Princeton physicists connect string theory with established physics
Date: Sunday, May 06, 2007 @ 22:29:57 GMT
Topic: Science

String theory, simultaneously one of the most promising and controversial ideas in modern physics, may be more capable of helping probe the inner workings of subatomic particles than was previously thought, according to a team of Princeton University scientists.

The theory has been highly praised by some physicists for its potential to forge the long-sought link between gravity and the forces that dominate within the atomic nucleus. But the theory -- which posits that all subatomic particles are actually tiny "strings" that vibrate in different ways -- has also drawn criticism for being untestable in the laboratory, and perhaps impossible to connect with real-world phenomena.

However, the Princeton researchers have found new mathematical evidence that some of string theory's predictions mesh closely with those of a well-respected body of physics called "gauge theory," which has been demonstrated to underlie the interactions among quarks and gluons, the vanishingly small objects that combine to form protons, neutrons and other, more exotic subatomic particles. The discovery, say the physicists, could open up a host of uses for string theory in attacking practical physics problems.

"These problems include describing the interactions among the quarks within everyday atomic nuclei," said Igor Klebanov, the Thomas D. Jones Professor of Mathematical Physics at Princeton and an author of a recent paper on the subject. "We have previously been able to study these interactions in detail only at the high-energy conditions within particle accelerators, but with these findings we may be able to describe what's happening inside the atoms that make up rocks and trees. We cannot do so yet, but it appears that the math of string theory could be what we need to bridge this gap."

The team's paper appears in the March 30 issue of the scientific journal Physical Review Letters. Klebanov's co-authors include graduate student Marcus Benna and postdoctoral fellows Sergio Benvenuti and Antonello Scardicchio...


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