string theory (for beginners)

“For the uninitiated and the curious, string theory is a concept in physics which explains why you cannot walk through walls à la Men Who Stare At Goats. It has its own website and vocabulary (confusing vocabulary) and threatens to expose the great meaning of everything.”

string theory: “chaos and string theory
painted cotton yarn

The last few weeks of creative block have been um … interesting. Usually I can kick start the process with some old standards or by working in a different medium, but this dry spell has been all-encompassing 😦

Last weekend I felt inspiration creeping back. I converted some of my very boring yarn stash into less boring, less white versions of the same by handpainting some hanks. Lack of skill, technique, equipment and so on was no obstacle but the resulting knotted string soup hammered home the ‘thou shalt tie thy hanks securely’ message.

It also reminded me that I knew nothing about string theory.

For the uninitiated and the curious, string theory is a concept in physics which explains why you cannot walk through walls à la Men Who Stare At Goats. It has its own website and vocabulary (confusing vocabulary) and threatens to expose the great meaning of everything.

According to string theory, electrons and other subatomic particles aren’t discrete zero dimensional objects. It ascribes physical characteristics to the paths they follow, rendering them as strings (or branes, a sort of membrane). These have characteristics, which alter the perspective of the viewer, and thus underlie the theory that one string could be seen as different subatomic particles depending on its oscillation or tension at that moment. The size of the string varies and is dependant on the tension it is under. You will no doubt be relieved that, although it can approach unity, a string will not become a single point as this would confound the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (or would it?).

In traditional particle physics this principle could theoretically be applied to almost describe a theoretical situation in which electrons and the spaces between them in two discrete masses were aligned thus allowing solid A to move through solid B. String theory explains why all you will get if you try to walk through walls is a bloody nose (unlike the X Files). Though not scientifically proven, lying in the la la land of the scientific mind that is theoretical physics (theoretical by virtue of there not being enough engineering on earth to build a research facility with sufficient frictionlessness and vacuum to test out even the most basic of models), string theory does however suggest that somewhere out there in academia, someone is feeding hash brownies to particle physicists. CERN is in fact a huge bakery and hydroponics lab. I won’t even mention the God particle or the 6th, 7th and 8th dimensions.

But that’s not what you’re here for! Hanks of Cottonease were handpainted with dilute acrylic solutions after pre-washing in a 1:3 vinegar solution. Fibres were heat set for approximately 3 minutes on full in the microwave before tumble drying, then rinsed thoroughly to remove unconjugated dye particles. The colour is very much paler than the initial paint session. My technique needs a little tweaking, or maybe the fibre doesn’t obey the elementary rules of string theory in the first place. Anyway, they’ll make a nice scarf.

chaos and string theory



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