Friday, May 6, 2011

The Search for a Theory of Everything

Ever since Maxwell combined electricity and magnetism into a single theory called electromagnetism, physicists have been tantalized by the possibility of describing all the forces of nature through a common set of equations. In my third contribution to the AT&T Science and Technology Author Series I discuss the scientific world's search for a theory that unites all four natural forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong force.


  1. Nice one, very easy to follow for a novice!

    Do you think it is interesting that ancient archaeological petroglyphs seem to convey some of the ‘string’ theory in symbol at least? I am glad to see my logo reflects accurately that curled up aspect. ;-)

    When they developed ‘M’ theory and added a dimension, did this become an enhanced aspect of ‘string’ theory, not negating the idea of 10 dimensions but making it 11? So ‘string’ theory is not a concrete theory (10 dimensions only), meaning it is mutable? If this is the case could there be 12 or 13?

    And where does gravity come into this? So gravity messed up the particle ‘theory of everything’ by showing particles to be strands of energy…did the addition of gravity to the other forces cause the creation of string theory (equation wise)i.e. strands?

    I know I am out of my depth but it sure is interesting how theories are extrapolated!

  2. Thanks for your comments, String! Fascinating questions! Interesting about the resemblance between the petroglyphs and modern symbols.

    The adding of a dimension to string theory came about when scientists discoveries mathematical relationships that allow strings to "thicken" into membranes with an additional dimension. The number 11 is important because that is the minimal dimensionality to accommodate the known symmetries of electroweak theory and strong theory--they cannot reside together comfortably in a smaller house! Gravity comes into play because supersymmetry can produce gravitons (the carriers of gravity) from other kinds of fields (energetic entities).

  3. Ah thank you for that, so then if 11 is the minimal dimensionality to accomodate, (not being able to reside together in a smaller house) is it possible that there is a bigger house? Meaning that it is possible to find that 12 or 13 dimensions might also accomodate other symmetries? The reason I ask is because 13 is also an interesting number, like 11 prime and also a number used in ancient calculations (Mayan)...although they also liked the number 20.

    Very interesting series Paul and thank you so much for taking the time to answer!