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Superstring Theory is often construed to have been formally initiated in physics in 1970 by Yoichiro Nambu.  Prior to that time, elementary particles were analyzed in some cases as points -- an attribute which was clearly an approximation at best, and at worst, untenable.  Even the idea that elementary particles were made up of quarks, was not wholly satisfactory, in that this concept had its own stable of problems.   

However, a perhaps equally valid viewpoint is that “string theory” actually began with Pythagoras, whose philosophy centered about the power and harmony of numbers (e.g. the Pythagorean Theorem) and that mystical tetrakyts, or foursomes, held the secret to the universe.  It is, after all, strings where we most easily encounter the harmonies.  

Pythagoras’ theories have a lot of appeal, particularly in the manner in which the beauty of numbers correspond with the melodies and harmonies so pleasant to the ear.  Eugene Wigner, a theoretical physicist has noted what he calls “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.  Again and again, abstract and beautiful mathematical relationships explored for their own aesthetic sake, are later discovered to have exact correspondence with the real world -- a coincidence that is quite remarkable.” [1]  The unique relationship between mathematics and Music is but one example of this “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.”  

Modern Superstring theories are based on generalizing the notion of a point particle to that of a string-like object.  “In an analogy to a string of piano wire, the lowest note of the string corresponds to massless or very light particles, such as the photon, graviton, or electron; the harmonics or higher modes of the string correspond to the very massive particles which modify the theory at high energies in a way that cures the divergences (infinitely large contributions to cross-section calculations) which have plagued quantum theories of gravity in the past.  Superstrings also incorporate Supersymmetry, a theory which predicts that each particle is accompanied by a superparticle with similar properties, (except that the spin must differ by one half unit).  The superparticles are characteristically predicted to be heavier than ordinary particles.” [2]  

Superstrings, themselves, are theorized to have a length of 10-33 centimeters, while the tension in the string is assumed to be as much as 1039 tons.  [i.e. the superstrings are really intense!]  This length is on the order of the Planck Length, where -- according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Zero-Point Energy, and other ideas in Connective Physics -- it is possible that particles are winking in and out of existence.  Strings can theoretically twist and turn, spin and vibrate, tie and untie themselves, do the bossa nova and most any other thing the human mind can imagine.   

The latter likely includes having sex, in that the interactions of superstrings are based on the “inevitable consequence of the topological nature of the strings themselves”[1].  When you think about it, the topological nature is pretty much what controls sex with humans!  In addition, “strings are free to split and join [divorce and marriage], an open string break in two [schizophrenia], or join its ends to form a closed loop [hermit or closed mind].  

Meanwhile, back at the relatively (pardon the pun) serious ranch...  

According to relativistic restrictions, strings must be massless, with the ends of the strings moving at the speed of light.  In order for the superstrings to represent particles with mass, the strings vibrate and rotate such that they generate a series of energy levels, just as a violin string has a series of notes.  With Einstein’s E = mc2, these energy levels become the associated masses of the particles.  (But then, as has been pointed out elsewhere, Mass may be illusionary, not really exist at all, and simply be the manifestation of electrical charge.  Einstein’s equation is valid only to the extent the illusion is valid.)  

Superstring Theory describes everything (from particles to forces), requires the existence of gravity (while point particle theories require gravity to not exist), and requires a reality of ten dimensions (26 dimensions in some of the earlier versions of the theory) in which to operate and for the strings to do their things -- including... whatever.  These additional six  (or 22) dimensions provide a whole new gamut of opportunities for speculation.   

Space and Superstrings are fundamentally intertwined.  The theory demands that strings create their own dynamic space-time, rather then simply being a part of an already existing continuum.  Space itself can be enormously modified by black holes, who upon collapsing into themselves create the possibility of a singularity in space (the mathematical physicist’s nightmare).  However, in Superstring theory, there is the possibility that when a black hole (a collapsing massive star) reaches the magic 10-33 centimeters, vibrating superstrings, while not eliminating the black hole, may help avoid the singularity.  Whew!  Close!

Meanwhile the additional six (or 22) dimensions are accounted for in Superstring Theory by the simple (and charming) expedient of compactification.  The idea is to curl up the additional extra dimensions into such a small radius (10-33 centimeters or less) that they become invisible.  This sounds rather convenient, until one considers the theories of Zero-Point Energy, in which an extra dimension or two is particularly convenient in order to move energy intra-universally.   

Take, for example, a two and three dimension analog, i.e. assume one has a circuit board with which to do all sorts of clever things electronically.  Two dimensionally, many of the wires will overlap -- but not connect if the third dimension is utilized.  From the two dimensional perspective the third dimension might not even be recognized, but its existence makes the 2d circuit board perform.  If one lives in Flatland, the 3d contribution might likely appear magical.  But from our 3d perspective, it’s no big thing.

EM forces may be caused by a curvature of an alternative (parallel?) space, and the transitions between these spaces (as modified by time) allow for the ZPE.  Or perhaps the ten dimensions of Superstring Theory are (1) time, (2,3,4) gravitational space, (5,6,7) EM space, and (8,9,10) Spin Space, with the latter 6 “folded in” or “compacted”??  

Harvey [2] has noted that, “One of the unsatisfactory aspects of string theory is the lack of a simple fundamental principle which would explain many of its marvelous properties.”  A possible answer is one akin to Mach’s Principle -- i.e. the strings tie things together!  <g>  


Connective Physics         Wave-Particle Duality         Quantum Knowing

Forward to:

Superdeformation of Nuclei         Chaos Theory         Sonoluminescence



[1]  Peat, F.D., Superstrings and the Search for The Theory of Everything, Contemporary Books, New York, 1988.

[2]  Harvey, J.A., “Superstrings,” Physics Today, January, 1987, pg S-27.

See also:

[3]  Bailin, D., “Why Superstrings?”, Contemporary Physics, Vol 30 #4, 1989, pg 237.

[4]  Schwartz, J.H., “Superstrings,” Physics Today, November, 1987 pg 33-40.  



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