Greene reveals 'Fabric of the Cosmos' on 'NOVA'

Strangely enough, the exotic ideas of theoretical physics turn out to be as appealing, or even more so, to the public than the more down-to-earth sciences of biology, geology or even chemistry (which cooks and bakers do every day).

"The ideas are so wild," says physicist Brian Greene, "that they immediately capture the imagination, whereas it's more of a challenge to bring chemistry to a general audience. … It feels less wondrous. It isn't less wondrous, but it doesn't feel that way."

A professor at Columbia University in New York, Greene has written books about theoretical physics meant for a wider audience, including "The Elegant Universe," which was made into a PBS special.

Now Greene has returned to PBS, starting Wednesday, Nov. 2 (check local listings), with a four-part "NOVA" miniseries based on another of his books, "The Fabric of the Cosmos." It's meant to explain the ways in which scientists currently understand the structure of space and time -- and why the way ordinary people think about them may be entirely wrong.

In his books and on television, Greene is known for his use of analogies and computer graphics to walk viewers through out-of-the-box concepts. That continues with "The Fabric of the Cosmos."

The new series also benefits from what he learned from "The Elegant Universe."

"In the five to 10 thousand emails that the show generated," he says, "the questions were so good that people couldn't have asked those questions if they weren't understanding much of the central ideas that the show was trying to communicate.

"The lesson we learned was that if you have potent visuals, that even very abstract and complex ideas can be absorbed. It's really a matter of framing them in the right visual language.

"The wonderful thing, in writing the book, many of the ideas I discuss are difficult, and it takes many pages to even describe the analogy. The powerful thing about doing this in television is sometimes it's far easier to do it on television, because one potent image can capture three pages of text."