EDUCATION:The Stringy Cosmos

Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1247b
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5545.1247b

According to string theory, fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks are concealing something. They may actually be composed of unobservable, shimmying loops, or strings, the vibrations of which dictate the particle's character. If that sounds fantastic, drop by The Official String Theory Web Site for a cheeky tutorial on string theory, the framework that many physicists believe will allow them to tie down a unifying “theory of everything.”

Written by a Caltech Ph.D., the tutorial explains strings at two levels of difficulty: advanced for the calculus-savvy and basic for those stymied by the first chapter of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. In the introduction, you'll learn how these quivering filaments may reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity and why we can't detect them even with mammoth particle accelerators (strings are too small). Other sections explain how string theory ties in with cosmology and black holes. To learn more from the experts themselves, try the audio files of interviews with string savants such as Brian Greene of Columbia University, who's billed as “string theory's answer to John Cusack.”

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