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Felippa Amanta

UNICEF USA

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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!

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  • May 26 2012: http://xkcd.com/171/ (A humorous, but perhaps truthful, answer that scientists give: "I dunno")
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/conversation-with-brian-greene.html (If you like Brian Greene, check out this interview)
    Also, you should watch Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" which seeks to educate the general public on the mysteries that physicists such as Stephen Hawking try to solve.

    If you want to understand the universe you will encounter two branches of theoretical physics:
    1. Quantum Mechanics
    2. General Relativity

    Quantum Mechanics seeks to understand the smallest particles in the universe, even smaller than the atom. In this realm, there is something called the "Uncertainty Principle." It says the closer you get to a particle, the less you know about its motion. Strange? Definitely--the quantum mechanics realm is perhaps as strange as you can get! Particles literally teleport from place to place all the time. In this realm, unreality blends with reality in a strange way. Unfortunately, you really do have to have a mathematical background to truly appreciate the phenomenon you see here.

    General Relativity is a realm totally opposite of quantum mechanics, as it deals with objects in our universe. Partial differential equations are able to predict space and time of objects. Einstein is perhaps the pioneer of this study. General relativity introduces what Einstein called the 4th dimension known to us as time and made the amazing claim that gravitation is actually the curvature of space and time.

    String theory tries to unite these two concepts into one theorem as part of the search to find "The Ultimate Equation," which I particularly doubt we will find. It's hypothesis is that electrons and the quarks that make up an atom (which make up elements, which then make up chemical structures, then cells) are 1-dimensional "strings" rather than simply points. As xkcd jokes, the theory does not have a useful stance...yet. But this IS the future of physics.
    • May 26 2012: I quite enjoy the idea that anywhere in the observable Universe that we find nothing, there is a non-negligible amount of destructively interfering energy and within unobservable dimensions (dark energy) and that within the Universe it is currently greater than the amount of constructive interference observed. The same applies to constructive interference of energy in unobservable dimensions (dark matter).

      ;-)

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