“Sid, be reasonable. Particle theory doesn’t predict the existence of a graviton but string theory does.”
Norman and Sid are old friends. They are also retired physicists and when they get together, they naturally debate over their passion.
“Ba, nu, gampa, gleg, *giggle*.”
I’ll say your granddaughter is really talkative today, Norman.”
Both men laughed.
“I wanted to give her parents a ‘date night’ and said I’d watch little Sophie.”
“She’s quite the cutie. How old now?”
“Just over sixteen months. The apple of my eye, Sid. But back to our conversation.”
“Conversation, sombersation, you know string theory isn’t the runaway winner and frankly, neither is particle theory. Both have problems with unification, and neither one solves the problem of predictable quantum gravity at D=4.”
“I’ll give you this, Sid. A composite graviton might be necessary to solve the gravity problem in particle theory. A string that is a composite…”
“Blah! “Goo, Ba, Nah, Gampa, Uh Oh!” Little Sophie, who was in her high chair being fed chicken and rice by Norman suddenly started yelling and slamming her hands on her tray, sending bits of her dinner on the floor as well as up into her hair.
“What’s gotten into her?”
“Beats me, Sid. I think she’s done with dinner. Hang on a second while I get a wash cloth to clean her up.”
Norman got up and left the table. Sid, a life-long bachelor who had nearly no experience with children, smiled at Sophie. “You sure are messy.” He made what he thought was a cute face at her and in response, she stuck her tongue out and pouted.
“Dumb grandpa and his friend. I keep trying to tell them that they’re both wrong. Neither one of them are considering loop quantum gravity which describes gravity as a lattice replacing the space-time continuum with a discrete set of…”
Sophie’s thoughts were interrupted by a wet washcloth being wiped across her face.
“Glub, No! Gampa!”
Sophie cried momentarily at this new indignity, and then let the old man remove the tray and pick her up. She hugged him. Sophie loved her Grampa. She just wished he wasn’t so stupid like the rest of the grown ups.
While many things can be inferred by the behavior of sixteen-month-olds, no one can really tell what they’re actually thinking or how they conceptualize the world around them. If any adult could, we’d realize that all babies are born with a completely accurate understanding of how the universe works, but as they learn their native language, culture, mores, and traditions, they start to lose all that. By the time they’re verbal enough to explain the knowledge they were born with, that knowledge is gone.
A shame for Norman and Sid. Locked inside Sophie’s brain were all the answers they’d been seeking for most of their lives.
I have no idea how to have a conversation about any of this, so I borrowed some “dialogue” from the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at the State University of New York. I hope they’ll forgive me.
I got the idea for this story when talking about my sixteen-month-old granddaughter with my son Michael (Uncle Mikey). There’s no way for us to tell if she’s trying to communicate when she verbalizes at us or if it’s just a collection of sounds unattached to ideas or meanings. I proposed that babies know everything when they’re born. They just have no way of telling us. We take that away from them when we teach them about all of our pre-conceived ideas.
That’s probably not true, but it would be interesting if it were.