The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest For… Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

Brian Greene
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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. Which of the following is one of the major problems in using both quantum physics and general relativity?

2. Why are the fluctuations that quantum physics predicts not observable in everyday life?

3. What is the photoelectric effect?

4. What are the components of an atomic nucleus?

5. Which physicist is credited with discovering that light is composed of particles?

Short Essay Questions

1. What is supersymmetry and what is its importance in string theory?

2. Three observers carry out an experiment. From the same starting point, they observe a beam of light move directly away from them. One observer stays at rest at the starting point. One observer "chases" the beam at half the speed of light. The last observer chases the beam at exactly the speed of light. Describe what these observers would note about the beam of light according to Newtonian (pre-relativity) physics and thinking.

3. Describe the relationship between the vibration of a string and the particle it represents, including the particle's mass and the tension, wavelength, and amplitude of the string.

4. Describe the nature and origin of quantum foam.

5. According to Einstein's theory for the photoelectric effect, what is the relationship between the frequency of light and the electrons ejected by the metal?

6. Referring to the experiment described in question Short Essay #6, what would the three observers see according to the theory of special relativity?

7. Describe and explain the results of the two-slit experiment.

8. State Newton's law of gravity.

9. What are the two main theories on which modern physics is based? At what scales are they accurate or inaccurate? Give at least one example of a circumstance in which both theories would need to be employed.

10. Describe the symmetry between the electromagnetism and the weak force that is predicted by quantum electroweak theory.

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Quantum Foam

It has been said that one who is not distressed by quantum mechanics has not understood what has been explained. One of the most strange and distressing components of quantum mechanics is the "quantum foam", the very strange behavior of time, space, and elementary particles at very small scales.

Part 1) Describe the nature of quantum foam. What is it, where, and at what scales does it occur? What sorts of events occur in the quantum foam, and why?

Part 2) Describe some of the effects of quantum foam on our universe, both at small and large scales.

Part 3) Imagine an observer shrinking from normal macroscopic scales down to the microscopic, and then all the way down to the scale at which quantum foam is observed. What would this observer see occurring around him, and what would the experience be like? Be creative, and use as much factual scientific information as possible.

Essay Topic 2

M for Mystery

M-theory is an as yet undiscovered theory that would unit the five fields of string theory. What the "M" stands for is actually subject to some debate, but the theory suggests that there are connections between the five seemingly disparate theories.

Part 1) Describe the origin of the five string theories, explaining why their existence is an embarrassment for the field.

Part 2) Explain the history of M-theory. When and why was it proposed, and what progress has been made since it was created? What is its current scientific status?

Part 3) Explain the concept of duality, which relates different string theories. Has this theory has any success, and what are its prospects in the future?

Essay Topic 3

The Two-Slit Enigma

The two-slit experiment is so famous as to be ubiquitous in modern physics. It succinctly illustrates the wave-nature of particles and the very mysterious interference that these particles experience even when there are no other waves to interact with. Perform a short research project on the two-slit experiment, using the book as a starting point, and citing at least two other sources.

Part 1) Describe the history of the experiment, including the original motivation for performing it, and variations that have been performed since.

Part 2) Describe in detail the results of the experiment in its major variations. What are the implications of the experiment and some typical explanations for the results? Explain why these results are so important and unusual.

Part 3) Devise a version of the two-slit experiment that you would perform, given sufficient resources and time, either for scientific purposes, aesthetic interests, or simple curiosity. Be sure to describe the set-up and state what you expect the results to be.

(see the answer keys)

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