A Journey Through the Soul of Theoretical Physics
In this unorthodox journey through the austere landscapes of theoretical physics we encounter abstractions that are as exciting as any great work of poetry. Poetry and physics are ways of experimenting with the truth, admittedly by different methods, both guided and sustained by a strong belief in the power of abstract form, and driven by a sense of urgency of the matter at hand. Yet the greatest creativity arises when working within practical and formal constraints without being oppressed by them, and in physics this has led to the most astonishing imagery. For what is a field, really, or a point particle, or a light ray? Look deeply into the reality behind any of these abstractions and they begin to melt away, like rainbows that can be seen but never reached. And yet, these concepts have been deeply powerful, taking us beyond the familiar into the unknown. In this talk we will examine some of the methods used by theorists to create a tangential reality in which known facts can be understood and unknown facts predicted. This tangential reality, it is argued, may well be an illusion - but one that is truer than the literal truth.