String Theory: The Longstanding Debate

Author: Diwa Bhusal

From: Cypress, Texas, US




String theory is a theory that attempts to bridge together the 2 most fundamental parts of physics today: Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. It describes the world as being composed of strings, at the most fundamental level and that vibration/frequency govern’s the world. When I first heard of string theory, I was very young, surfing through the web to understand such a complicated idea before I had even taken an elementary level physics class. But this theory fascinated me nonetheless. Imagining a world where there are more dimensions, dimensions I may never be able to wrap my head around seemed daunting. String theory is a mathematical wonder and in many ways, it seems to fit perfectly within the realm of possibility but at the same time, many inconsistencies lie that threaten the durability of the theory.


Where does String Theory seem to accurately describe our reality?


String theory is a strong contender for a Quantum Theory of gravity. The string theory was originally proposed to describe the strong nuclear force of particles (a force that binds the nucleus of an atom together). It was not deemed the most useful of the explanations and instead was replaced by Quantum Chromodynamics which explained quarks, gluons, and forces at that level and gave more predictive results; However, string theory was just at its conception during that time. It’s reach extended the limits originally placed on it.


String theory relies entirely on mathematics. And as the information reads, the equations seem to hold together much of what we look for in a unified field theory today. However, the lack of empirical evidence (both for and against the theory) makes this theory hard to adopt.


Where does String Theory fail?


String theory has not been able to predict many occurrences. There is no evidence for string theory and there is no evidence against it. It’s not “technically wrong” but it fails to give good evidence (beyond the realm of mathematics) to put string theory occurrences to the test. It’s a beautiful theory but it has remained in the abstract realm for so long that it is hard to push this theory to explain more than it has already.


When string theory was first conceptualized to describe the strong nuclear force, it required the existence of tachyons which were particles that moved faster than the speed of light. This lead to string theory’s fall because it directly clashed with Einstein’s theory of relativity that was so well established in the physics world. It also required the existence of more than the 4 dimensions Einstein theorized; at its conception, it required 26 dimensions.


When string theory was brought back to life in the 1970s, many changes were made in order to get the theory up to speed with already standing theories. Scientists found a way to release the string theory from the requirements of 26 dimensions - reducing them to a still outstanding number of 10 and also eliminated the need for tachyons. These led string theory back into the science world and as a possible contender for a quantum theory of gravitation. Today, it remains incredibly promising to many world-famous scientists. Regardless of the changes made to this theory, it still fails to gather empirical evidence for its conclusions; String Theory lives on as more of a fantasy than a possible reality with many Sci-Fi movies and tv shows playing on this concept. As beautiful the equations may be, as long as it fails to gather formal evidence and predict future events, it will remain in the science world as an abstract idea and not a contender for a unified field theory.


 

Author: Diwa Bhusal


Diwa is a Nepali-American rising High School senior interested in Physics and Chemistry. She

plans to pursue these fields when going to college/university. She has loved science ever since a young age and is always willing to learn more about all the subjects she cares about. She fights to encourage more women and people of color to get involved in STEM, and she also loves reading, writing and spending time decorating her planner. 

 

Sources:


Wood, C. (2019). What Is String Theory? [online] Space.com. Available at: https://www.space.com/17594-string-theory.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2020].


‌Greene, B. (2014). Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics. [online] Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/string-theory-about-unravel-180953637/ [Accessed 14 Sep. 2020].


‌Mann, A. (2019). What Is String Theory? [online] livescience.com. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/65033-what-is-string-theory.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2020].

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