Strings, Strings, Everything is made of Strings
The Holy Grail of physics is to explain all the four forces of nature and matter/energy (they are both the same thing) into a single equation. This theory of everything will reveal everything about the universe, most importantly, how it began. So far the only game in town is string theory. String theory is a purely mathematical theory that makes the bold claim that all matter and force particles are made of unimaginably tiny strings that vibrate in 10 dimensions. And the frequency which these strings vibrate determines the particle’s properties. String theory has had a very interesting beginning, although the theory didn’t get popular until the 1980’s, it was actually discovered as a mistake in the 1960’s by a young Italian physicist by the name of Gabriele Veneziano. As the story goes, Veneziano was searching for a set of equations that would describe the strong nuclear force. The force that keeps the nucleus of an atom together, binding protons and neutrons. Veneziano was searching through math books when he found a 200 year old equation first written down by a Swiss mathematician named Leonhard Euler. Veneziano was shocked to find that Euler’s equation, long thought to be nothing more than a mathematical curiosity, described the strong nuclear force. Veneziano then published a paper and became famous for this accidental discovery. “ I occasionally see it written in books that this model was discovered by chance or was found in a math book, and this makes me feel pretty bad; What is true is that the function was a outcome of a year of work, and yes we accidently discovered string theory”- Gabriele Veneziano. Euler’s equation was passed from physicist to physicist, until one day the equation was showed to Leonard Susskind. “I fiddled with it, I sat in my attic I think for two months on and off, but the first thing I could see in it was that it was describing some sort of particles which had a internal structure which could vibrate, which could do things, which wasn’t just a point particle. And I began to realize what was being described here, it was a string, an elastic string, like a rubber band, or a rubber band cut in half, and this rubber band could not only stretch and contract, but wiggle, and marvel of marvel, it exactly agreed with the formula.”- Leonard Susskind. However convincing this idea seemed to Susskind, his colleagues begged to differ. As Susskind drowned his sorrows over his so called crazy idea, it appeared that string theory was dead. Meanwhile, mainstream physics was embracing particles as points, not strings. Physicist probed the subatomic realms by smashing particles together in giant expensive particle accelerators. What physicists were shocked to discover is that nature is much more abundant than they ever imagined. Once a month, there would be a discovery of a new particle, the R meson, the B particle, the B1 particle, the B2 particle, the Pi meson, the omega particle, it just keeps on going. There were so many particles that more letters were used than existed in most alphabets. It was a population explosion of particles. It was a time when graduate students would run through the halls of a physics building and would scream, ‘they discovered another particle!’, and it fit the theories and it was all so exciting. (Elegant) In this pandemonium of particles, string theorist were discovering the building blocks of all matter, leaving string theory in the dust. At this time, physicist made a very strange prediction, that the forces of nature can also be explained by particles. This is a really weird idea, but it’s kind of like a game of catch, in which the two players are particles of matter, and the ball they are throwing back and forth are particles of force, called a messenger particle. For example, in the case of magnetism, the electromagnetic force, this ball would be a photon, the more...