bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
Radio 4
PROGRAMME FINDER:
Programmes
Podcast
Schedule
Presenters
PROGRAMME GENRES:
News
Drama
Comedy
Science
Religion|Ethics
History
Factual
Messageboards
Radio 4 Tickets
Radio 4 Help

About the BBC

Contact Us

Help


BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

History
IN OUR TIME - DEBATE
MISSED A PROGRAMME?
Go to the Listen Again page
AUDIENCE COMMENTS
An opportunity for the audience to have their say on In Our Time.
THEORIES OF EVERYTHING

David Fell - Theory of Everything
The solution to the Theory of Everything is very simple and any one can start to work it out just by looking at the principles that ensure the existence of all systems. The one thing that every system in Nature has in common is steady movement/change which they have to maintain. The quality of this movement /change is most important, for it has to be continual, regular and even, exhibiting the natural motion that every conscious entity from an electron to a Universe has to keep to. The description of this natural motion involves a set number of parameters, each one corresponding to a specific Law of Nature eg Law of Constancy, Law of Order , Law of Balance etc So there is nothing difficult about the Theory of Everything, we all abide by it, by sensing when hungry and then eating, but also with all the other senses, detecting negative feedback that requires corrective action. Everyone has to realise, especially scientists, how generic a Theory of Everything really is and how simple it is to understand.

Robert Gore
My last attempt disappeared into the 9th dimension so I try again. There is a theory that for anything to exist three components are required 1/ a sane cognising consciousness. 2/ energy or means of perception 3/ The basis of designation. 1/ is obvious, but cognising is added because for understanding of anything a context must be generated, which implies memory and so forth. For example what is the meaning of "yellow", or "chair", before humans evolved. 2/ and 3/ are bound together as for communication to occur there must be something, if undefined, actually out there and an energy which can bridge distance and be orderly, that is some form of a sense organ which links the "world" with the "mind". This understanding is the basis of the Buddhist refutation of the philosophy, known as the Mind Only School, which claims that everything is within consciousness and nothing exists without. In science games are played from the very earliest education to create the illusion that it is independent of human consciousness and intervention. " The classic, "some salt was placed in a test tube, in distilled water..." etc etc. Never I, Joe Bloggs, Human, employee of the Widget company, on Tuesday 14th July 2003, put some salt.. etc etc. This leads us all to use our educated consciouness to speculate about time, space and dimensions as if there was no cognising consciousness involved at all. I suggest we start by ditching our mind set of the uiversal components of Matter, Energy Space and Time, and start reasoning from, MIND, MATTER, MOVEMENT. Consciousness, which I am shortening to mind, becomes the location which maintains the image of what is, but there really is something actually out there. Space is simply a description of movement, as time is simply a convenient means of comparing a fast regular movement with a slower or variable one. Movement traces a history, and it can reverse on the same path, but never flows backwards. There is no absolute, "Time", which has a grain or flow, or can be measured. Clocks do not measure time, they simply compare fast vibrations with slow vibrations. Famous experiments like taking two identical clocks and whizzing one around the world by jet do not prove that time slows down when accelerated, but merely that if you shake your watch it becomes unreliable. Personally I thing Einstein was mad, and has hoodwinked several generations of physicists. They have become cocky because they managed to make a really large atomic bang, so now think we will swallow anything. I think they are at the same stage as Chemistry was when phlogistan was being sought to explain burning, when oxygen was still unknown and unseen, but forest fires still raged. The Native American shaman said that only two things are infinite in the universe, namely, pleasure and knowledge. Thus these were the only proper pursuits of a warrior, whose sacred duty was to dance the crack between the worlds whilst holding the intent of defeating death.

Jim Russell - Theories of Everything
Yet another absolutely splendid programme for the non-specialist, although, as usual, a certain familiarity with the subject mattter was helpful. My personal interest in theories of everything tends to be rather casual. I gave up on atomic physics at the stage of discovery that electrons, protons, neutrons and the like were capable of being resolved into even more ‘elementary’ particles. As a chemist, I found that the Bohr/Rutherford model of the atom, with perhaps some assistance from wave mechanics for information on orbital energy levels, gave all that was required to explain chemical reactions. The energy disposed in any chemical reaction is far too small to have any effect on quark, or whatever, formation. However, skimming the comments on string theory, and particularly the thought that the required ‘extra’ dimensions might have unrealised effects, my mind turned to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the mystery of entropy. In a closed system entropy increases, or, to put it another way, disorder increases. But surely in a closed system there must have been a creation of order, which requires the expenditure of energy. One of the standard statements of the Second Law is that although energy can be transformed from one form to another in the course of doing ‘work’ as for example steam driving a steam engine, conversion cannot be 100% and some energy, sometimes a startlingly large proportion, is always lost. Where does the huge deficiency in entropy come from that must have been generated somehow to enable us to live in the ordered universe that we live in with its increase in entropy as it ‘runs down’. I have read Roger Penrose’s explanation of this in The Emperor’s New Mind, but I am not enough of a mathematician to follow it properly. Could it be that entropy ‘leaks’ away into the extra dimensions required by string theory? The Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy would make a good programme; what about it?

Pam Wylde/Theory of Everything I know absolutely nothing about physics and quantum mechanics etc but listened in to Theory of Everything last Thursday morning in the car. The last twenty minutes or so that I caught were fascinating. This kind of subject always 'blows my mind' but I thought that the American professor (who's name I'm afraid I didn't catch) spoke with such passion about his subject and also in a way that I could understand that I found the subject quite gripping. Does the professor ever give lectures outside of his university. It was also encouraging to hear Melvyn Bragg struggle with the complexities of the Theory himself - there's hope for us all!!

William Milne/ Theory of Everything
This programme was clarifying, as well as being redolent with romance, ambition and imagery, but it prompted a desire for an intellectual CERN that might test the tough nut of High Physics. Perhaps a physicist or two could have an historian of science, an economist of academia, psychoanalyst or artist (semiologist?) aimed at them. If the experiment was well-mounted and the power correct, we might be able to see where the lost energy has gone. In any case, the fallout would be interesting.

Caroline Elliott - Theory of Everything
Loved the programme as it covered many of the topics I am currently trying to read up on. Best of all was the fact that MB, who like me I imagine gave up Physics early, was grappling with concepts that a lifetime of prejudice towards the arts and philosophy make difficult. However, there is one question I have always wanted to ask string and super string experts. So many scientists scornfully dismiss the idea of God as myth ( I am an open minded agnostic) constructed by those trying to make sense of the world around them. At its present state of development string theory as the direction to the Theory of Everything seems no more substantial. One of your contributors made it plain that there was no experimental confirmation of string theory, just that if it was correct it would be an answer. Nothing so far proven gives a scientific proof that there is no 'watchmaker' - I can give you several philisophical arguments that do the job better. In fact the more I read of scientific ideas (i.e. the fine balance of the universal constants) science has a greater reason to be humble when dismissing such a concept out of hand.

Theory of Everything - David Younger
Terence Walls mentions Ptolemaic theories, prompted by string theory. it is worth considering that ptolemaic wheels and gears where a better predicter of future events than Copernican orbits for a long time after Copernicus. Strings and extra dimensions may answer the equations but thats all they do.

Ted Rockley's GUTS
I'm always interested to read or listen anything about Strings, GUTS and Branes etc, though without the intellectual equipment displayed by your guests this week I am confined to 'popular' style material. I was delighted to hear for the most part a clear and provocative explanation. Everything was fine until it was said we live in a world of 3 dimensions. Then we got onto more than 3 dimensions and what they may be or how they may be detected. Even allowing for 'counter intuitive notions', this cannot be right. We live in a 2 dimensional universe, Space and Time. Space has 3 AXIS. Time has one. If there are more dimensions (and there may be)they will be as unlike the dimension we know as space is unlike time. Not 'curled up small' as is often mentioned. This confusing of axis and dimension is crucial. Because there are three, its easy to semantically and mathematically extrapolate to 4 or more (11 is all the rage now) but it doesn't mean they exist. There may be 11 aspects to the universe but they are not dimensions. The key will be to a more profound understanding of Time. Perhaps Time has more than one axis. Unfortunately this was only touched on at the end of the prog. There may be a dimension, inaccesible to us where what we percieve as time, does not behave temporaly. It may be the key to understanding entanglement. A comon difficulty is the inadequacy of our language to describe what we have yet to experience, but if we can't untangle the terms dimensions and axes then its going to be a long road, or a long time.

Andrew Knox - Theory of Everything
Why, in such dialogue as this do the physicists never mention that time only began with the creation of the present physical universe (ours); that time is merely the propagation of physical events (delays) and that there might not be a before the 'big bang'. Before the creation of our 'physics' - even if for only a comparitively tiny measure of 'our time' time expanded, or contracted, to the familiar pace that we see and calculate today. Not good at this! I need another holiday!

Ed Beaugard - Physicists caught in contradiction
I think it would be very valuable to do a whole program on Hawking's paper on Godel and physics. So to the contradiction: One cannot use mathematical beauty as a support for the truth of string theory and then dismiss the Godel results because 'physics deals with many more areas of math than Godel was looking at'. It seems very interesting to me that one of the claims in support of string theory is that the mathematics is so elegant and beautiful that it cannot NOT be true. This mathematical elegance seems to be a characteristic of all valid theories in physics. I'm not sure if anyone said this on the show or not but I'm fairly sure that string theory supporters do routinely make this claim. I'd like to point out that at the end of the show when the Hawking paper came up, one of the physicists dismissed it, since he felt that the Godel paper only dealt with the properties of arithmetic and not the kind of math being used by string theory, but I don't think Hawking's point can be ignored so easily. The mathematics of string theory must include the properties of arithmetic, even if the mathematics becomes much more complex. Therefore, the chances that the undecidability problem will arise are probably greater than what the physicists on the show think they are.

John Wykes Theory of Everything
Once again another excellent edition of the best programme on the best radio channel in the world. My one quibble (albeit a very major one) is that no mention was made of the other theoretical search direction in the quest for a unification of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, namely that of Loop Quantum Gravity. Quantum Mechanics (QM) postulates rules of mechanics which enable one to correctly predict the behaviour of point-like elementary particles in a passive, smooth, unvarying background of space-time. General Relativity (GR) describes the gravitational behaviour of massive objects in terms of their interaction with an active variable space-time. The string approach assumes that by dropping the requirement that the basic entities be point-like but still have these exended entities (strings) sit within a passive space-time - albeit one of more spatial dimensions - then GR may emerge from the behaviour of a particular type of vibrating string which makes it look as if space-time is not passive. In this regard one may see superstring theory as a way of incorporating GR into QM. It takes us no further in explaining why the QR rules are as they are. The Loop Quantum Gravity approach may be seen as starting from the other side i.e. of incorporating QM into GR by assuming that space-time is active and that one must tinker with the nature of it when one comes to the very small. At the smallest level 3-D space is assumed discrete and to change in a quantum manner with time. In some senses it is less ambitious than String Theory in that it is not directly tackling the unification of all forces, but in other respects it may turn out to be more fundamental in that it may offer more insight into the quantum rules themselves and into the nature of time. It has one advantage over string theory in that it is much more likely to be subject to experimental test in the near future since it predicts that gamma rays that have travelled great distances (such as from gamma ray bursters) shoud show some tiny dispersion effects from the discrete nature of space. Major quibble aside, thanks for the prog and keep up the good work.

James Baring - Theories of Everything
Once again, Melvyn, by asking the questions in plain language you have helped not only listeners but also the specialists to clarify their thoughts. They did a good job. It is evident that the shared perception has notched up a few new toe-holds. We are now talking seriously, instead of speculatively, about more than 3 Space plus 1 Time dimensions. This was a requirement before string theory arrived, but the theory accommodates it. We now realise that ‘particles’ do not exist in their own right any more than musical notes exist without a source. We can name them as e.g. crotchets and write them as symbols on paper, but they are a dynamic event. You teased out in passing another vital insight: Physics uses only a tiny part of mathematics (which is abstract and can be infinite). The observable universe in positive space-time is finite and not abstract, energy shaped and arranged by the constraints of geometry. In that respect I support the view expressed in ‘Passions’ [Radio 4, 26th March]. I am not comfortable with the way all the other dimensions are assumed to be ‘space’. This is a matter of perspective; and the term ‘size’ is misleading in discussing dimensions when relative curvature is the issue. We need to understand inertia before we can resolve gravity, but forcing nature to present in the appearance of a Higgs Boson will not, in my view, be enlightening, just expensive. Inertia can be understood in a space-time of more dimensions. Strings cannot by definition be ‘seen’ but the existence of other dimensions could, as suggested, be shown to be compatible with experimental results. Quantum entanglement, the results of Aspect and subsequent experiments are all evidence of the multidimensional reality. It is incorrect to see quantum mechanics as in conflict with macrophysics. The same laws could not possibly dominate and determine outcomes at both levels;that would really produce a conflict. However, it is doubtful that a ‘Theory of Everything’ would solve any known human, terrestrial problem. The unintentional irony in Hawking’s final reflection (and his revised version) is that the universe IS the mind of God. A single individual in a lifetime has a mind that is limited. No one person can understand it all, but it will understand itself through universal experience. That is probably why it exists. We have to avoid being a pain in the universal neck and function as best we can for the whole. Your programmes are good medicine.

D A Gilbert Theory of everything
when we travel through space so slowly how is it that we can look back to zero time? Surely the light from that time would have passed us by last week at thelatest. I am particularly interested in string theory because periodicity undlies much of the universe and I have spent 40yrs showing that it undrlies living cells too.

time and gravity
Perhaps consciousness of self existence may be a component of that most enigmatic phenomenon "time". For should time not actually exist then it may be deduced that all events occur at the same instant! The placing of different events - once upon a time - being nothing more or less than a function of human consciousness. However, if time moves forward (the arrow of time) for eternity then all events must take place at certain points in time. Individual self-consciousness, which appears to register at around a year from birth, may well belong to a point in in time at which self-consciousness returns to at physical death and loss of consciousness. Perhaps our self-consciousness is just a minute quantum of a universal spread of gravity-time which elastically withdraws when not "called" upon. Until such time as the mind of man is able to determine the phenomennon of "time" - probably at some further evolutionary stage - it seems we shall remain contained within a mechanistic thought process !

dick frost --everything
I suspect that knowledge is fractal and that it grows as we search for it; create it: it is the infinite onion which we persistently peel. The question is whether we create knowledge in the process of looking or whether it is out there, to be discovered – in either case an infinite search. There are problems about our activity: do we find what is findable according to our perceptions, our senses; and according to the make up of our minds, something to do with the anthropic principle? Does that mean that the universe is created as it is because we are the way we are (or, the stronger argument, that it is created for us; enter God) or that our essential limitations – our capacities - of necessity mould a universe we can understand? There is also the Kantian problem: that we only know our experiences; we don’t know what it is that we experience; that is, I know something is hot by feeling it but I don’t know what hotness is. We use machines and equipment to answer such questions, but that still means that we know only what we read from the machines. So knowledge never gets inside the black box; we know inputs and outcomes but not what happens in the box – in a way we only know ourselves as black boxes too! But if this is so, then our pursuit of knowledge is of a kind with that of previous eras when the realms of possibility were called magic, religion, astrology, etc. Each was the accepted approach to the questions we asked and each provided answers which were satisfactory to their times. That we can manipulate more successfully is taken to mean that scientific knowledge is superior to magic etc. It may be, but our ability to manipulate and predict still leaves us an inevitable distance from knowledge of what is. Anyway, why knowledge? I am not convinced that knowledge is useful or ever has been; and regard it more as poetry or music: beauty is truth, truth beauty, etc. I also fear that since civilisation, knowledge has been a tool in power relationships and is used to manipulate and control; i.e., in Marxist terms, it is an aspect of the ideology of the ruling class and has added power from the claim to objectivity.

Edward Williamson - Theory of Everything - What El
Why should I believe in things which are not only imperceptible, but are impossible to imagine? What do you imagine when you imagine an electron? a small bead of lead? Electrons aren't like that. It get's worse, 10 dimensions? where? Maybe it has much to do with monotheism in more ways than one. Enjoyed the programme, as always.

David Fell Theory of Everything
Physicists will never discover the Theory of Everything only a Theory of Everything for Physics, which will be too specialised to be able to be applied to the common aspects of life. What is required is a Theory of Everything for Everyone for what can be applied to the depths of a Black Hole should also be able to be applied to our everyday activities.

David Cuthill - Theories of Everything
I think this programme was one of the best of the series so far. MB gives the contributors the freedom to talk in their own language without pulling punches or the usual media condescentions. TV would have had irritating background music and soundfx thank goodness for plain full-strength intelligent discussion. It filled in answers to many of my own questions and has given me areas to follow up on. esp. the self-reference problems and the conundrum that we appear to be made of things that don't exist all the time... This series can only be fully appreciated by reference to the website archive material, which is always available and doesn't disappear like the usual BBC 'listen again' programme rota. Well done MB and production staff, and the boffins! Also some fascinating in-depth comments in other posts to the debate.

Terence Walls - Theory of everything
Does a 10 (or 11) dimensional, membraneous multiverse evoke thoughts of Ptolomeic epicycles and their eventual overthrow by a simplified Copernican system. Is 'string theory' the 'simplified solution', is is it too, due for a similar fate? Our intuitions about the nature of space and time; the idea of a curvature of nothingness and gravity acting at a distance, must be due for review. If the four fundamental laws were once unified in a 'singularity' then perhaps the singularity still obtain and our intuitions (evolved over geological time and perhaps as redundant as the apendix) may mislead us as to the real nature of nature.

Graham Lancaster
The fundamental question for me has always been, what was it that caused the universe to transform from an immensly dense infinitesibly small entity to a less dense and larger entity after the big bang. It was then a comment made by one of the contributors made me think. The idea that for string theory to work there has to be up to 10 dimensions and the idea that lost energy may escape to other non visible dimensions. Maybe pre big bang, ours was one of the dimensions without physical form whilst other dimensions existed perhaps leaking energy to ours; and maybe this leaked energy was the catalyst for our own big bang (what does the panel think)

Frank Philpot Theory of everything
I listened with trepidation, had the Physics comunity picked up on my ideas and published them off their own bat? No need to worry, this program was just as empty of answers as all the others. As yet I have not been able to interest Mr Bragg in my explanation. I will just mention here that I will give a talk entitled the 'Universe Revealed'. T be held on 28th April at 10:00 am at the Hillsea Collage of further education Near Portsmouth.

Graham Lancaster - The theorgy of everything
Immensely complex subject matter brilliantly illuminated speaking as a listener without so much as a GCSE in physics I still managed to grasp the main planks of the discussion.. communication par excellence

Mark O'Dowd-Booth - Theories of everything
This programme caught me by surprise! once I started to listen I could'nt stop. It has altered my view of life the universe and everything to some extent. Well done on an excellent programme.

Peter Young - Theories of Everything
Although the programme was an excellent example of ‘stories told by scientists’, this was very one-sided in its approach, and there was no understanding at all of the futility of searching for theories of everything. It is a pity that other points of view were not represented – or even acknowledged by the speakers or even by Melvyn Bragg. This is a sad case of failing to join up the thinking. On 29 December 2003, in ‘Start the Week’, the philosopher Hilary Lawson was speaking about the failure of such grand schemes, which he calls “the Great Project” in his transformational book (2001) “Closure: A Story of Everything” page xxvii. There was mention that Stephen Hawking had changed his mind on such theories, but no mention that Lawson’s article published in Prospect magazine November 2001, entitled “Stephen Hawking is wrong,” and explaining quite lucidly why this is so. Now that we are more understanding of what it means to live in a postmodern world, it is time we explore postmodern ideas when it comes to understanding the stories that scientists tell, and which tend to be dominant in our Western culture.

damian - make extended discussions available online
i am a subscriber to the newsletter and in several recent postings mr bragg has written that the conversation often continues after the programme has finished and it's a pity we (the audience) couldn't get to hear it. would it be possible to continue recording the show for as long as seems appropriate at the time and then make that full recording available online. it appears as if the audio encoding is done from the "on air" signal probably some distance from the studio where the discussion takes place and this idea depends on there being someone being able to encode the audio within the studio.

ismail karamka : A THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Imagination is our most powerful tool,eg we may ponder ideas like infinte speed or density, time travel. Where mathemtics comes in, the idea becomes a conjecture wanting of proof,if it comes. When a proof arrives we call our conjecture a theorem and thus elevate our intial idea into a 'grand-law' which soon becomes a mantra for the interested masses. I have often seen Godel's Incompleteness Theorem as a mathematical representation of the limitations of human thought and hence limitations of our imagination- limited on the basis that certain questions remain undecidable or non-decidable ie in some cases we cannot show whether a statement is true or false. So, the question becomes: does the theory of everthing belong to such a class of non-decidable statements? One of the most arcane but brilliant pieces of mathemantics to come out of the 20th century was Godel's Incompletenss Theroem which in time will be shown to be the most important piece of mathemtics since the days of non-euclidean geometry. If i may suggest that a whole programme be dedicated to Godel and his ideas in the context of 'human thought and its limitations'. Some how i do not think humans are limited by their imaginings, but then again i am human and fallible. Again, well done to Mr Bragg and his excellent team -thank you .

In Our Time
Working from home, my self-discipline is, I think, exemplary. Not, however, where In Our Time is concerned. It is responsible for me not leaving my radio until 9:45 every Thursday - dull old work has to wait while I get my weekly shot of sheer intellectual delight. A brilliant programme, totally unmissable.

David Pollard - String Theory
Today's programme was well made, as ever - thank you. But, as a maverick physicist, I was saddened by the apparent lack of understanding of Goedel's theorem, and its implications. Perhaps it will be possible to cover this interesting intersection of physics and philosophy in a future programme. Simpler and more powerful theories of the structure of time, space and matter may well develop. Must not a true 'theory of everything', however, also encompass consciousness? 'Cogito ergo sum' surely underlies all observation; despite the circularities of reasoning that this self-evident truth often engenders. Stephen Hawking appears to have freed himself from the shackles of reductionism and physicalism . Might we hear from him and/or others of similar ilk?

greg powell - thanks melvin
by airing these programs to many thousands of people the bbc is doing a great service. thank you bbc and in particular thank you melvyn bragg. may i also take this opportunity to say thank you brian greene. the beauty of physics is breath taking , and the work of the thousands of string theorists in the translation of natures poetry must be acknowleged with deep gratitude, in particular we all must be thankful for the genius of ed witten.

John Many thanks to Melvyn and his team for providing non-specialists with a partial insight into the cutting edge of science, history, arts etc. It's a shame television cannot provide serious programmes such as this. Please BBC radio provide more of the same.

Derek Revill - Theories of Everything
A really enjoyable program. Fascinating stuff with the participants particularly good at putting across the main ideas. It was a pleasure to hear a quality discussion of some of the issues that today's theoretical and experimental physisists are exploring and grappling with. It was also good to hear a succinct review of the developments in physics of the last century that have lead to the point we now at. I think this sort of discussion really helps to improve the often struggling image of physics (and indeed the other sciences). In my view discussion of the sciences are so often eschewd across all the media in favour of arts and politics. BBC/Radio 4 please don't fear that people aren't intelligent enough to hear this stuff, keep it up!

Theories of Everything - Jean Vidler
Nice explanation of why quantum theory & general relativity theories are hard to fit together. Lots of different physics topics were covered - enough for two programmes really. I would like a programme comparing inflation theory and variable speed of light theory.

Paul WIlliams - confused chat
I felt sorry for any non-physicists who might have been listening this week. Mr Bragg grappled with the guests for while, trying to get them to explain why multi-dimensions should have any clues for string-theory 'proof'. It was only after an agonising few minutes that someone FINALLY piped up that string theory happens to need at least 9/10 dimensions for its maths to work!

sally long....universal laws
consistent with our monotheistic culture it is usually assumed that 'universal laws' are immutable and invariable...this is only an assumption. if the velocity of light has varied it would affect much of our cosmology, but would it affect string theory?

M. A. CHERIAN//Theories of Everything
Would a panellist or anyone else give a derivation of the quoted formula e=mc2, stating the units and the error bounds in the values of e for two or three values of m? (This was not found in any book]. Thank you

Jan Newel-Lewis - "everything"
Dear Mr Bragg - these programmes are such brilliant stuff! I want to soak them all up, they're all so stimulating, even topics I don't normally seek are gripping and encourage a fizz of ideas. Thank you. I wonder whether the debates themselves foster further understanding even amongst the wonderful and eminent experts you collect in the studio. Listening to today's in the car, I was struck by the coincidental correlation between an idea at the cutting edge of physics, and a mythic description of creation in Tolkien's great saga. The description of string theory mentioned fundamental particals as vibrating strings: different vibrations would characterize different particals. This suggests an idea of matter behing composed of harmonies (or perhaps dischords) certainly chords. If one could 'hear' them what would they sound like? In JRR Tolkien's creationist myth described in his book The Simarilion he describes a God-like figure, who out of nothing creates a sound, which over time becomes ever richer and more complex, and this 'music' is matter. In creating life he toils to compose and orchestrate even richer more beautiful 'music' needed to describe complexities beyond matter alone. I'm sure he's not the only one to refer to creation in musical terms, but it's interesting to learn that scientists, in some ways, in seeking to describe time and the fundamental existence of everything, may yet discover an expression that supports these mythic concepts. On another tack - your panel proposed the concept of more than 3 dimensions, the existence of which may be practically/experimentally be proven if energy(matter) is not conserved under certain conditions, and that the dissipated energy has been leaked to another dimension. Would it therefore not be concievable that the reverse could happen too - ie that material could leak into our dimensions - somehow spontaneously appearing? (or did it only happen once - at the beginning?. I don't know - they should broadcast your show in pubs. Great stuff. Thanks. jnl

Jenny Balfour-Paul - theories of everything
Thanks heavens for radio and interesting and challenging programmes such as today's (I am not a scientist)- keep it up please, there is so little worth watching on television nowadays.

Martin Sheehan - Melvyn and "Everything"
You always do the best programmes, Mr Bragg. I went to Rome to see the Tallis Scholars do a 400th Anniversary of Pallistrina gig after one of your South Bank Shows (took my Mum, as my wife wasn't so interested - Mum loved it :-) You've just covered my next favourite topic to music - Physics. What could be more fascinating than trying to work out how things really are. THANK YOU.

RKCook The Theory of Everything
One of your contributors asserted today that mathematics is the only subject which is infinite. Well, mathematicians are hardly the people to argue with about infinity. They have devised a language which is inaccessible to most of us and so we must simply accept their assertions, including the one that their hieroglyphics have any meaning at all, but not necessarily that one. Their subject is quite interesting and may be useful. It is even quite possibly infinite, one of the ways of exploring a universe which is also quite possibly infinite and therefore one would have said by definition inexplicable. But what of literature, philosophy, psychology, history . . . . ? Perhaps we might say that mathematics, like them, is infinite within limits and that sticking to string theory, we’ll just get tied up in knots. Or is that the oldest joke in the universes? However many there are.

Tony Woodd Holy Grail of Physics
Thankyou Melvyn and participants....Fasinating stuff..It is possible that the dark matter mentioned in the program is not apparent because it is of a higher order/frequency/speed of energy and maybe is only apparent to a higher order of consciousness..a point in the awareness of reality,at which,we have a better understanding of what religion should be about....

Theories of everything - Jeff York
I'd simply like to thank Mr Bragg for having the courage to explore such an esoteric subject as superstring theory on a "popular" radio program. It was most enjoyable and a very pleasant change from the BBC's normal obsession with "the arts".

Judith Gay - Theories of everything
Science was not taught at our girls-only convent school, but I loved mathematics (studied it for 2 years at university),so I am enthralled by these programmes. The explanation of String Theory was particularly interesting as I had come accross the (for me)novel notion in recent studies on strategic management. I was,therefore, much comforted when Melvyn Bragg challenged one of the team for a detailed explanation of the it. I'd love to hear more of this type of debate on the BBC. Thank you Melvyn!

John Vickerstaff
Today’s programme enlightened us as to the incredibly strange world of matter at the very inception of the Universe. Fantastic densities , in an unbelievably small package. Then the whole thing blew apart. The study of quantum physics lets us look at the processes taking place millionths of a second after the Big Bang and beyond. It is considered that the Universe established itself within those first few seconds. Why then did the expansion out accelerate the speed of light?

deirdre mearns - an addendum to my last post
......do theorists speculate that temperature travels through all the dimensions, like gravity, in a similarly subjective 'state'?

Keith Beal - Unifying Theory
We think of existence in terms of particles and energy, but what if there are no such phenomena? There is not such a thing as space. There is only constance which could be likened to a rubber sheet as suggested in another part of your program. Within or upon this constant sheet there occurs vibrations, some of which are particles and some energy. They are only defined in the first instance by there later effect. This is somewhat akin to string theory. The hitherto thought of space in between, which we could then define as constance, could then be the dark matter that we can not at the moment explain. The instantaneous transfer of particles from one orbit to another as in sub atomic physics could then be analogeous to the functioning of a bicycle break cable. When you press down at one end it automatically pops up at the other. If we have to unify the laws of physics in the larger universe with those of sub atomic physics why do we have to start with there being set patens of the aforesaid vibrations. If there is an infinite possibility of patens in these vibrations, perhaps what we see as laws in the large universe are only statistical arc of all possibilities and concentrating on the most numerous occurrences. Social scientists, and indeed biologists accept the idea of randomness( in their theories of evolution), which they corelate in order to see reality. Why should not physicists take a leaf out of their books?

John Plumb - today's programme
Melvyn Bragg should be congratulated on the quality of this morning's edition of In Our Time. It had the aspiration and intellectual high quality reminiscent of Start the Week, when he chaired that programme, rather than the populist journalistic rubbish of some current programmes of this nature.

deirdre mearns - theory of everything
A most interesting programme. I'm looking forward to the Cern accelorator opening to bash those particles together and gives us more information. Being a total amateur and interested observer/listener I would like to ask a question (one a child would ask, as the late great Einstein used to do!). Although I quite understand hot and cold to be energy, are they subjective? What I mean is, unlike gravity, do the theorists speculate they may be something different in other dimensions? Like a flatworlder crossing a crumple on a piece of paper and feeling it as a 'force'. The reason I ask is that temperature is so important in the formation of matter, do extra equations need to be added to the superstring to allow for this .....or is the heat and the rate of vibration the same thing?

C.Clark Unifying theories
If 'universes' divided at the level of the smallest unit (particle or string) so that, whatever state (in terms of uncertainty) each is in, it exists,would this bridge the gap? Thus our reality (within which we can receive data)would be limited (at any one time)to one of these but we are able to postulate others.Would that mean that everything which could exist does,simultaneously,and the perceived material world moves across this, depending on the choises of action?.

Sue Hibbert Theory of everything
Fascinating programme - making the subject intelligible (just) to the layman. What a wonderful antidote to depressing world news such a programme is!

Guy Grantham - Theories of Everything
Please, please, please interview Prof M. Simhony about his electron positron lattice (epola) model of space. This model explains gravity and calculates those values known as the 'universal constants' such as vel. of light and F.S.C. of space from the local nature of the epola. The proof is already there by proper scentific interpretation of exisiting 'classical' experiments with the advantage of hindsight. For instance, since Rutherford in 1933 we know that Einstein's Relativity theories were based on undesirable avoidance of half-truths about Faraday's/Maxwell's (et al.) mysterious aether. Eddington's explanation of gravity as being a rubber sheet table top describes the behaviour of the epola. Again we hear the standard model scientists saying they only need to find another piece of evidence... Their whole models of Relativity and QM are flawed from the start. Please see www.epola.co.uk for lots more info (esp. Intro section for evidence of epola and the FAQ section for discussion points and for links to Simhony. An interview or challenge of Simhony with standard model physicists also could focus on the hindrance of new ideas by the scientific establishment and invested interests in such big spenders as CERN.

Tony Wright
Relativity thery depends on constancy of speed of light. How did Einstein/Maxwell know this to be the case? Cosmology always treats temperature as a given. What is it, a particle, wave etc? How does anti-matter fit into string theory?

Paul Drysdale......3 dimensional time
I conceive of time in three dimensions. From the BB, as space expanded in three dimensions, so did time (with help from Heisenberg) giving us a virtual infinite number of parallel universes. This conception helps me to visualise the 4th 5th and 6th dimensions, after that I get a little hazy.

John Arnold - Brave and Fascinating
Todays In Our Time covering The Theory of Everything was difficult, brave and fascinating. The programme wandered frequently in and out of the realm of layman's understanding. This left me with the feeling that this was a real intellectual delve into the subject rather than the veneer we've all become used to from the media. Well done on tackling the subject and thank you to Mr Bragg and the guests for making it so interesting.

Pete Scales - Theory of Everything
Don't you need to know everything in order to have a theory of it? How would you know when you know everything?

John Spencer - A Great Programme
Today's programme was brilliant. Your speakers made complexity clear. Thank you for such high quality broadcasting.

Today's programme
What a great programme on a fascinating subject made so understandable by your excellent lucid contributors. Well worth the licence fee

Mark Bridger : Theories of everything
There is an assumption that a useful theory of everything will come from scientists and that it will be expressed in some equation, but an equation is at best only a description or a model of reality and at worst it is a mistaken or incomplete model of reality. In a theory of everything we are not looking for a model of reality but for an explanation of why and how that reality exists. As an artist one carries the resource of a model of reality in one's heart or psyche and refreshes it by contemplating reality and comparing it with the thoughts and expressions of the imagination. In this way I developed my own theory of everything, drawn from 'knowledge' that the universe is infinite and eternal. Coicidentally or serendipitously my theory, expressed in my paintings, will be on show at an exhibition at the Ark-T Centre in Oxford from April 2nd, where Lord Bragg will be on tuesday 23rd March to open a cafe, so he will get to see my painting "The Everythingness" (aka "The Cosmic Flag")

Listen Live
Audio Help

In Our Time

Message Board

Join the  debate on the
BBC History messageboard
DON'T MISS
In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
RELATED PROGRAMMES
This Sceptred Isle
USEFUL LINKS
www.bbc.co.uk/history
PRESENTER
Melvyn Bragg

BIOGRAPHY

See Also

Elsewhere on bbc.co.uk

BBC History

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites

Don't Miss

In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg

Thursday, 9.00 - 9.45am, rpt 9.30pm
Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas.
Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.


News & Current Affairs | Arts & Drama | Comedy & Quizzes | Science | Religion & Ethics | History | Factual

Back to top

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy