S+ Stimulant: M-Theory
“In non-technical terms, M-theory presents an idea about the basic substance of the universe.
In the early years of the 20th century, the atom – long believed to be the smallest building-block of matter – was proven to consist of even smaller components called protons, neutrons and electrons, which are known as subatomic particles. Beginning in the 1960s, other subatomic particles were discovered. In the 1970s, it was discovered that protons and neutrons (and other hadrons) are themselves made up of smaller particles called quarks. Quantum theory is the set of rules that describes the interactions of these particles.
In the 1980s, a new mathematical model of theoretical physics called string theory emerged. It showed how all the particles, and all of the forms of energy in the universe, could be constructed by hypothetical one-dimensional “strings”, infinitesimal building-blocks that have only the dimension of length, but not height nor width. Further, string theory suggested that the universe is made up of multiple dimensions. Height, width, and length constitute three-dimensional space, and time gives a total of four observable dimensions; however, string theories initially supported the possibility of ten dimensions – the remaining six of which we cannot detect directly. This was later increased to 11 dimensions based on various interpretations of the ten dimensional theory that led to five partial theories as described below. Super-gravity theory also played a significant part in establishing the necessity of the 11th dimension.
These “strings” vibrate in multiple dimensions, and depending on how they vibrate, they might be seen in three-dimensional space as matter, light, or gravity. It is the vibration of the string which determines whether it appears to be matter or energy, and every form of matter or energy is the result of the vibration of strings.
String theory, as mentioned above, ran into a problem: another version of the equations was discovered, then another, and then another. Eventually, there were five major string theories. The main differences between each theory were principally the number of dimensions in which the strings developed, and their characteristics (some were open loops, some were closed loops, etc.). Furthermore, all these theories appeared to be correct. Scientists were not comfortable with five seemingly contradictory sets of equations to describe the same thing.
In 1994, a string theorist named Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study and other important researchers considered that the five different versions of string theory might be describing the same thing seen from different perspectives. They proposed a unifying theory called “M-theory”, in which the “M” is not specifically defined, but is generally understood to stand for “membrane”. The words “matrix”, “master”, “mother”, “monster”, “mystery”, “magic” have also been claimed. M-theory brought all of the string theories together. It did this by asserting that strings are really 1-dimensional slices of a 2-dimensional membrane vibrating in 11-dimensional space.
M-theory is not complete, but the underlying structure of the mathematics has been established and is in agreement with all the string theories. Furthermore, it has passed many tests of internal mathematical consistency.
Until some way is found to observe the yet hypothetical higher dimensions, which are needed for consistency reasons, M-theory has a very difficult time making predictions that can be tested in a laboratory. Technologically, it may never be possible for it to be experimentally confirmed.”*
What are you doing with your spare time? Sacrifice a few hours of surfing the web to have a try at confirming M-theory! The most profound insights and solutions often come from the most unexpected people. That person could be you.
S+ Suggested viewing: Artist Asher Bilu’s M-Theory Installation
Published: January 14th, 2014