If Michael Turner had known what he was in for, he might have stayed home. As the moderator of a debate held here last night at the National Museum of Natural History, the University of Chicago cosmologist had the unenviable task of trying to crown a winner in a match-up between Brian Greene and Lawrence Krauss, two physics heavyweights duking it out over the merits–or lack thereof–of the so-called Theory of Everything.
String theory assumes that elementary particles are tiny vibrating strings that exist in multiple dimensions. In trying to unite Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics, it hopes to answer mysteries about the beginning of the universe and the very nature of matter, energy, and time. The claims are deep, and opponents of the theory say the findings so far have been shallow, even nonexistent. Last night’s debate did little to settle the argument, but a packed house of academics, physics geeks, and just-curious laypeople seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless.