As bubbling science enthusiasts, many of you may have heard of string theory. Be it through the popular American TV series ‘The Big Bang Theory’ or after watching Stephen Hawking’s biopic, or probably just reading about him, this theory crops up everywhere and it might have crossed your mind that it holds great importance in this era of science. Truth be told, it is one of the most anticipated path-breaking theories of modern science and here this article hopes to share with you a tiny idea of what this theory is possibly trying to achieve and provide you with an elementary idea.
Physics of class 12th introduces you to quantum nature of matter. Through this, we understand that everything that exists and interacts in this universe possesses particle nature and exchanges energy in packets of quantum. This particle nature is capable of explaining several physical phenomena such as the photoelectric effect. But string theory, on the contrary, wipes all of these concepts to the start and brings in a completely different perspective. This theory contemplates these particles as one-dimensional objects called strings. Since it encompasses all of the universe and how each and everything interacts, it is rightly stated as ‘The Theory of Everything’.
To fully understand this, we probe further into reducing our scale of study smaller than electrons, protons and neutrons, even smaller than quarks. These are strands of vibrating energy and can determine the nature of matter. But this theory relies on calculations which stretch beyond the three dimensions of quantum mechanics to which we are limited. This means that string theory carries the potential of explaining multiple dimensions. This difference in dimensions in quantum mechanics and string theory leads to conflicting mathematics and thus leads to inconclusiveness. The scientific community felt the need of a unifying theory which would hold tools to both these branches. Scientists claim of existence of more than ten dimensions!
The potentials this theory possesses are infinite and the fortune it costs is no less either. Stuff like particle accelerators or a Hadron collider could cost as much as 9 billion dollars to research and work on! The expense alone should be enough to warrant interest. However, there are benefits to string theory research; some of them seem straight out of science fiction novels. Scientists believe that worm holes may exist in the fabric of space time. String theory may prove to be the missing link that proves their existence. Additionally, some theorists have suggested that there may be parallel universes that could even be identical to our own.
Then one may ask that is it at all worth spending on such research, especially understanding that the government pays for these researches, a part of which comes from the taxes citizens pay? Well, the answer is yes. Complex as science gets every century, one cannot foresee whether investment in scientific research may turn fruitful or not. No one knows where a scientific theory will lead until the theory is developed and tested. When Albert Einstein first presented his famous equation E = mc2, he knew that the equation might hold keys to better scientific advancement but not as potent as the atomic bomb. He had no way of knowing the corrections to time calculations demanded by relativity theories would someday be required to get the worldwide global positioning system (GPS) to operate correctly.
The ever growing world of science is exciting. Keeping up with the new discoveries is even more riveting!