Nova

The Elegant Universe: The String's The Thing

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The Elegant Universe -- In the last few years, excitement has grown among scientists as they've pursued a revolutionary new approach to unifying nature's forces. To the uninitiated, string theory is totally mind-boggling. But physicist Brian Greene has a rare gift for conveying physics in vivid everyday images, a gift that has turned his recent book, The Elegant Universe, into a mighty bestseller. Now Greene brings his talent, youth and vitality to television for the first time in this special three-hour presentation. A highly innovative, Matrix-like production style makes the surreal world of string theory spring to life on the screen. String's the Thing -- In the second hour, Greene describes the serendipitous steps that led from a forgotten 200-year-old mathematical formula to the first glimmerings of strings - quivering strands of energy whose different vibrations give rise to quarks, electrons, photons and all other elementary particles. Strings are truly tiny - smaller than an atom by the same factor that a tree is smaller than the entire universe. But, as Greene explains, it is possible - for the first time ever - to combine the laws of the large and the laws of the small into a proposal for a single, harmonious Theory of Everything.

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