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Speculations on Space and Time in M-Theory

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  • Speculations on Space and Time in M-Theory

    THE FABRIC of the COSMOS, Brian Greene, 2004
    ```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
    Chapter 13 - The Universe on a Brane
    Speculations on Space and Time in M-Theory
    String theory has one of the most twisted histories of any scientific breakthrough. Even today, more than three decades after its initial articulation, most string practitioners believe we still don't have a comprehensive answer to the rudimentary question, What is string theory? We know a lot about string theory. We know its basic features, we know its key successes, we know the promise it holds, and we know the challenges it faces; we can also use string theory's equations to make detailed calculations of how strings should behave and interact in a wide range of circumstances. But most researchers feel that our current formulation of string theory still lacks the kind of core principle we find at the heart of other major advances. Special relativity has the constancy of the speed of light. General relativity has the equivalence principle. Quantum mechanics has the uncertainty principle. String theorists continue to grope for an analogous principle that would capture the theory's essence as completely.

    To a large extent, this deficiency exists because string theory developed piecemeal instead of emerging from a grand, overarching vision. The goal of string theory — the unification of all forces and all matter in a quantum mechanical framework — is about as grand as it gets, but the the theory's evolution has been distinctly fragmented. After its serendipitous discovery more than three decades ago, string theory has been cobbled together as one group of theorists has uncovered key properties by studying these equations, while another group has revealed critical implications by examining those.

    String theorists can be likened to a primitive tribe excavating a buried spacecraft onto which they've stumbled. By tinkering and fiddling, the tribe would slowly establish aspects of the spacecraft's operation, and this would nurture a sense that all the buttons and toggles work together in a coordinated and unified manner. A similar feeling prevails among string theorists. Results found over many years of research are dovetailing and converging. This has instilled a growing confidence among researchers that string theory is closing in on one powerful, coherent framework — which has yet to be unearthed fully, but ultimately will expose nature's inner workings with unsurpassed clarity and comprehensiveness.

    In recent times, nothing illustrates this better than the realization that sparked the second superstring revolution — a revolution that has, among other things, exposed another hidden dimension entwined in the spatial fabric, opened new possibilities for experimental tests of string theory, suggested that our universe may be brushing up against others, revealed that black holes may be created in the next generation of high-energy accelerators, and led to a novel cosmological theory in which time and its arrow, like the graceful arc of Saturn's rings, may cycle around and around.
    Last edited by Reviewer; 09-28-2012, 07:25 PM.