This SMIL movie uses animation, video and music to tell the story
of string theory from the points of view of four string theorists:
John Schwarz of Caltech, Michael Green of Cambridge, Lars Brink
of Göteborg University and Pierre Ramond of the University
of Florida. Technical requirements: this
movie requires a Real Player, version G2 or
later. The video and animation will perform best on a computer with
processor speed of P266 or better, through an Internet connection
with 80k or better.
Particle physicists in the sixties were trying to find some sense
and order in the results of their particle scattering experiments.
Dual resonance models took on a life of their own, however, when they
were explained in terms of the modes of vibrating relativistic strings,
in the work of Nambu, Veneziano, Susskind and others. This new string
theory had a fascinating mathematical structure that it captivated
the young physicists who worked to develop the subject.
The Decline of Dual Models
In the late sixties, Steven Weinberg and others developed relativistic
quantum gauge field theory as a way of unifying the electromagnetic
and weak interactions. Until 1971 this was not taken seriously by
the mainstream in physics. But when Gerard 't Hooft showed that these
theories made good mathematical sense, the community switched focus
very rapidly and soon almost all of particle physics could be explained
using the new relativistic quantum field theory.
Which left string theories, and the people who worked on them, out
in the cold.
A Theory of Gravity?
One big problem with string theories as theories of hadronic scattering
is that every string theory constructed had a particle in its spectrum
with zero mass and two units of particle spin. There is no such particle
in the hadronic spectrum, of course, and for years this appeared to
be a serious weakness in string theory that John Schwarz and Joel
Scherk tried very hard, without success, to eliminate.
But the graviton, the fundamental quantum that carries the gravitational
force, is supposed to have zero mass and two units of particle spin.
Like Madonna, string theory reinvented itself. But would anybody listen?
The Superstring Revolution
John Schwarz and Michael Green began working together in 1980 to develop
supersymmetric string theories. They were delighted to learn that
superstring theories were viable candidates for a quantum theory of
gravity, unlike quantum gauge field theory. In parallel with string
theorists, the quantum field theory community was exploring supersymmetric
theories of gravity, called supergravity, in higher dimensions, typically
eleven. But work on such theories was called into doubt by a paper
in 1983 by Ed Witten and Luis Alvarez-Gaumé which showed that
higher dimensional supersymmetric theories suffered from mathematical
disasters called anomalies.
In the summer of 1984, Green and Schwarz discovered that in superstring
theory, there was a way to avoid the deadly anomaly problem and still
have a theory with sensible and realistic quantum gravity and particle
The course of theoretical physics was changed forever on that day.
This movie was made in its entirety, including video, animation, writing
and coding, by Patricia Schwarz. The soundtrack was composed using
Pro with loops from the loops for ACID collection Whiskey,
Cigarettes and Gumbo. The animations were done using Flash
4 by Macromedia, and the video editing was done with Adobe Premiere.