Greene, Brian

Brian Greene

Department of Physics
Institute for String, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics

Columbia University, NYC

Books & Writings:
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
•  The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, 2004
World Science Festival
YouTube: Unraveling String Theory (and many, many others)

Our fourth message, Thursday, 31 January 2020 at 10:AM

Submitted online here:

We did a high school STEM project by applying base-2 starting with the Planck units and going to the current time in 202 notations:

Can you tell us the fallacy of our logic? The results are so idiosyncratic we feel caught in a Catch-22. Thank you.

Our chart:
Our very brief history:

Our third email: Monday, January 27, 2020 at 10 AM

RE: Our high school’s base-2 project from the Planck scale to the age of the universe

Dear Prof. Dr. Brian Greene:

Five years and a few days have passed since my last note to you. Five years!  I think about what a child learns in five years.

It was just about the time that we wrote up our STEM article. It didn’t help us much. Nobody commented. Nobody criticized. Nobody gave us new insights about what we were doing wrong. AAAS’s Science magazine editors, Nature, Scientific American, and many, many others ignored us. We just assumed we were too naive and we were missing something obvious.

We first wrote to you in June 2012, very early in the process of exploring base-2 from the Planck units to the age of the universe. We were barely six months into our study.

I yearn for somebody to set us straight. It would even be fun to receive an encouraging word. I know the work is idiosyncratic. Yet, are we idiots to be pursuing it?

Thank you.

Most sincerely,



Our second email: Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 12:33 PM

Dear Prof. Dr. Brian Greene:

Our first email to you (below) was sent on the suggestion of Paul Gilster of the Tau Zero Foundation (also below).  He wasn’t sure of the answer to my question so referred me to you (and asked that I forward your answer to him and gave us permission to include his note). 

Surely, life moves on. In December 2013 Frank Wilczek (MIT) said, “Yes, you can multiply the Planck Length by 2.”  Freeman Dyson did as well but also made the rather unusual suggestion that we should be multiplying by 8, not by 2.*

In January 2013 I had a chance to visit with Prof. Dr. Wilczek in his office and then six months later we had an early dinner at a restaurant not far from his summer retreat in New Hampshire where we talked about basic structure.  I was way over my head.

I would still be very interested in your answer to the question.  I suspect our email got lost within the many, many emails received as a result of the World Science Festival and all your books, videos, articles and websites. I also suspect that your email box is always filled!

Nevertheless, we’ll give it a go!

BTW, we have now charted Planck Time alongside our Planck Length: If Wilczek-Dyson are not quite correct, and multiplying any of the Planck units by 2 is not a good concept, it would be good to know that and to get on with my life!

Thank you.

Most sincerely,

* We knew we would be coming back to those questions over and over again, so we went on. We had to assume that the measurement could be multiplied by 2. We attributed that doubling to the thrust of life.1 So, now we have two points, or two vertices, or a line, and a larger space of some kind. Prof. Dr. Freeman Dyson 2 in a personal email suggests, “Since space has three dimensions, the number of points goes up by a factor eight, not two, when you double the scale.” We liked that idea; it would give us more breathing room. However, when we realized there would be an abundance of vertices, we decided to continue to multiply by two. We wanted to establish a simple platform using base-2 exponential notation especially because it seemed to mimic life’s cellular division and chemical bonding.

Our first email: Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Prof. Dr. Brian Greene
Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics (ISCAP)
Columbia University, NYC

Dear Prof. Dr. Brian Greene:

I have been chasing down more and more references to your work. I thank you for your scholarship. I am not a scholar, but I do appreciate good scholarship. In this past year, I have been introduced to Planck’s length in my research of basic structures. My simple question, “Is there any conceptual error in multiplying the Planck length by 2, exponential notation from its single point out to the edges of the observable universe?”  I was substituting for my nephew’s geometry classes and we were asking, “How many steps within can we go with nesting geometries before we hit the Planck length wall?  Then we asked how many doublings until we got to the edges of the Observable Universe.

It was great fun, but is it bad science? BTW, we found 202.34 notations or steps or doublings from the PL to the EOU.  We got a little help from a NASA scientist. A YES or NO answer would be a wonderful starting point. An explanation of NO would be extraordinarily informative. Thank you.

Bruce Camber

P.S. I am a television producer with over 51 seasons on PBS-TV nationwide and VOA-TV around the world. I am right now working on early-stage ideation for a new series.

Paul Gilster

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your message; it’s a pleasure to hear from you.

If I could answer your question, I would do so, but I don’t know the
answer. I would think the answer is “Yes, you can do this,” but
that we cannot know whether this assumption is valid at all scales
throughout the universe.

However — I’m a writer and not a physicist, so what I’m thinking
isn’t enough for you to go on here. Let me suggest that you take this
question straight to Brian Greene at Columbia. He’s usually quite good
about answering tough questions from readers. You can reach Dr. Greene
at (email provided).

And please, let me know what he says! I’d like to have the answer to
this myself.

Paul A. Gilster  |  Writer/Editor, Centauri Dreams  |
Lead Journalist, Tau Zero Foundation  |

“You accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.” — Lao Tzu

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