Archive for October 15th, 2012

October 15th, 2012

What is This Thing Called String Theory?

by Max Andrews

We’ve all probably heard of string theory. I’ve seen specials devoted to it on PBS, it in major science and philosophy books/papers, dialogues with skeptics, and even in [the greatest film of all time… ever] Good Will Hunting. It’s a very complex and confusing field of research. My hope is that my summation here will help give a introductory grasp of the material.

The spontaneous breakdown of symmetries[1] in the early universe can produce linear discontinuities in fields, known as cosmic strings.  Cosmic strings are also common in modern string theories in which the most fundamental reality are astronomically tiny vibrating strings (either closed or open depending on the interpretation of the mathematics).[2]  The combination of the string/scalar landscape with eternal inflation has in turn led to a markedly increased interest in anthropic reasoning.  In this multiverse scenario life will evolve only in very rare regions where the local laws of physics just happen to have the properties needed for life, giving a simple explanation for why the observed universe appears to permit the evolutionary conditions for life.