Superstrings And The Quest For The Final Theory

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Michio Kaku is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, and has taught at Princeton University. He is the co-founder of string field theory, has written eight books, and has published more than seventy scientific papers on superstrings, supergravity, and nuclear physics. He is the author of the widely acclaimed bestsellers Hyperspace (OUP, 1994), which both the New York Times and the Washington Post selected as one of the best science books of the year, and Visions, published by OUP in 1998.

Jennifer Trainer Thompson is a writer and the coeditor with Michio Kaku of Nuclear Power: Both Sides. Her articles on science, culture, travel, and food have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We would like to thank Brigita Fuhrmann and Cheryl Murphy for their drawings, and Michael Albert, David Aplin, Howard Chang, Daniel Greenberger, Arthur I. Miller, Heinz Pagels, and John Schwarz for their generous assistance.

A new theory is rocking the foundations of modern physics, rapidly overturning cherished but obsolete notions about our universe and replacing them with new mathematics of breathtaking beauty and elegance. Although there are still some unresolved questions concerning this theory, the excitement among physicists is palpable; throughout the world, leading physicists are proclaiming that we are witnessing the genesis of a new physics.

This theory is called superstrings, and a series of astonishing breakthroughs in physics within the last decade have culminated in its development, indicating that perhaps we are finally closing in on the unified field theory: a comprehensive, mathematical framework that would unite all known forces of the universe.

Advocates of superstrings even claim that the theory could be the ultimate theory of the universe.

Although physicists are usually cautious in their approach to new ideas, Princeton physicist Edward Witten has claimed that the superstring theory will dominate the world of physics for the next fifty years. Superstring theory is a miracle, through and through, he said recently. At one physics conference, he astonished his audience by declaring that we may be witnessing a revolution in physics as great as the birth of the quantum theory. He added, It’s probably

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