Tech UPTechnologyScience in the Big Bang: What is String Theory?

Science in the Big Bang: What is String Theory?


String theory is one of the most widely discussed, complicated, and studied hypotheses in physics. In this chapter of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon discusses it with a new young student, which will help us take a deep dive into it and discover why it is so important to science.

String theory is one of the frameworks that attempts to reconcile general relativity with quantum theory, replacing point particles in particle physics with tiny vibrating one-dimensional strings.

String theory essentially explains that the entire universe, from the tiniest particle to the last star in space, is made up of a single type of ingredient: unimaginably tiny strands of energy called ‘strings’. Just as the strings of a violin provide a surprising variety of notes, each subatomic particle is born from one of the modes of vibration of a single type of force.


String Theory Strengths and Weaknesses

What theoretical physicists like best is that string theory seems to unite the two great physical theories of the 20th century, which previously seemed irreconcilable: Einstein’s theory of relativity, which tells us what gravity is and describes gravity. large-scale universe, and quantum mechanics, which explains the world of atoms.

But this theory has a couple of drawbacks that are difficult to solve: the first is that it predicts that we live in a world of ten dimensions (nine spatial and one temporal), of which our observable universe is a sheet of four dimensions (length, height, width and time). To justify our not seeing the other six, they say they are curled up on themselves. The second drawback is that this theory produces an overabundance of possible universes compatible with ours (millions of millions, which seems completely impossible.


Towards a ‘theory of everything’

Due to the inconsistencies in string theory, the desire of theoretical physicists is to come up with a theory that really unifies everything. The famous physicist and popularizer Stephen Hawking died without having succeeded, although he was working on the so-called M theory.

What is this theory about? An exhaustive classification showed the existence of five different consistent string theories, and it was not clear why nature would choose one in five. In 1995 it was proposed that the five consistent string theories are actually just different faces of a single theory that lives in eleven dimensions of space-time and is known as M-theory.

The problem is that, until now, this possible theory of everything has not been able to generate predictions that can be demonstrated with experiments.



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