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String Theory: a multihistory

. 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.

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The Cast

John Schwarz
John Schwarz
Pierre Ramond
Pierre Ramond
Lars Brink
Lars Brink
Michael Green
Michael Green

 

The Story

The Early Days
. 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 interactions.
. The course of theoretical physics was changed forever on that day.

Credits

. This movie was made in its entirety, including video, animation, writing and coding, by Patricia Schwarz. The soundtrack was composed using ACID 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.

Download RealPlayer
Get RealPlayer here.

Copyright © 2000 Patricia Schwarz


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The Second Superstring Revolution // String Theory: a multihistory


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