Saturday, April 28, 2012

String Theory and the Vedanta Sutra

I'm the last person to claim erudition in either String Theory or in the Vedas. I am, what you may call, an interested party observing the Intelligent Design vs Evolution debate like a tennis match.

However, last week  when I heard this TED talk given by Dr. Brian Greene I felt I had to jump in with an observation.
That the scientific community and the scriptures are saying the same thing is in itself not so earth shattering an observation because many have concluded this before. But when I hear  Dr. Greene talk about a Multiverse and then I listen to Ved Vyas talk about सहस्त्र ब्रम्हांड (Sahastra Bramhand) while reading the Bhagvad Gita, I feel compelled to list out the parallels between the two approaches.

Dr. Greene speaks in English with Latin references and Mr. Vyas in Sanskrit

Dr. Greene wears a coat and tie; Mr. Vyas has an indeterminate wardrobe.

Both these gentlemen are leaders in their fields having spent countless years pouring over sources of knowledge to uncover the nature of reality.

Dr. Greene relies on inductive reasoning whereas Mr. Vyas uses deductive reasoning.

Dumbing-down of the principles:
Since the subject of explaining reality is no trivial matter, both these gentlemen attempt to dumb down their explanation for the laity.
Dr. Greene uses graduate students to make colorful slides with sound effects that  then depict colliding galaxies and dark matter in a star-wars like manner.
Mr. Vyas uses descriptions of rituals and vedic rites that dumb down the underlying principles espoused in the Vedas that are difficult to grasp.

Standing on the shoulders of giants:
Both Dr. Greene and Mr. Vyas attribute their success to entities before them. Dr. Greene waxes eloquent on the work done by such luminaries as Galileo, Newton, Neils Bohr, Hisenberg etc. Mr. Vyas on the other hand, names many past sages and saints of a time before his. The subtle difference is that Dr. Greene's predecessors are arrayed from less knowledgeable to more knowledgeable as time goes on whereas Ved Vyas relies on each predecessor being progressively less knowledgeable as the arrow of time advances. So, while Galileo was not as knowledgeable  as Newton, who was a not as knowledgeable as Einstein, Ved Vyas's bases his theory on each saint, going backward in time knowing more than his descendant, all the way to the final saint who he calls God, the all-knowing.

Multidimensional reality:
Both gentlemen use the concept of a multidimensional reality to explain what would commonly seem nonsensical. When the Vedas talk of God being timeless, or the soul being ever-lasting, they are talking of a reality where the time dimension does not exist. When Dr. Greene talks of  various "shapes" in this TED talk, he is talking about more then 3 dimensions of space. Using neighborhood theory, dimensions can be defined as how many points are next to every other point in a lattice grid. Four points implies 2 dimensional, 6 points implies 3 dimensional.  Every point next to every other point implies infinite dimensional.  So when Mr. Ved Vyas' talks of God being everywhere at the same time, he is talking about an infinite-shape reality, much like what  Dr. Greene has shown in his talk.

Having said all that, and shown how both the camps are making equally fantastic claims, I have to  say that I'm rooting for Mr. Vyas.
Why is that?
There are a couple of reasons:

  1. Given that both camps make equally fantastic claims, if one hypothesis offers all the answers that explain everything, not only material reality but our thoughts and all aspects of our existence, whereas the other suggests that answers are coming in the future (which is indeterminate), I would tend to go for the former.
  2. Dr. Green in his talk, says this is a great time for astronomical research because in the future, galaxies will cross the time horizon and no longer be available for study. He also goes on to say that future scientists may treat our evidence primitive and unreliable. So, that, kind of puts a damper on the theory that given eternity, all answers will come. 
  3. There is a fundamental dimension missing in research in our "scientific" circle. That dimension is consciousness. We all know we are conscious and feel conscious. However, based on the fact that this area of study receives a proportionately low level of  research grants, tells me that we are probably never going to represent reality in it's totality using just the mainstream scientific method.