Your Tutor Today Is..
Curtis Menning is a retired
college professor in both mathematics and physics. Being retired, he has more time to explore
problems with students and to learn while they learn. He has graduate degrees both in mathematics
and physics from the University of Michigan (on Wolverines) and has taught at
several colleges in the State of Michigan including Delta College, Saginaw
Valley College (now a university), Muskegon Community College, Grand Valley
State and, more recently, with The University of Phoenix Online. The latter position provided many
techniques for teaching and distributing mathematics and science on the
Internet, or an online, environment. 

His formal education includes General Relativity, Cosmology, Astronomy, High Energy Particle Physics and, more recently, the mathematics of String Theory 

His favorite TV show is/was the CBS show Numbers which
began airing in 2005 and ended in 2009.
In the premier show, the script writer had the principle character
respond with the quip "After all, everything is numbers." Non mathematical viewers probably assumed
that was merely a poetic reference to math types seemingly finding numbers
just about anywhere and where there aren't any numbers the mathematician
merely invents a few. THAT IS NOT WHAT
THE SCRIPT WRITER MEANT. 

For nearly a century, cosmologists have assumed that
the Universe is constructed from protons, electrons and neutrons as the basic
building blocks. And we pretended to
"understand" what these fundamental particles are by listing a hand
full of their properties we were able to measure, like the electron is small
and negatively charged and the proton is larger and positively charged. But, a short list of their properties does
not really tell us what they are. 

For more than 30 years, particle physicists have known
that fundamental particles like electrons, protons and neutrons,
"vibrate, oscillate and resonate."
This is especially noticeable when you two fundamental particles
collide in a high energy accelerator.
For the most part, they behave like billiard balls and merely bounce
off each other. But, like the
harmonics on a violin string, when you hit certain frequencies, and multiples
thereof, the particles merge for a short time as a resonating mass which can
emit new particles with totally different properties. How can fundamental particles suddenly
change their properties? Clearly,
merely listing their properties does not tell us what they really are. 

The current thinking is that a fundamental particle,
such as an electron, is "NOT something that is vibrating" but that
"the vibration IS the electron."
It is the various modes and frequency of the vibrations that produce
the properties we so fondly list, such as its mass, spin and charge. String theorists like to summarize this
difference by describing the Universe as a "symphony of vibrating
strings." For conceptual purposes
only, if we could imagine a Grand Master of Vibrations controlling a switch
which, like the music in your iPod, or the hum of your computer modem, could
turn off all the vibrations in the Universe at once, then the Universe would
simply disappear. That is, the
Universe is the sum total of all these numerical vibrations. That
is what the script writer mentioned above really meant. Can you tell that the "electron" to the right
has 3 modes/axes of vibration? (For
spin, mass and charge properties??) 
