7,455 research outputs found

    String and M-theory: answering the critics

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    Using as a springboard a three-way debate between theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright and myself, I address in layman's terms the issues of why we need a unified theory of the fundamental interactions and why, in my opinion, string and M-theory currently offer the best hope. The focus will be on responding more generally to the various criticisms. I also describe the diverse application of string/M-theory techniques to other branches of physics and mathematics which render the whole enterprise worthwhile whether or not "a theory of everything" is forthcoming.Comment: Update on EPSRC. (Contribution to the Special Issue of Foundations of Physics: "Forty Years Of String Theory: Reflecting On the Foundations", edited by Gerard 't Hooft, Erik Verlinde, Dennis Dieks and Sebastian de Haro. 22 pages latex

    How fundamental are fundamental constants?

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    I argue that the laws of physics should be independent of one's choice of units or measuring apparatus. This is the case if they are framed in terms of dimensionless numbers such as the fine structure constant, alpha. For example, the Standard Model of particle physics has 19 such dimensionless parameters whose values all observers can agree on, irrespective of what clock, rulers, scales... they use to measure them. Dimensional constants, on the other hand, such as h, c, G, e, k..., are merely human constructs whose number and values differ from one choice of units to the next. In this sense only dimensionless constants are "fundamental". Similarly, the possible time variation of dimensionless fundamental "constants" of nature is operationally well-defined and a legitimate subject of physical enquiry. By contrast, the time variation of dimensional constants such as c or G on which a good many (in my opinion, confusing) papers have been written, is a unit-dependent phenomenon on which different observers might disagree depending on their apparatus. All these confusions disappear if one asks only unit-independent questions. We provide a selection of opposing opinions in the literature and respond accordingly.Comment: Note added. 30 pages latex. 7 figures. arXiv admin note: text overlap with arXiv:hep-th/0208093 (unpublished

    State of the Unification Address

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    After reviewing how M-theory subsumes string theory, I report on some new and interesting developments, focusing on the ``brane-world'': circumventing no-go theorems for supersymmetric brane-worlds, complementarity of the Maldacena and Randall-Sundrum pictures; self-tuning of the cosmological constant. I conclude with the top ten unsolved problems.Comment: 16 pages, Latex. Plenary talk delivered at The Division of Particles and Fields Meeting of The American Physical Society, August 9-12 2000, Ohio State University. Minor corrections and references adde

    The Meaning of the Marital Act

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    M-theory on manifolds of G2 holonomy: the first twenty years

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    In 1981, covariantly constant spinors were introduced into Kaluza-Klein theory as a way of counting the number of supersymmetries surviving compactification. These are related to the holonomy group of the compactifying manifold. The first non-trivial example was provided in 1982 by D=11 supergravity on the squashed S7, whose G2 holonomy yields N=1 in D=4. In 1983, another example was provided by D=11 supergravity on K3, whose SU(2) holonomy yields half the maximum supersymmetry. In 2002, G2 and K3 manifolds continue to feature prominently in the full D=11 M-theory and its dualities. In particular, singular G2 compactifications can yield chiral (N=1,D=4) models with realistic gauge groups. The notion of generalized holonomy is also discussed.Comment: Notes added on n, the number of allowed M-theory supersymmetries. Asymmetric orbifold compactifications of Type II strings from D=10 to D=2 permit n=0,1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,12,16,17,18,20,24,3

    The world in eleven dimensions: a tribute to Oskar Klein

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    Current attempts to find a unified theory that would reconcile Einstein's General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and explain all known physical phenomena, invoke the Kaluza-Klein idea of extra spacetime dimensions. The best candidate is M-theory, which lives in eleven dimensions, the maximum allowed by supersymmetry of the elementary particles. We give a non-technical account. An Appendix provides an updated version of Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 satire {\it Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions}. Entitled {\it Flatland, Modulo 8}, it describes the adventures of a superstring theorist, A. Square, who inhabits a ten-dimensional world and is initially reluctant to accept the existence of an eleventh dimension.Comment: Oskar Klein Professorship Inaugural Lecture, University of Michigan, 16 March 2001. 38 pages, Latex, 15 color figure

    M-Theory (the Theory Formerly Known as Strings)

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    Superunification underwent a major paradigm shift in 1984 when eleven-dimensional supergravity was knocked off its pedestal by ten-dimensional superstrings. This last year has witnessed a new shift of equal proportions: perturbative ten-dimensional superstrings have in their turn been superseded by a new non-perturbative theory called {\it MM-theory}, which describes supermembranes and superfivebranes, which subsumes all five consistent string theories and whose low energy limit is, ironically, eleven-dimensional supergravity. In particular, six-dimensional string/string duality follows from membrane/fivebrane duality by compactifying MM-theory on S1/Z2Ă—K3S^1/Z_2 \times K3 (heterotic/heterotic duality) or S1Ă—K3S^1 \times K3 (Type IIAIIA/heterotic duality) or S1/Z2Ă—T4S^1/Z_2 \times T^4 (heterotic/Type IIAIIA duality) or S1Ă—T4S^1 \times T^4 (Type IIAIIA/Type IIAIIA duality).Comment: Version to appear in I.J.M.P.A. References added; typographical errors corrected; 25 pages Late

    Electric/magnetic duality and its stringy origins

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    We review electric/magnetic duality in N=4N=4 (and certain N=2N=2) globally supersymmetric gauge theories and show how this duality, which relates strong to weak coupling, follows as a consequence of a string/string duality. Black holes, eleven dimensions and supermembranes also have a part to play in the big picture.Comment: A few minor improvements; 23 pages LaTe
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