Susy and her Strings

Written by on August 4, 2011 in Commentary with 0 Comments

String Theory

String Theory is a mathematical model of the universe that attempts to explain all the phenomenon in nature. Its goal is to combine both Quantum Mechanics (QM) and General Relativity (GR) into one unified field theory. Currently these two theories are incompatible with each other, yet both were developed to explain the same thing, our universe. So what’s going on?

Quantum Mechanics (QM) is a theory which describes the world at very small scales, ie. atoms and molecules.

Einstein’s Theory of Gravity, known as General Relativity (GR) explains the large scale objects in our universe, namely the movement of stars and the planets.

Ultimately it shouldn’t matter if you’re small like proton or large like a planet, if everything is made of the same stuff, there should be one common theory to explain it all.

String Theory to the rescue.

To understand String Theory, you must start at the Standard Model of particle physics, the model which describes the elementary particles that make up the atom – ie. Electron, Proton, Quark, Muon, Tau… etc.

Strings vibrate to make different sub-atomic particles

According to string theory, a string is a fundamental component of the universe, not a classic point particle like we were taught in school but an actual strand of energy. The strings then vibrate in specific ways in order to denote their character, creating the different elementary particles that make up an atom. Besides vibration, strings can also be in a closed loop or open ended.

Whether or not particles are thought of as strings or points seems a little abstract at first but it turns out it is very important.

Classically, the electron was thought of as a point in space with zero size but with electrical charge. However, having no physical size can be problematic. For example, if two points approach each other, and have no physical size, when they touch their zero-ness combines to form an infinite quantity. This is an unrealistic value, something which doesn’t happen in nature. A sure sign a theory is incorrect or at least incomplete.

These mathematical ‘infinities’ are the reason the forces of gravity cannot be successfully incorporated into the standard model and is what keeps QM and GR from being combined.

However, the string’s in String Theory avoid problems of infinity by not ever being infinitely small. A string always has a finite size and therefore allows gravity to be naturally incorporated into the mathematics.

However before we all stand up and cheer, for this to work you must accept the idea that strings vibrate in extra-dimensions. Simply put, the mathematics commands it. Meaning that strings vibrate in extra dimensions out beyond our reality. This is a concept that may be hard for some to swallow.

To imagine extra-dimensions is difficult because our reality is based on 3 space dimensions and one time dimension, a framework our brain is adapted to. With string theory formulating 10 dimensions, it becomes a little unruly and very unintuitive.

Besides this, it is still a leading candidate to the ‘Theory of Everything’, awaiting confirmation from particle accelerators around the world, ie. Fermilab and the LHC Collidor in Geneva Swizterland.

What is to be confirmed is the existence of a presumed particle called the ‘graviton’, to which String Theory predicts the existence of as a natural consequence of the mathematics.

This fact alone helped attract new levels of acceptance by physicists later in its development.

However, during the 80’s the theory had suffered a bit of a mid-life crisis when it generated 5 different mathematical theories instead of just one. It was bad press that this fledgling theory did not need.

Edward Witten - Leading researcher in superstring theory

Then along came a man named Edward Witten who saved String Theory during a 1995 convention. His solution was to show that the five theories were actually five ways of looking at the same thing.

Dr. Witten compared it to describing the parts of an elephant, where one theory was the trunk, another the ears, and another the tail, etc.

He one fell swoop he unified the five theories by adding an extra dimenion to the mathematics, bring the total dimensions to 11, something he called ‘M-Theory’ (where M stands for Magic, Mystery or Matrix, as you like).

So, all was right in the world of strings again. However, besides the triumph, there was still one cold fact that plaqued this theory – Proof.

Super-Symmetry (SUSY)

Proving M-theory/String Theory is hard to do. This is because the nature of the math doesn’t provide for any testable predictions in the labratory. And without testable predictions the theory may as well be a philospohy.

The only thing that it postulates is the existence of Super-Partners – a collection of new particles that adds to the standard model. Super-Symmetry (or SUSY) is the name given to this idea, and something that is very critical to the survival of M-Theory/String Theory. In the next coming years, these super-partners may be found in particle accelerators and if it is found it may also explain a mystery known to astronomers as ‘Dark Matter’. Matter similar to how we know it but does not emit any detectable heat. Until then, it is a waiting game as we look for the evidence needed to take this theory to the next level.

The Extra-dimensional Mind & Consciousness

There is an interesting connection to be explored when considering a universe with extra-dimensions. For instance, the mind is thought to be the result of quantum mechanical phenomenon that is generated in the brain, phenomenon like Entanglement and Superposition.

Entanglement is the connection between two particles who share a relative state to each other. As one state changes, the other particle in the pair reflects the state instantly, regardless of its distance from its partner. Einstein described it as “scary action at a distance”. Essentially, it seems that certain entangled particles can interact beyond physical space and time.

“Though we know from experience that psychic processes are related to material ones, we are not in a position to say in what this relationship consists, or how it is possible at all. Precisely because the psyche and the physical are mutually dependent it has often been conjectured that they may be identical somewhere beyond our present experience.” – Carl Jung, Psychiatrist.

From Jung’s quote above, what may be understood by “beyond our present experience” is the possibility that the mind and body may connect more deeply across higher planes of existence (extra-dimensions), in that synaptic brain function may resonate out into higher dimensions through associated phenomenon like Quantum Entanglement as described above.

Already it is a popular view that consciousness floats on the boundary between the Classical and Quantum worlds, so to consider that consciousness could be a multi-dimensional construct similar to how String Theory is considered is only a modest conceptual leap.

The Good Word

Perhaps our reality keeps us too much ‘in the heat of the moment’ as to be aware of a more complete universe. Perhaps, in time, we will learn to expand on how we know the universe intuitively as well as we have come to know it physically, hopefully far from deities and antiquated belief systems.


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