Table of Contents
.......The Elegant Universe
THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Brian Greene, 1999, 2003
```(annotated and with added bold highlights by Epsilon=One)
Chapter 13 - Black Holes: A String/M-Theory Perspective
Does String Theory Allow Us to Go Forward?
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It does. Through a fairly unexpected and sophisticated realization of black holes, string theory provides the first theoretically sound connection between black holes and elementary particles. The road to this connection is a bit circuitous, but it takes us through some of the most interesting developments in string theory, making it a journey well worth taking. (Epsilon=One: Yes! Especially, "a journey well worth taking" if you enjoyed "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, and The Wizard of Oz." It's interesting how academic theoretical physicists can have a "sound connection between black holes and elementary particles" that have never been observed.)

It begins with a seemingly unrelated question that string theorists have kicked around since the late 1980s. Mathematicians and physicists have long known that when six spatial dimensions are curled up into a Calabi-Yau shape, there are generally two kinds of spheres that are embedded within the shape's fabric. One kind are the two-dimensional spheres, like the surface of a beach ball, that played a vital role in the space-tearing flop transitions of Chapter 11. The other kind are harder to picture but they are equally prevalent. They are three-dimensional spheres—like the surfaces of beach balls adorning the sandy ocean shores of a universe with four extended space dimensions. Of course, as we discussed in Chapter 11, an ordinary beach ball in our world is itself a three-dimensional object, but its surface, just like the surface of a garden hose, is two-dimensional: You need only two numbers—latitude and longitude, for instance—to locate any position on its surface. But we are now imagining having one more space dimension: a four-dimensional beach ball whose surface is three-dimensional. As it's pretty close to impossible to picture such a beach ball in your mind's eye, for the most part we will appeal to lower-dimensional analogs that are more easily visualized. But, as we shall now see, one aspect of the three-dimensional nature of the spherical surfaces is of prime importance.

By studying the equations of string theory, physicists realized that it is possible, and even likely, that as time evolves, these three-dimensional spheres will shrink—collapse—to vanishingly small volume. But what would happen, string theorists asked, if the fabric of space were to collapse in this manner? Will there be some catastrophic effect from this kind of pinching of the spatial fabric? This is much like the question we posed and resolved in Chapter 11, but here we are focusing on collapsing three-dimensional spheres, whereas in Chapter 11 we focused solely on collapsing two-dimensional spheres. (As in Chapter 11, since we are envisioning that a piece of a Calabi-Yau shape is shrinking, as opposed to the whole Calabi-Yau shape itself, the small radius/large radius identification of Chapter 10 does not apply.) Here is the essential qualitative difference arising from the change in dimension. 1 We recall from Chapter 11 that a pivotal realization is that strings, as they move through space, can lasso a two-dimensional sphere. That is, their two-dimensional world-sheet can fully surround a two-dimensional sphere, as in Figure 11.6. This proves to be just enough protection to keep a collapsing, pinching two-dimensional sphere from causing physical catastrophes. But now we are looking at the other kind of sphere inside a Calabi-Yau space, and it has too many dimensions for it to be surrounded by a moving string. If you have trouble seeing this, it is perfectly okay to think of the analogy obtained by lowering all dimensions by one. You can picture three-dimensional spheres as if they are two-dimensional surfaces of ordinary beach balls, so long as you also picture one-dimensional strings as if they are zero-dimensional point particles. Then, in analogy with the fact that a zero-dimensional point-particle cannot lasso anything, let alone a two-dimensional sphere, a one-dimensional string cannot lasso a three-dimensional sphere. (Epsilon=One: Gobbledygook. Cowboy fantasies. Even in old-age, I'm certain that Einstein could have done much better with string theory if given almost another 40 years.)

Such reasoning led string theorists to speculate that if a three-dimensional sphere inside a Calabi-Yau space were to collapse, something that the approximate equations showed to be a perfectly possible if not commonplace evolution in string theory, it might yield a cataclysmic result. In fact, the approximate equations of string theory developed prior to the mid-1990s seemed to indicate that the workings of the universe would grind to a halt if such a collapse were to occur; they indicated that certain of the infinities tamed by string theory would be unleashed by such a pinching of the spatial fabric. For a number of years, string theorists had to live with this disturbing, albeit inconclusive, state of understanding. But in 1995, Andrew Strominger showed that these doomsaying speculations were wrong.

Strominger, following earlier groundbreaking work of Witten and Seiberg, made use of the realization that string theory, when analyzed with the newfound precision of the second superstring revolution, is not just a theory of one-dimensional strings. He reasoned as follows. A one-dimensional string—a one-brane in the newer language of the field—can completely surround a one-dimensional piece of space, like a circle, as we illustrate in Figure 13.1. (Notice that this is different from Figure 11.6, in which a one-dimensional string, as it moves through time, lassos a two-dimensional sphere. Figure 13.1 should be viewed as a snapshot taken at one instant in time.) Similarly, in Figure 13.1 we see that a two-dimensional membrane—a two-brane—can wrap around and completely cover a two-dimensional sphere, much as a piece of plastic wrap can be tightly wrapped around the surface of an orange. Although it's harder to visualize, Strominger followed the pattern and realized that the newly discovered three-dimensional ingredients in string theory—the three-branes—can wrap around and completely cover a three-dimensional sphere. Having seen clear to this insight, Strominger then showed, with a simple and standard physics calculation, that the wrapped three-brane provides a tailor-made shield that exactly cancels all of the potentially cataclysmic effects that string theorists had previously feared would occur if a three-dimensional sphere were to collapse.

This was a wonderful and important insight. But its full power was not revealed until a short time later.

Figure 13.1 A string can encircle a one-dimensional curled-up piece of the spatial fabric; a two-dimensional membrane can wrap around a two-dimensional piece.
This was a wonderful and important insight. But its full power was not revealed until a short time later.
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.......The Elegant Universe