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Einstein's amateur popularizer in Florida sketched 10D (stringy) spacetime in 1928

Thanks to Willie Soon, Paul Halpern.

St Petersburg Times, Sunday, November 11th, 1928
Guest blog by John Nations, 3141 Twenty-sixth avenue South, City (St. Petersburg), Nov. 9, 1928

Mr Nations played with glimpses of string theory in 1928 and in that year, Lonnie Johnson recorded "Playing with the strings" about that achievement.

Open forum (on the right side from the picture)

Editor The Times:

A lot of people believe that Einstein is as transparent as boiler iron, one able authority estimating roughly that at least eight people in the world understand him.

This should not be considered a disparagement. Those who understand Einstein can easily vindicate themselves by explaining him in "street" terms to those who avoid the subject for the sake of two things, honesty and delicacy. Those who admit that they understand Einstein might choose to tell just what would happen if an Antares should derail and go through the curve where space "curves around." It is beyond the small comprehensive powers of a large group, just what would happen to that great orb should it become entangled in a void of nothingness that isn't even space. When Mr. Einstein declares that space is not infinite but curves around, that settles it for those with broad vision, but not for the great masses who insist upon speculating upon what exists just outside the "curve" where space is claimed to stop.

And as to time being the fourth dimension, a lot of ignorant folks might say that it is as good name for it as anything, but they might also ask about the ninth dimension or the tenth—not yet being reconciled to the fact that there has to be a fourth dimension tucked away somewhere in time, space or music, and figuring that since there is bound to be a fourth dimension there is bound to be a sixteenth dimension, since one is quite as reasonable as the other to their small conception.

[Bold face added by LM for emphasis.]

A concise explanation of Einstein's theory of relativity would doubtless be appreciated by thousands of people, but anyone attempting an explanation should refrain from Einsteinian phraseology—the big crowd doesn't understand that. For instance, in attempting to explain the location and predicament of Antares should that orb break jail and plunge through Einstein's "curve 'around'" it would not be advisable to say: Function measured in speed, amplitude, frequency, infrequency etc.; nor that Antares bumped into fourth dimension and rebounded like a hailstone off a greenhouse.

Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" premiered in 1928. Bolero is from Spanish "bula" (ball, whirling motion).

That might all be to the point but so many could not understand. It would be more tenable, less abstruse, if explained in terms indigenous of the ignorant. Many of the ignorant persist in the belief that time and space are brothers and infinite, and when they are told that either space or time is limited they are sure to ask about what is outside of space or, after time ceases how long such a condition can prevail—it is very difficult to explain those simple little details so that the average man can grasp your meaning.

It is easy to state that Einstein is simple and clear and unerring, and not so difficult to explain him in terms that you do not understand yourself—that is the usual way it is done. It sometimes scares the crowd and makes them envious of your deep insight, but when a poor, dumb fellow who has been too weak to grasp the impossibility of attaching a meaning to your baffling claims, asks you some of these simple questions about what happens after time ends or outside the domains of space, it is comfortable to have a long list of scrambled, incoherent words already prepared to smother him or he will cause you trouble.

3141 Twenty-sixth avenue South, City, Nov. 9, 1928


\left(\beta mc^2 + c\left(\sum_{n \mathop =1}^{3}\alpha_n p_n\right)\right) \psi (x,t) = i \hbar \frac{\partial\psi(x,t) }{\partial t}

\] The (original) Dirac equation above was also published in 1928. Too bad, Mr Dirac didn't cooperate with Mr Nations. They could have obtained string theory (or the superstring) 40 or 45 years earlier.

LM: Thanks for the nice contribution, John, and sorry for the delay before I published this guest blog. I guess that you are already dead by now and your house seems to be replaced by a highway. But if I understood you well, you recommend popularizers of relativity to start with plain English but switch to the fancy technical language as soon as the audience starts to ask something, even if the speaker doesn't understand the meaning of these fancy words, just to reduce the annoying questions. Clever. ;-)

Concerning the 9 spatial or 10 spacetime dimensions of string theory, it seems that you (or the people who annoyed you with obvious questions) found them as straightforward and as valid as the curved and possibly compact topology of the spacetime according to general relativity. It was a great guess. Indeed, when combined with the entanglement of quantum mechanics, when music of string theory and perhaps Antares are allowed, and when the Woit of nothingness is eliminated, Einstein's general relativity implies string theory with its 10-dimensional spacetime. Did you have a proof or did you guess? I am asking because even now, almost 90 years after your letter, I only have a partial proof of your statement.

Thanks, I will probably need a truly compact spacetime with closed time-like curves to get the answers from you.

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