Look out, it’s a twistor

Looked up Roger Penrose’s Twistor Theory after seeing this beautiful diagram in the SNS newsletter.

SNS head honch Mark Anderson’s brief is that three ideas – let’s call them Shape, Wave, and Resonance – are all we need to explain reality: none of that tedious mucking about in 10, 11, or 12 dimensions that characterises string theory. He uses Penrose’s Twistor Theory to illustrate how great life would be if we thought of things as patterns of interacting waves, rather than treating the waves as a side effect. (That picture’s actually a wave, just viewed as the shape it makes over time rather than the peaks and troughs you see on a sine graph.)

Looking at things this way brings us to a theory of Shape – and how some shapes are better fitted to handle wave interactions than others. On one level, it’s the difference between a jet’s nosecone and a skydiver’s canopy: shapes designed to interact with a medium (air.) On a deeper level, it’s the physics of surface area and waveguides: already seen in dense wave-division multiplexing network switches, and ultimately we’ll apply it to the atomic scale, carbon nanotubes used as capacitors and drug delivery mechanisms.

The trouble is, when I tried to get a grip on Twistor Theory to understand this stuff, I got sentences like “the mathematical theory which maps the geometric objects of the four dimensional space-time (Minkowski space) into the geometric objects in the 4-dimensional complex space with the metric signature“. Which sounds less like a solid theory, and more like a mathematician having a laugh at my expense. And I thought Corporate Finance was hard…

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