Quantum Mechanics Theories and Concepts

What is string theory?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Science has done a pretty good job discovering the fundamental particles that make up the universe. They've identified such particles as neutrinos and quarks, for example. Neutrinos are subatomic particle with not much mass and no electrical charge. Quarks are considered elemental particle and basic  parts of matter. Electrons, as every good junior-high student knows, are subatomic particles that carry a negative charge and orbit the nucleus of an atom.

    String theory takes these beyond-miniscule particles and peers even closer at them. In a nutshell, string theory says that all the different elementary objects in nature can be described as extremely small, one-dimensional structures called strings. This is in stark contrast to conventional physics, which describes these most elementary particles in nature as point-like. At first glance, an electron, for example, seems like a point. But string theory says that if you look a lot closer, under the kind of magnification we don't even yet possess, an electron would actually appear to be a very tiny, one-dimensional loop (which is typically called a "string"). The string is a "vibrating, oscillating, dancing filament," according to bestselling physicist Brian Greene [source: PBS].

    A key thing to remember about string theory is that it's not just some gee-whiz way to rename stuff we already know about. Instead, string theory bridges the incompatibilities between the constructs of Einstein's relativity and those of quantum mechanics. The two camps, physicists say, can't both be right, and so string theory has emerged as a leading contender to be the long-sought "theory of everything," which could be the theory that explains, well, everything in the universe. Interestingly, it's thought by some that deriving, once and for all, a theory of everything would create certainly create the ultimate underpinning for our continued study of the world, but it would by no means be the end of science itself [source: Greene].

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