Table of Contents
.......The Elegant Universe

THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
Chapter 11 - Tearing the Fabric of Space
Late Nights at Einstein's Final Stomping Ground
Edward Witten's razor-sharp intellect is clothed in a soft-spoken demeanor that often has a wry, almost ironic, edge. He is widely regarded as Einstein's successor in the role of the world's greatest living physicist. Some would go even further and describe him as the greatest physicist of all time. He has an insatiable appetite for cutting-edge physics problems and he wields tremendous influence in setting the direction of research in string theory.

The breadth and depth of Witten's productivity is legendary. His wife, Chiara Nappi, who is also a physicist at the Institute, paints a picture of Witten sitting at their kitchen table, mentally probing the edge of string theory knowledge, and only now and then returning to pick up pen and paper to verify an elusive detail or two. 3 Another story is told by a post-doctoral fellow who, one summer, had an office next to Witten's. He describes the unsettling juxtaposition of laboriously struggling with complex string theory calculations at his desk while hearing the incessant rhythmic patter of Witten's keyboard, as paper after groundbreaking paper poured forth directly from mind to computer file.

A week or so after I arrived, Witten and I were chatting in the Institute's courtyard, and he asked about my research plans. I told him about the space-tearing flops and the strategy we were planning to pursue. He lit up upon hearing the ideas, but cautioned that he thought the calculations would be horrendously difficult. He also pointed out a potential weak link in the strategy I described, having to do with some work I had done a few years earlier with Vafa and Warner. The issue he raised turned out to be only tangential to our approach for understanding flops, but it started him thinking about what ultimately turned out to be related and complementary issues.

Aspinwall, Morrison, and I decided to split our calculation in two pieces. At first a natural division might have seemed to involve first extracting the physics associated with the final Calabi-Yau shape from the upper row of Figure 11.5, and then doing the same for the final Calabi-Yau shape from the lower row of Figure 11.5. If the mirror relationship is not shattered by the tear in the upper Calabi-Yau, then these two final Calabi-Yau shapes should yield identical physics, just like the two initial Calabi-Yau shapes from which they evolved. (This way of phrasing the problem avoids doing any of the very difficult calculations involving the upper Calabi-Yau shape just when it tears.) It turns out, though, that calculating the physics associated with the final Calabi-Yau shape in the upper row is pretty straightforward. The real difficulty in carrying out this program lies in first figuring out the precise shape of the final Calabi-Yau space in the lower row of Figure 11.5—the putative mirror of the upper Calabi-Yau—and then in extracting the associated physics.

A procedure for accomplishing the second task—extracting the physical features of the final Calabi-Yau space in the lower row, once its shape was precisely known had been worked out a few years earlier by Candelas. His approach, however, was calculationally intensive and we realized that it would require a clever computer program to carry it out in our explicit example. Aspinwall, who in addition to being a renowned physicist is a crackerjack programmer, took on this task. Morrison and I set out to accomplish the first task, namely, to identify the precise shape of the candidate mirror Calabi-Yau space.

It was here that we felt Batyrev's work could provide us some important clues. Once again, though, the cultural divide between mathematics and physics—in this case, between Morrison and me—started to impede progress. We needed to join the power of the two fields to find the mathematical form of the lower Calabi-Yau shapes that should correspond to the same physical universe as the upper Calabi-Yau shapes, if flop tears are within nature's repertoire. But neither of us was sufficiently conversant in the other's language to see clear to reaching this end. It became obvious to both of us that we needed to bite the bullet: Each of us needed to take a crash course in the other's field of expertise. And so, we decided to spend our days pushing forward as best we could on the calculation, while spending evenings being both professor and student in a class of one: I would lecture to Morrison for an hour or two on the relevant physics; he would then lecture to me for an hour or two on the relevant mathematics. School would typically let out at about 11 P.M.

We stuck to the program, day in and day out. Progress was slow, but we could sense that things were starting to fall into place. Meanwhile, Witten was making significant headway on reformulating the weak link he had earlier identified. His work was establishing a new and more powerful method of translation between the physics of string theory and the mathematics of the Calabi-Yau spaces. Aspinwall, Morrison, and I had almost daily impromptu meetings with Witten at which he would show us new insights following from his approach. As the weeks went by, it gradually became clear that unexpectedly, his work, from a vantage point completely different from our own, was converging on the issue of flop transitions. Aspinwall, Morrison, and I realized that if we didn't complete our calculation soon, Witten would beat us to the punch.
Table of Contents
.......The Elegant Universe