did you and this Pat2 come from?

Christian2: Jesus, did you not read what the Pats wrote? Either Pat correct me if I’m wrong, but according to the multiverse theory there are many universes with endless possibilities. When Christian0 (the original Christian) stated he contemplated two ways of responding (see above), two universes were created. One where you (Christian1) responded one way and I (Christian2) responded another. Duh. I don’t understand why you can’t grasp this. It’s not rocket surgery.

And who brought the Folgers? That seems like a Pat2 kind of thing. Am I right? LOL!

Christian1: I don’t like it. And you’re a dick.

Pats:  You’re right. And no, the Folgers thing was completely Pat0, and let us tell you, we are NOT looking forward to going back to him when all of this gets settled! Somebody needs to tell him how annoying he is, what with his random references from television and his attempts at sesquipedalian prose. SHIT! He just got us again!

Pat1:  Pat2, why don’t you take Christian2 off for a bit and you two can talk. I’ll hang here with Christian1 and try to help ease him into understanding what’s going on. You two have fun...we’ll catch up later. Or at least I will.

So...Christian1. Let’s talk. What about this is troubling for you?

Christian1: I hate the smell of Folgers coffee.

Pat1:  Awesome, I can work with that.  

See...by even stating that you hate the smell of Folgers™ coffee, you have opened up a new universe. You undoubtedly THOUGHT of a universe without Folgers™, which created that precise universe. Now you can rest easy knowing that you thought another version of yourself into being, and that THAT version does not have to live with the plague of bad instant coffee.

Good job, theoretical physicist! Now that you see how easy it is, why don’t you spend some thought on something more substantial, like, say, ending global poverty.  

Sure glad you got the Folgers™ problem solved though.

Say...any idea where the 2’s went?

Pat2:  *Burp!*

Christian2: Man that was some good beer.

Christian1: String theory seems so simple now (*hides under his desk and begins to cry*).


  1. I have a scientific bone to pick here; Quark is made with cottage cheese, onions, caraway and salt. Otherwise, science is dead on. Probably.

  2. I do this weird thing (maybe it's not weird, I don't know) where I'm reading something and some words will practically jump off the page at me. It's always something that relates to me personally. For example, an Oregon place name or the word Birkenstock. In this case it was Eugene, OR. My 1st thought when I see things like that is "Hey! I've been there!!" or "Hey! I sell those!!" (the 2nd one pertains to Birkenstock not Eugene).

    This blog post was a little over my head. I like strings and I like cheese, but I don't really want to think about string theory. It makes me feel scared and like I can't breathe. I keep imagining 1 billion Meghans crowding around and sucking up all the air.

    So, I'm going to concentrate on the fact that I HAVE been to Eugene. I've been there more than once, which means that I can feel pretty special about seeing its name in print.

  3. Your science, that is. Real science is just a bunch of math, and THAT is just a bunch of whooey.

  4. Yeah...I can't really re-read this one without confusing myself even further. I think it is a testament to the idea that I should stay far away from actual science, and should strive only to give my own scientific interpretation of the world around me.

  5. @Tumbleweed - I think you're right. And call me weird but I like a lot of quark on my burritos.

    @Megiweg - I grew up in Eugene so imagine how excited I got when I saw that you mentioned it in your comment!


    Let it be known that we here at PCPPPP had it FIRST! Don't let those network hacks at NBC convince you otherwise (and watch soon, as I think it may go offline soon. Darn internets!)