Thursday, July 08, 2004

Slate: Science as Metaphor: Where does Brian Greene stand in the pantheon of physicists?

7/6/04 by Amanda Schaffer
"His celebrity can be attributed to a widespread popular appetite for avant-garde science dressed in neat metaphorical packages: The universe is elegant; the cosmos is like a string symphony. Yet there is plenty to be suspicious of in Greene's unself-conscious romanticism—his unnuanced use of terms like elegance and beauty—and his teleological approach to the history of physics. Where, exactly, does he stand in the pantheon of physicists?"
Sean Carroll points out and discusses this article on his blog, Preposterous Universe. He also points to several other people who are commenting on this article.
I have my own opinion. First, a disclaimer: I only have a BS in physics so am not the one to really poke holes in the actual theory. My opinion: The best physics and math is elegant, simple, and yes, beautiful. Mathematics is beautiful. The power to describe the world in terms of equations is amazing. I've tried to explain this to people who got turned off of math and science by high school teachers who couldn't actually explain their subjects. I like Brian Greene and I like what he's trying to do. I think he does a good job of making this information more accessible to the public. For all of you doing government funded research, this is important! Greene also gives some disclaimers and problems of the theory, but maybe he doesn't go far enough. I think he does. I had a middle school age kid come up to me at a public library and ask for a copy of Fabric. I asked him and he read, understood, and enjoyed Elegant and he wants to be a physicist. That's what I'm talking about.
So, to answer the question, where does Brian Greene stand? He's respected in his field. He is respected and liked outside of his field.

No comments: