String Theory for Dummies

I make reference to M Theory (or String Theory) here quite often – unless you’re really up on the latest in theoretical physics you might not understand these concepts. Last year PBS produced an awesome introduction to this topic called The Elegant Universe. The program is based on the best-seller of the same name by physicist, Brian Greene. Greene is also the show’s host and does an excellent job of bringing us up to speed on the past 100 years of physics. Most of what we learned in the classroom is hopelessly out of date. Though the old stuff is still true in many senses – it’s not half as exciting or interesting as many of the new developments in physics today. Watch a preview video clip here.

All of the programs are available to watch online for free. So, take some time to catch up on 100 years of science. You’ll learn big, new words that will impress all of your friends. To start the trip go here:

Comments (21):

  1. Dung

    April 20, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you very much. The information help me to do my project on String Theory.

  2. Matt

    May 9, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    That video was bunk.I’ve seen parts of it, but this was just a long-winded preview that didn’t reveal much, if anything.
    I know this is your site and all, and I don’t want to be disrespectful, but that was bunk haha.
    sorry! but thanks anyways!

  3. Matt

    May 9, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    whooops. Nevermind my last comment! Sorry!

  4. Myron J. Poltroonian

    June 7, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    “What is God?”
    I turned 68 on Sunday, May 24th. When I was 17, having been raised to understand that “You don’t have to be in a building, to believe in God”, I decided that “God is Energy, after all, It’s everywhere”. Now, some five decades later, scientists in the field of “Quantum Mechanics”, with “String Theory”, have postulated that there indeed may be vibrating “Strings” of energy everywhere. Not only in interstellar, but intergalactic space as well. The other half of my postulation rests on the question: “What is thought?”. In it’s purest form, it is merely an inexplicable bit of energy carried by external means. If that is also true, then that, I believe, coupled with string theory, is the mind of God. How presumptuous is mankind to believe he can truly understand the mind, let alone interpret the will of God. If I may quote Puck: “What fools these mortals be”.

  5. susan

    July 11, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    I definitely believe in parallel universes. I hope that this becomes a more widely accepted belief during my lifetime…because, quite frankly, many people do look at me like I’m off my rocker if I share my personal beliefs so I’ve chosen to select my audiences carefully. Glad to have found this site!

  6. Boyd

    July 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Very good theory but somewhat shallow, no pun intended. My High School taught that the atom was the smallest particle of matter, with protons and neutrons in the center with electrons in orbits known distances from the nucleus. Then we learned that electrons are actually in unknown locations on a shell/sphere and we could never tell where they actually were at any given time (uncertainty principle). Then we learned that by knocking hell out of a proton with a neutron or the other way around we got quarks, murons, etc. now they are the smallest particle.

    No wait a minute, if we look really fast when a muron decays or is broken it has a smaller particle that is really a looped string. (I think I skipped a particle or two).

    I have no problem with the sub-sub-sub-atomic particle acting mathematically like an energy unit that has resonating quality, actually makes a lot of sense. However, the guy that claims this is the theory of everything is overlooking the fact that anything can be halved or divided by .5 and .1, .2, .3, .4…N, etc, so in time we will be able to imagine something smaller.

    I say imagine because we still cannot measure a string. Any attempt to measure the wavelength or resonating frequency would change (via amplication or attenuation) the properties of the string being measured. That would change the material, which has the string we were trying to measure, from let’s say lead to gold. So go for it.

    But I digress putting a box in a box in a box does not make additional dimensions in anything except the formula for the volume of the container. Total volume of Box 1 ( outside box) is not the volume of box-1+ box-2+box-3….now if you are measuring the number of beans in a box that contains other boxes that may or may not contain boxes or beans, the volume of beans contained in the box/boxes the formula would probably take on the characteristics of the string used to tie the box, that is in the box, that is in the box…..( sorry I got out of breath reading that long winded thought). But maybe you see my point.

    Please explain to me (really) how the speed of light is immutable but time can be warped, infact it becomes a variable in the multidimensional calculations used to explain string theory. Box b is bigger than box a, at one point in time but because conditions X occurs can now be inside of box a. No problem here except when box b changed due to condition X it is no longer box b as defined in the original dimensions or definitions of box b.

    Sorry, I actually do want to understand as much as possible for a poor, dumb, country boy.


    • Peter

      November 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      Yes, string theory is a fascinating subject, even though a lot of it sounds like science fiction (10 or 11 dimensions, tiny tiny tiny strings that can also be very long, wormholes, and faster-than-light travel, etc.). If the scientists can prove that all this really exists, it will usher in a revolution in physics!

      But that’s the rub! How can we prove any of this?? Are the recent OPERA neutrino experiments with their faster than light speed results the real McCoy? Only the future will tell!

  7. Dave

    July 17, 2009 at 6:04 am

    I sit up at night and ponder all of these things. The big bang, the big crunch, the big bounce, string theory, relativity, what is the “nothing” that is space? Can the nothingness really be energy “borrowed” from the future? Seeing as how space-time can be warped, perhaps this is the case. I really don’t have a clue. I’ve never taken a theoretical physics course or even pretend to understand most of what you guys are talking about. What I do believe is that everything in this universe is connected to everything else in some unexplained manner. The butterfly effect so-to-speak. I believe that every action, thought or feeling affects everything and everyone else on some sub-sub-sub atomic level of some sort. I see God everywhere I look. Perhaps that is what God is. He is the tree in my yard or the truck that picks up my garbage on Thursdays. Matter is energy. Energy is God. And what if C-A-T really spelled Dog?

  8. Dan

    August 8, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Can anyone tell me when the concept of ‘string theory’ came about? I do know that the musician Frank Zappa brought the idea of such to light in his 1967 album “Lumpy Gravy” and now years later it seems to be a scientific notion.

    Does that mean I was right all along? Frank Zappa IS God?

  9. bruce wayne birch

    September 2, 2009 at 12:46 am

    It’s interesting, isn’t it? People can see that the universe is unexplainable and they try to avoid the issue of God, but God keeps on making his way back into the discussion regardless of how far we keep distancing ourselves from him. Trying to call God matter or a tree is mute. God created everything and is everywhere at once. We does the universe end? He can see everything and already knows the future and the impact of every decision we make and knows how each persons decisions impact others right down through history and future time. God is BIGGER than us! He PAID the Price for our bad choices and knew he had to do this before the world began. Trust that Jesus’ ways are higher than your ways, ask him to be incharge of your life and he will turn everything into GOOD for you! Romans Chapter 8 and 10

  10. Miranda S

    September 7, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I’m currently working on a paper that is basically Darwinism v Creationism v Intelligent Design with elements of String Theory and The Big Bang Theory. This was very helpful when it came to what I needed to know for my paper.

  11. Utopian

    September 18, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    A true understanding of the universe and its working is not something which can be explained away in a set of equations. It is something which is beyond the realm of theorems…

  12. Michael

    September 23, 2009 at 10:05 am

    We can go around and around the theorems and the understanding of the universe and string theorys but we havent been for example at the crash site when it happend. Seeing is believing postulating is just that. Until we come up with a way to prove what really happend aren’t we all just twisting in the wind.

  13. Fred

    October 6, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    We have come a long way from believing that everything was Earth, Air, Fire and or Water. String Theory, Loop Quantum Gravity, or whatever theory the upcoming tests confirm will soon take us beyond the mathematically incompatible General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics to a much better understanding of our environment and universe. Hopefully we will also be rescued from the Hocus-Pocus Dogmas that enslave us.

  14. Franz Tarr

    October 10, 2009 at 1:20 am

    The program was phenomenal! I seriously hope that more research in this field is conducted, I believe that M-Theory has a very strong potential to be the Theory of Everything that Einstein tried to uncover. I’m not putting all my eggs in this basket so to speak, but I firmly believe that this could be true. One day, someone or someones may discover that String Theory is inaccurate, and to be honest, that day would be wonderful. Why you ask? Because in order to disprove string theory, we would have to REALLY know what we’re talking about. That day would be an incredible day for science.

  15. John C. Hanks

    October 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    ….dispite our great advancements, we should never allow our niavity to convince us that we know enough about our existence, as to be able to draw any rational conclusions about it…..we don’t, and can’t!

  16. Ian

    October 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

    emmm… the truth about the universe is lost to those fanatics. who only see creation in terms of mathematics… IMHO

  17. John A

    November 1, 2009 at 3:57 am

    …I must admit that i enjoy reading all the comments about string theory and the universe, but once you know how a universe in created (and i do), it does two things. 1. Makes me grin and 2. Gives one a sense of knowing something that no one else does. Now that is not as arrogant as it may sound, but with this, it explains the Big Bang theory, and alternate universe or bubble theory, and it does not violate any laws of nature. Of course, trying to get a physicist interested in this in itself is mind bending. Keep up the good work gang.

  18. Aikar

    December 2, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Oops, I believe things are fine and getting better every moment as great minds try to clear the mist out of ignorance. I highly appreciate the scientific fraternity to peruse research to confirm theoretical reasoning. As I understand the age old dogmas & propaganda of hierarchy of some one controlling every thing will get clear in black and white on papers. Man will find good as the only way to live. Cheers to the sub sub sub atomic physicists or the kind human mind to drive away ignorance through packets of quanta and wave like vibrating strings.

  19. Ram

    December 25, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Science is progress, the newtonian maths was around for a long time before the Likes of Plank and so on came a long and brought new formulas into the mix to push us into a new age, I am sure some one will show up with a new perspective and answer few questions.

    if we keep thinking that GOD is the reason for everything then why are we going to schools to learn how to think or explain what’s around us. or even the reason of this forum. why do we use terms like irrational.
    right now we don’t have all the answers so patience nothing happens the next day.

  20. Stam

    May 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Would be nice to view, but is not available in the UK due to ‘restrictions in my region’. Bah….


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