If you’re trying to impress the geeks, being a professional string theorist would have to put you pretty high up on the coolness scale. And if you’re a string theorist with books, movies and TV shows to your credit, so much the better. By those measures, Columbia University physicist Brian Greene has already achieved superstring stardom: His book about string theory, “The Elegant Universe” broke onto bestseller lists and spawned a “Nova” documentary series by the same name. He has consulted with — and taken cameo roles in — movies ranging from “Frequency” to “Deja Vu” to “The Last Mimzy” (which opens Friday). He’s made the talk-show circuit, from “Nightline” and Letterman to “The Colbert Report.” And as if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also organizing a World Science Festival in New York City.
In fact, the biggest knock against Greene is that he’s so busy with public outreach that scientists wonder whether he actually has time for string theory. Last year, for example, he was the subject of a meticulously plotted April Fool’s joke having to do with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.