February 24, 2004

the group

Flocks of geese, shoals of fish, pods of dolphins, troops of monkeys, saucers of aliens, groups of astrophysicists . . . I have been pondering the meaning of "the group" which I hear referred to often. It would seem that there is no simple answer, there are groups and subgroups, there are intersecting groups and independant groups, groups of two and massive groups, groups with no geographical confines and groups specifically located to a GPS dot. Always groups though . . . I begun to try and map them out and it soon becomes a problem of inter related areas of inquiry, part of a larger map of the overview of cosmology and astronomy, spilling into theoretical physics and beyond . . . .

Then above this diagram, above the Oxford Astrophysics group, floats the Professor, Joe Silk, as if on a brane of his own.

Talking of branes, I discovered that Carsten was a brane man, which reminded me of Hyperspace, the book. Hyperspace ended up doing my head in. In the end the excitment and anticipation of reading about timewarps and multidimensional space dissolved into frustration and a feeling of being led up the garden path. Carsten reckons its a good read so I guess I'm a dummy. Maybe the problem lies in the fact that the terrain becomes so theoretical and beyond any experimental validation that it not only is hard to grasp but begins to feel flaky.

Carsten, reassuringly, is dealing with only one extra spatial dimension, ie four spatial and one of time, 5 D. That I can grasp. We live in our 3 D spatial world on a brane, the fourth dimension. I can understand that by using the trick from Jannas book and Flatland - and Hyperspace too I have to admit - whereby one visualises what a 2 D world would be like and how inhabitants of that world would perceive a 3 D object should it pass through their world.

I wish I'd found out this was Carstens speciality before. He's off to Sheffield. Astrophysicists seem to be always on the move - hence international groups, the stretching of the ven diagrams all over the globe.

Posted by Jem Finer at February 24, 2004 3:32 PM