The Peanut Butter Problem in Theoretical Physics

I’ve always liked peanut butter. I’ve always liked science. One of my fondest memories is of being a child of elementary school age and getting up in the morning before anyone else in the house (which wasn’t easy with eight siblings), and reading science entries in the World Book Encyclopedia while eating a couple of triple-decker peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. It was a blissful time—though then, as now, big sandwiches were easier to digest than big ideas—when an insatiable curiosity was the biggest motivating factor in my life.

I still like big sandwiches and big ideas though my metabolism and brain have both slowed significantly, leaving me less able to process both. My eyes now are definitely, as my parents used to say, bigger than my stomach. No matter, I still try to take big bites of what interests me.

So here’s an essay in The Guardian (is it the last great newspaper?) about going big or small in theoretical physics, which uses peanut butter as an implicit metaphor, looking at two physicists whose opposing views on fundamental physics are described as smooth and chunky and who are separately engaged in experimental work to find evidence that reality is one or the other.

Of course, no matter what they find there will always be further problems as there generally are when peanut butter is involved—even metaphorically, it’s a sticky business—such as: White bread or whole wheat? Celery? Or just stick a spoon in the jar?

About John MacKenzie

I'll mumble for ya. Poetry, plus most things quantifiable: science, neuroscience, memory, epistemology, baseball. And so on.
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