**Table of Contents**

*.......The Elegant Universe*

**THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE,****Brian Greene,**1999, 2003

```(annotated and with added

**bold highlights by Epsilon=One**)

**Chapter 12 - Beyond Strings: In Search of M-Theory**

The Equations of String Theory

The perturbative approach for determining how strings interact with one another can also be used to determine the fundamental equations of string theory. In essence, the equations of string theory determine how strings interact and, conversely, the way strings interact directly determines the equations of the theory.

As a prime example, in each of the five string theories there is an equation that is meant to determine the value of the theory's coupling constant. Currently, however, physicists have been able to find only an approximation to this equation, in each of the five string theories, by mathematically evaluating a small number of relevant string diagrams using a perturbative approach. Here is what the approximate equations say: In any of the five string theories, the string coupling constant takes on a value such that if it is multiplied by zero the result is zero. This is a terribly disappointing equation; since any number times zero yields zero, the equation can be solved with any value of the string coupling constant. Thus, in any of the five string theories, the approximate equation for its string coupling constant gives us no information about its value.

While we are at it, in each of the five string theories there is another equation that is supposed to determine the precise form of both the extended and the curled-up spacetime dimensions. The approximate version of this equation that we currently have is far more restrictive than the one dealing with the string coupling constant, but it still admits many solutions. For instance, four extended spacetime dimensions together with any curled-up, six-dimensional Calabi-Yau space provide a whole class of solutions, but even this does not exhaust the possibilities, which also allow for a different split between the number of extended and curled-up dimensions.

What can we make of these results? There are three possibilities. First, starting with the most pessimistic possibility, although each string theory comes equipped with equations to determine the value of its coupling constant as well as the dimensionality and precise geometrical form of spacetime—something no other theory can claim—even the as-yet-unknown exact form of these equations may admit a vast spectrum of solutions, substantially weakening their predictive power. If true, this would be a setback, since the promise of string theory is that it will be able to

By the early 1990s, the latter two possibilities made it clear to most string theorists that complete reliance on the perturbative framework was standing squarely in the way of progress. The next breakthrough, most everyone in the field agreed, would require a

As a prime example, in each of the five string theories there is an equation that is meant to determine the value of the theory's coupling constant. Currently, however, physicists have been able to find only an approximation to this equation, in each of the five string theories, by mathematically evaluating a small number of relevant string diagrams using a perturbative approach. Here is what the approximate equations say: In any of the five string theories, the string coupling constant takes on a value such that if it is multiplied by zero the result is zero. This is a terribly disappointing equation; since any number times zero yields zero, the equation can be solved with any value of the string coupling constant. Thus, in any of the five string theories, the approximate equation for its string coupling constant gives us no information about its value.

While we are at it, in each of the five string theories there is another equation that is supposed to determine the precise form of both the extended and the curled-up spacetime dimensions. The approximate version of this equation that we currently have is far more restrictive than the one dealing with the string coupling constant, but it still admits many solutions. For instance, four extended spacetime dimensions together with any curled-up, six-dimensional Calabi-Yau space provide a whole class of solutions, but even this does not exhaust the possibilities, which also allow for a different split between the number of extended and curled-up dimensions.

*6*What can we make of these results? There are three possibilities. First, starting with the most pessimistic possibility, although each string theory comes equipped with equations to determine the value of its coupling constant as well as the dimensionality and precise geometrical form of spacetime—something no other theory can claim—even the as-yet-unknown exact form of these equations may admit a vast spectrum of solutions, substantially weakening their predictive power. If true, this would be a setback, since the promise of string theory is that it will be able to

*explain*these features of the cosmos, rather than require us to determine them from experimental observation and, more or less arbitrarily, insert them into the theory. We will return to this possibility in Chapter 15. Second, the unwanted flexibility in the approximate string equations may be an indication of a subtle flaw in our reasoning. We are attempting to use a perturbative approach to determine the value of the string coupling constant itself. But, as discussed, perturbative methods are sensible only if the coupling constant is less than 1, and hence our calculation may be making an unjustified assumption about its own answer—namely, that the result will be smaller than 1. Our failure could well indicate that this assumption is wrong and that, perhaps, the coupling in any one of the five string theories is greater than 1. Third, the unwanted flexibility may merely be due to our use of approximate rather than exact equations. For instance, even though the coupling constant in a given string theory might be less than 1, the equations of the theory may still depend sensitively on the contributions from all diagrams. That is, the accumulated small refinements from diagrams with ever more loops might be essential for modifying the approximate equations—which admit many solutions—into exact equations that are far more restrictive.By the early 1990s, the latter two possibilities made it clear to most string theorists that complete reliance on the perturbative framework was standing squarely in the way of progress. The next breakthrough, most everyone in the field agreed, would require a

*nonperturbative*approach—an approach that was not shackled to approximate calculational techniques and could therefore reach well beyond the limitations of the perturbative framework. As of 1994, finding such a means seemed like a pipe dream. Sometimes, though, pipe dreams spill over into reality.

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*.......The Elegant Universe*