Chapter V of Moments in Modern Science: Superstring Speculation of
The Bible According to Einstein

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The New Testament                                       149
Chapter V: Superstring Speculation:
Truth or Superstition?

A nd in the year of 1984, theorists showed through a "miracle of calculation" that superstrings were consistent mathematically.157 Now superstrings were tiny Planck-sized filaments that had enormous symmetry -- they had supersymmetry, which was boson-fermion-type symmetry, GUT-group symmetry and even hidden symmetries. And the theorists showed that the string's internal motions could potentially produce all the fundamental microscopic particles -- the harmonic of a cord was such a particle. And strings produced gauge interactions by splitting, joining and combining. But most miraculous was that superstrings, naturally, among their interactions, yielded gravity158 and that they were well-defined consistent quantum things. Thus one simple structure had the potential to explain all of Nature's laws. And some theorists were dazzled by the magic, miracles and beauty of the strings.


157Theorists often proceed using issues of consistency, simplicity, conciseness and esthetics, as well as symmetry principles, as guidance in constructing theories, particularly in domains where little experimental data is available. Unexpected results, which seem like magic to those performing the calculations, tend to make theorists believe that they are on a fruitful path.
158 One of the greatest unsolved theoretical problems in physics is the quantization of gravity. Perhaps the biggest motivating factor for string theorists is that strings offer a potential solution to this problem.

150                        The Bible According to Einstein
      And since the superstring could potentially explain all forces and all matter, string theorists nicknamed it "The Theory of Everything" -- perhaps it is the Uni-Law.
      But obstacles exist. First, superstring theory predicts that spacetime has ten dimensions instead of four! And, since time is one dimension, space should then have nine dimensions. Now the human world is three dimensions -- what happens to the extra six? And theorists used imagination, suggesting, "Perhaps the extra six dimensions curl into a microscopic space, a space so small that it's invisible." And they argued by analogy: "When a two-dimensional flat piece of paper is rolled into a narrow straw, an ant crawling on it thinks its world is one-dimensional. Its world is like a wire. Perhaps humans, due to their bulky size, cannot sense the other six dimensions, for perhaps this hidden space simply is too small. Perhaps a man is like an ant. Perhaps the Universe is like a straw."

The story of the ant had been discovered.

     But it was extremely difficult for theorists to calculate in the theory of the superstring. And so theorists could neither prove nor disprove that the extra six dimensions did curl up to form a tiny space. Now another obstacle existed: Although the superstring potentially could generate the weak, strong and electromagnetic forces, theorists could not prove that these interactions were the only ones produced. And furthermore, although the superstring's internal motions yielded particles such as quarks, electrons, photons and neutrinos, theorists could not demonstrate that all these particles were there. Nor could they prove that other particles not seen in Nature but potentially present in the vibrations of the string were not there. And so superstrings became a subject of much speculation.
      And theorists were divided in two groups: One, consisting of believers, claimed the superstring was Uni-Law. "The Theory of Everything" was what they thought to be the string. Now the other group was made of non-believers -- they thought that strings were nonsense. For them, the Theory of Everything was a Theory of No Thing. And so there arose diverse opinions of the superstring.

The superstring theory might or might not fail.
Its prophets wander in an unlit labyrinthine cave.
They grope in darkness and know not
whether there be a dead end or the Holy Grail.

Copyright ©1999 by Jupiter Scientific Publishing Company

To the index of The Bible According to Einstein