TED Conversations

Felippa Amanta

UNICEF USA

This conversation is closed.

Can anyone explain to me what 'string theory' is?

I know this is a stupid question, but I've heard about string theory many times, but have no clue what it really is. Please understand I have very little background in physic. Do you have a good explanation about what it is and why it matters a lot in our universe? Thanks!

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • May 23 2012: Here are the things that are likely to be most important for you to know about String Theory
    1) It hasn't been observed experimentally, nor are there any experiments which have been conceived that could verify or falsify it. It is currently a mathematical framework that does a decent job of describing phenomena we know, and may tell us something about why certain things are the way they are.

    2) String Theory is about the smallest of scales. Atoms are made up of Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons. Protons and Neutrons are made up of a range of Quarks. And the whole mess of them are theoretically made of tiny little vibrating strings.

    3) Sting Theory may provide physicists with a way to unify all of the forces of nature into one basic force that just behaves differently in different situations... This is like how Electricity, Magnetism, and Light can appear to be three very different things, but when viewed in the correct way can be represented as different expressions of a single electro-magnetic force. In this way, scientists hope that string theory will be able to combine Gravity & electro-magnetism into one force. (It would also combine the Strong and Weak Nuclear forces which are the two other known fundamental forces.) This may not seem like a big deal, but it's huge.

    4) In addition to understanding "HOW" the universe works the way it works, it could help us begin to answer some of the "WHY" questions... Or if not answer those questions, at least correctly frame the "why" questions. Why are there X fundamental particles, and why do they have the values they have? Why is value of the speed of light the value that it is? Why is gravity as strong/weak as it is? etc... String Theory probably won't answer many of these questions, but it's an attempt to try.

    5) The mathematical framework of String Theory is really complex and un-intuitive, that doesn't mean it's wrong. But it is the source of much of the criticism of String Theory.
    • thumb
      May 23 2012: Wow. Thanks for your answer!
      That actually explains a lot for me, I think I might have just the simplest idea of this very complicated concept.
      I may not understand the whole String Theory, but it gives me a realization that our universe is beyond mind-blowing!

      Thanks for the video too, I'll definitely take a look at that after my finals. :)
    • thumb
      May 24 2012: A very useful reply Mr Reddy maybe you should write for documentaries. If only they would stop discovering new stuff we might get a unified theory. It will be interesting to see how dark energy impacts on string theory if we have a fifth fundamental force bacause of it.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.