EINSTEIN: AN EDGE SYMPOSIUM: Brian Greene, Walter Isaacson, Paul Steinhardt

From Edge:

Ein1 Ein2 Last year, in My Einstein, a book of essays by twenty-four leading thinkers, I asked each of the contributors to share their thoughts on who is their Einstein. This led me to ask the same questions to the Edge symposium participants.

Ein3BRIAN GREENE: When it comes to Albert Einstein, his contributions are of such incredible magnitude that to get inside his head, and even for a moment to get a feel for what it would be like to see the world with such clarity and such insight, would be amazing. But if I was going to ask him one question, I would probably stick to one a little bit more down to earth, which is—he famously said that when it came to the general theory of relativity, in some sense he wasn’t waiting for the data to show whether it was right or wrong; the theory was so beautiful that it just had to be right. And when the data came in and confirmed it, he claimed he wasn’t even surprised, he in fact famously said that had the data turned out differently, he would have been sorry for the [dear lord?] because the theory was correct. That’s how much faith he had in theory.

So the question I have is, we, many of us, are working on Einstein’s legacy in a sense, which is trying to find the unified theory that he looked for such a long time and never found, and we’ve been pursuing an approach called super string theory for many years now. And it is a completely theoretical undertaking. It is completely mathematical. It has yet to make contact with experimental data. I would like to ask Einstein what he would think of this approach to unification. Does he see the same kind of beauty, the same kind of elegance, the same kind of powerful incisive ideas in this framework to give him the confidence that he had in the general theory of relativity?

More here.