That Whole General Relativity Thing…

Back in November 2015, interested people around the world (most quietly) celebrated the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. American Physicist Brian Greene, whom I once saw speak about string theory in Michigan back in 2002, was among those asked to visit many of the U.S. talk shows to discuss–and explain–Einstein’s epoch making theory. Fortunately, Greene ended up on the show of one of the most entertaining (and smart) talk show hosts in the business, Stephen Colbert. Watch as Greene and Colbert have fun trying to demonstrate some of Einstein’s ideas through simple demonstrations about both gravity and motion.

For me, the best part was at the conclusion, when Colbert asks Greene to explain to him how he (Greene) would explain the warping of the space-time fabric not to the general layperson, but rather to another theoretical physicist. Here’s my transcription of Colbert and Greene’s wonderful exchange, in which Greene provides a fantastic example of what it means to ‘talk’ science…

Colbert: “Give it to me in less than 30 seconds, but let me just lean into my ignorance of what you’re saying to me…”

Greene: “So, Albert Einstein says that space-time is a four dimensional Hausdorff differential manifold on which a metric tensor is imposed that solves the Einstein field equations, and that metric tensor gives rise to geodesics, and objects that are not experiencing any other force will move along the geodesics described by that metric!”

 

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About Doc Bretto

Equal parts teacher, naturalist, teacher educator, and education researcher, I have a Ph.D. in science education and nourish my soul with a steady diet of anthropology, history, and philosophy--but also with photography, gastronomy, fußball/football, and freeriding in the European Alps.
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