1.

Introduction to 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", infinitely small building-blocks that have only the dimension of length, but not height or width. Further, string theory suggested that the universe is made up of multiple dimensions. We are familiar with height, width, and length as three dimensional space, and time gives a total of four observable dimensions. However, string theories initially supported the possibility of ten dimensions—the remaining 6 of which we can't 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 existence of the 11th dimension. These "strings" vibrate in multiple dimensions, and depending on how they vibrate, they might be seen in 3-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 the mid 90s, 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", "mother", "monster", "mystery" and "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 yet complete, but the underlying structure of the mathematics has been established and is in agreement with not only all the string theories, but with all of our scientific observations of the universe. Furthermore, it has passed many tests of internal mathematical consistency that many other attempts to combine quantum mechanics and gravity had failed.

Unfortunately, until we can find some way to observe higher dimensions (impossible with our current level of technology) M-Theory has a very difficult time making predictions which can be tested in a laboratory. Technologically, it may never be possible for it to be "proven". Some cosmologists are drawn to M-Theory because of its mathematical elegance and relative simplicity.

2.

String theory

String theory is a developing theory in particle physics that attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is a contender for the theory of everything (TOE), a manner of describing the known fundamental forces and matter in a mathematically complete system. The theory has yet to make testable experimental predictions, which a theory must do in order to be considered a part of science. String theory mainly posits that the electrons and quarks within an atom are not 0-dimensional objects, but rather 1-dimensional oscillating lines ("strings"). The earliest string model, the bosonic string, incorporated only bosons, although this view developed to the superstring theory, which posits that a connection (a "super symmetry") exists between bosons and fermions. String theories also require the existence of several extra, unobservable, dimensions to the universe, in addition to the usual four space-time dimensions. The theory has its origins in the dual resonance model (1969). Since that time, the term string theory has developed to incorporate any of a group of related superstring theories. Five major string theories were formulated. The main differences among them were the number of dimensions in which the strings developed and their characteristics; all of them appeared to be correct, however. In the mid 1990s a unification of all previous superstring theories, called M-theory, was proposed, which asserted that strings are really 1-dimensional slices of a 2-dimensional membrane vibrating in 11-dimensional space. As a result of the many properties and principles shared by these approaches (such as the holographic principle), their mutual logical consistency, and the fact that some easily include the standard model of particle physics, some mathematical physicists (e.g. Witten, Maldacena and Susskind) believe that string theory is a step towards the correct fundamental description of nature. Nevertheless, other prominent physicists (e.g. Feynman and Glashow) have criticized string theory for not providing any quantitative experimental predictions. In the early 1970s, super symmetry was discovered in the context of string theory, and a new version of string theory called superstring theory (super symmetric string theory) became the real focus. Nevertheless, bosonic string theory remains a very useful "toy model" to understand many general features of perturbative string theory, and string theory textbooks usually start with the bosonic string. In particle physics, super symmetry (often abbreviated SUSY) is a symmetry that relates elementary particles of one spin to other particles that differ by half a unit of spin and are known as super partners. In a theory with unbroken super symmetry, for every type of boson there exists a corresponding type of fermion with the same mass and internal quantum numbers, and vice-versa.

String theory posits that the electrons and quarks within an atom are not 0-dimensional objects, but 1-dimensional strings. These strings can move and vibrate, giving the observed particles their flavour, charge, mass and spin. String theories also include objects more general than strings, called branes. The word brane, derived from "membrane", refers to a variety of interrelated objects, such as D-branes, black p-branes and Neveu-Schwarz 5-branes. These are extended objects that are charged sources for differential form generalizations of the vector potential electromagnetic field. These objects are related to one another by a variety of dualities. Black hole-like black p-branes are identified with D-branes, which are endpoints for strings, and this identification is called Gaugegravity duality. Research on this equivalence has led to new insights on quantum chromodynamics, the fundamental theory of the strong nuclear force. The strings make closed loops unless they encounter D-branes, where they can open up into 1-dimensional lines. The endpoints of the string cannot break off the D-brane, but they can slide around on it. There are known configurations which describe all the observed fundamental forces and matter but with a zero cosmological constant and some new fields. There are other configurations with different values of the cosmological constant, which are metastable but long-lived. This leads many to believe that there is at least one metastable solution which is quantitatively identical with the standard model, with a small cosmological constant, which contains dark matter and a plausible mechanism for cosmic inflation. It is not yet known whether string theory has such a solution, nor how much freedom the theory allows to choose the details. The full theory does not yet have a satisfactory definition in all circumstances, since the scattering of strings is most straightforwardly defined by a perturbation theory. The complete quantum mechanics of high dimensional branes is not easily defined, and the behaviour of string theory in cosmological settings (time-dependent backgrounds) is not fully worked out. It is also not clear if there is any principle by which string theory selects its vacuum state, the space-time configuration which determines the properties of our universe. Like any other quantum theory of gravity, it is widely believed that testing the theory directly would require prohibitively expensive feats of engineering. Although direct experimental testing of string theory involves grand explorations and development in engineering, there are several indirect experiments that may prove partial truth to string theory.

2.1. Basic properties
String theory can be formulated in terms of an action principle, either the Nambu-Goto action or the Polyakov action, which describes how strings move through space and time. In the absence of external interactions, string dynamics are governed by tension and kinetic energy, which combine to produce oscillations. The quantum mechanics of strings implies these oscillations take on discrete vibrational modes, the spectrum of the theory. On distance scales larger than the string radius, each oscillation mode behaves as a different species of particle, with its mass, spin and charge determined by the string's dynamics. Splitting and recombination of strings correspond to particle emission and absorption, giving rise to the interactions between particles.

An analogy for strings' modes of vibration is a guitar string's production of multiple but distinct musical notes. In the analogy, different notes correspond to different particles. The only difference is the guitar is only 2-dimensional; you can strum it up, and down. In actuality the guitar strings would be every dimension, and the strings could vibrate in any direction, meaning that the particles could move through not only our dimension, but other dimensions as well. String theory includes both open strings, which have two distinct endpoints, and closed strings making a complete loop. The two types of string behave in slightly different ways, yielding two different spectra. For example, in most string theories, one of the closed string modes is the graviton, and one of the open string modes is the photon. Because the two ends of an open string can always meet and connect, forming a closed string, there are no string theories without closed strings. The earliest string model, the bosonic string, incorporated only bosons. This model describes, in low enough energies, a quantum gravity theory, which also includes (if open strings are incorporated as well) gauge fields such as the photon (or, more generally, any gauge theory). However, this model has problems. Most importantly, the theory has a fundamental instability, believed to result in the decay (at least partially) of space-time itself. Additionally, as the name implies, the spectrum of particles contains only bosons, particles which, like the photon, obey particular rules of behaviour. Roughly speaking, bosons are the constituents of radiation, but not of matter, which is made of fermions. Investigating how a string theory may include fermions in its spectrum led to the invention of super symmetry, a mathematical relation between bosons and fermions. String theories which include fermionic vibrations are now known as superstring theories; several different kinds have been described, but all are now thought to be different limits of M-theory. Some qualitative properties of quantum strings can be understood in a fairly simple fashion. For example, quantum strings have tension, much like regular strings made of twine; this tension is considered a fundamental parameter of the theory. The tension of a quantum string is closely related to its size. Consider a closed loop of string, left to move through space without external forces. Its tension will tend to contract it into a smaller and smaller loop. Classical intuition suggests that it might shrink to a single point, but this would violate Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The characteristic size of the string loop will be a balance between the tension force, acting to make it small, and the uncertainty effect, which keeps it "stretched". Consequently, the minimum size of a string is related to the string tension.

2.1.1.

World-sheet

A point-like particle's motion may be described by drawing a graph of its position (in one or two dimensions of space) against time. The resulting picture depicts the worldline of the particle (its 'history') in spacetime. By analogy, a similar graph depicting the progress of a string as time passes by can be obtained; the string (a one-dimensional object — a small line — by itself) will trace out a surface (a two-dimensional manifold), known as the worldsheet. The different string modes (representing different particles, such as photon or graviton) are surface waves on this manifold.

A closed string looks like a small loop, so its worldsheet will look like a pipe or, more generally, a Riemann surface (a two-dimensional oriented manifold) with no boundaries (i.e. no edge). An open string looks like a short line, so its worldsheet will look like a strip or, more generally, a Riemann surface with a boundary.

Interaction in the subatomic world: world lines of point-like particles in the Standard Model or a world sheet swept up by closed strings in string theory.

Strings can split and connect. This is reflected by the form of their worldsheet (more accurately, by its topology). For example, if a closed string splits, its worldsheet will look like a single pipe splitting (or connected) to two pipes (often referred to as a pair of pants — see drawing at right). If a closed string splits and its two parts later reconnect, its worldsheet will look like a single pipe splitting to two and then reconnecting, which also looks like a torus connected to two pipes (one representing the ingoing string, and the other — the outgoing one). An open string doing the same thing will have its worldsheet looking like a ring connected to two strips. Note that the process of a string splitting (or strings connecting) is a global process of the worldsheet, not a local one: locally, the worldsheet looks the same everywhere and it is not possible to determine a single point on the worldsheet where the splitting occurs. Therefore these processes are an integral part of the theory, and are described by the same dynamics that controls the string modes. In some string theories (namely, closed strings in Type I and some versions of the bosonic string), strings can split and reconnect in an opposite orientation (as in a Möbius strip or a Klein bottle). These theories are called unoriented. Formally, the worldsheet in these theories is a non-orientable surface.

2.1.2.

Dualities

Before the 1990s, string theorists believed there were five distinct superstring theories: open type I, closed type I, closed type IIA, closed type IIB, and the two flavors of heterotic string theory (SO(32) and E8×E8).[13] The thinking was that out of these five candidate theories, only one was the actual correct theory of everything, and that theory was the one whose low energy limit, with ten spacetime dimensions compactified down to four, matched the physics observed in our world today. It is now believed that this picture was incorrect and that the five superstring theories are connected to one another as if they are each a special case of some more fundamental theory (thought to be M-theory). These theories are related by transformations that are called dualities. If two theories are related by a duality transformation, it means that the first theory can be transformed in some way so that it ends up looking just like the second theory. The two theories are then said to be dual to

one another under that kind of transformation. Put differently, the two theories are mathematically different descriptions of the same phenomena. These dualities link quantities that were also thought to be separate. Large and small distance scales, as well as strong and weak coupling strengths, are quantities that have always marked very distinct limits of behavior of a physical system in both classical field theory and quantum particle physics. But strings can obscure the difference between large and small, strong and weak, and this is how these five very different theories end up being related. T-duality relates the large and small distance scales between string theories, whereas S-duality relates strong and weak coupling strengths between string theories. U-duality links T-duality and S-duality. String theories Type Spacetime dimensions Details Only bosons, no fermions, meaning only forces, no matter, with both open and closed strings; major flaw: a particle with imaginary mass, called the tachyon, representing an instability in the theory. Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with both open and closed strings; no tachyon; group symmetry is SO(32) Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with only closed strings bound to D-branes; no tachyon; massless fermions are non-chiral Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with only closed strings bound to D-branes; no tachyon; massless fermions are chiral Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with closed strings only; no tachyon; heterotic, meaning right moving and left moving strings differ; group symmetry is SO(32) Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with closed strings only; no tachyon; heterotic, meaning right moving and left moving strings differ; group symmetry is E8×E8

Bosonic

26

I

10

IIA

10

IIB

10

HO

10

HE

10

Note that in the type IIA and type IIB string theories closed strings are allowed to move everywhere throughout the ten-dimensional spacetime (called the bulk), while open strings have their ends attached to D-branes, which are membranes of lower dimensionality (their dimension is odd — 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 — in type IIA and even — 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8 — in type IIB, including the time direction).

2.1.3.

Extra dimensions

Number of dimensions

An intriguing feature of string theory is that it involves the prediction of extra dimensions. The number of dimensions is not fixed by any consistency criterion,[dubious – discuss] but flat spacetime solutions do exist in the so-called "critical dimension". Cosmological solutions exist in a wider variety of dimensionalities, and these different dimensions—more precisely different values of the "effective central charge", a count of degrees of freedom which reduces to dimensionality in weakly curved regimes—are related by dynamical transitions. One such theory is the 11-dimensional M-theory, which requires spacetime to have eleven dimensions, as opposed to the usual three spatial dimensions and the fourth dimension of time. The original string theories from the 1980s describe special cases of M-theory where the eleventh dimension is a very small circle or a line, and if these formulations are considered as fundamental, then string theory requires ten dimensions. But the theory also describes universes like ours, with four observable spacetime dimensions, as well as universes with up to 10 flat space dimensions, and also cases where the position in some of the dimensions is not described by a real number, but by a completely different type of mathematical quantity. So the notion of spacetime dimension is not fixed in string theory: it is best thought of as different in different circumstances. Nothing in Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism or Einstein's theory of relativity makes this kind of prediction; these theories require physicists to insert the number of dimensions "by both hands", and this number is fixed and independent of potential energy. String theory allows one to relate the number of dimensions to scalar potential energy. Technically, this happens because a gauge anomaly exists for every separate number of predicted dimensions, and the gauge anomaly can be counteracted by including nontrivial potential energy into equations to solve motion. Furthermore, the absence of potential energy in the "critical dimension" explains why flat spacetime solutions are possible. This can be better understood by noting that a photon included in a consistent theory (technically, a particle carrying a force related to an unbroken gauge symmetry) must be massless. The mass of the photon which is predicted by string theory depends on the energy of the string mode which represents the photon. This energy includes a contribution from the Casimir effect, namely from quantum fluctuations in the string. The size of this contribution depends on the number of dimensions since for a larger number of dimensions; there are more possible fluctuations in the string position. Therefore, the photon in flat spacetime will be massless—and the theory consistent—only for a particular number of dimensions.[17] When the calculation is done, the critical dimensionality is not four as one may expect (three axes of space and one of time). The subset of X is equal to the relation of photon fluctuations in a linear dimension. Flat space string theories are 26-dimensional in the bosonic case, while superstring and M-theories turn out to involve 10 or 11 dimensions for flat solutions. In bosonic string theories, the 26 dimensions come from the Polyakov equation.[18] Starting from any dimension greater than four, it is necessary to consider how these are reduced to four dimensional spacetime.

2.1.4.

Compact dimensions

Two different ways have been proposed to resolve this apparent contradiction. The first is to compactify the extra dimensions; i.e., the 6 or 7 extra dimensions are so small as to be undetectable by present day experiments.

To retain a high degree of supersymmetry, these compactification spaces must be very special, as reflected in their holonomy. A 6-dimensional manifold must have SU(3) structure, a particular case (torsionless) of this being SU(3) holonomy, making it a Calabi-Yau space, and a 7-dimensional manifold must have G2 structure, with G2 holonomy again being a specific, simple, case. Such spaces have been studied in attempts to relate string theory to the 4-dimensional Standard Model, in part due to the computational simplicity afforded by the assumption of supersymmetry. More recently, progress has been made constructing more realistic compactifications without the degree of symmetry of Calabi-Yau or G2 manifolds.

A standard analogy for this is to consider multidimensional space as a garden hose. If the hose is viewed from a sufficient distance, it appears to have only one dimension, its length. Indeed, think of a ball just small enough to enter the hose. Throwing such a ball inside the hose, the ball would move more or less in one dimension; in any experiment we make by throwing such balls in the hose, the only important movement will be one-dimensional, that is, along the hose. However, as one approaches the hose, one discovers that it contains a second dimension, its circumference. Thus, an ant crawling inside it would move in two dimensions (and a fly flying in it would move in three dimensions). This "extra dimension" is only visible within a relatively close range to the hose, or if one "throws in" small enough objects. Similarly, the extra compact dimensions are only "visible" at extremely small distances, or by experimenting with particles with extremely small wavelengths (of the order of the compact dimension's radius), which in quantum mechanics means very high energies (see wave-particle duality).

2.1.5.

Brane-world scenario

Another possibility is that we are "stuck" in a 3+1 dimensional (i.e. three spatial dimensions plus the time dimension) subspace of the full universe. If such sub-spacetimes are exceptional sets within a larger-dimensional one, there typically exist properly localized matter and Yang-Mills gauge fields.[19] These "exceptional sets" are ubiquitous in Calabi-Yau n-folds and may be described as subspaces without local deformations, akin to a crease in a sheet of paper or a crack in a crystal, the neighborhood of which is markedly different from the exceptional subspace itself. However, until the work of Randall and Sundrum,[20] it was not known that gravity too can be properly localized to a sub-spacetime; their proof that it can made such cosmological scenarios realistic. In addition, spacetime may well be stratified, containing strata of various dimensions so that we may be inhabiting a 3+1 dimensional stratum; such geometries occur naturally in Calabi-Yau compactifications.[21] Such sub-spacetimes are supposed to be D-branes, hence such models are known as a brane-world theories.

2.1.6.

Effect of the hidden dimensions

In either case, gravity acting in the hidden dimensions affects other non-gravitational forces such as electromagnetism. In fact, Kaluza's early work demonstrated that general relativity in five dimensions actually predicts the existence of electromagnetism. However, because of the nature of Calabi-Yau manifolds, no new forces appear from the small dimensions, but their shape has a profound effect on how the forces between the strings appear in our four-dimensional universe. In principle, therefore, it is possible to deduce the nature of those extra dimensions by requiring consistency with the standard model, but this is not yet a practical possibility. It is also possible to extract information regarding the hidden dimensions by precision tests of gravity, but so far these have only put upper limitations on the size of such hidden dimensions.

2.1.7.

D-branes

Another key feature of string theory is the existence of D-branes. These are membranes of different dimensionality (anywhere from a zero dimensional membrane — which is in fact a point — and up, including 2-dimensional membranes, 3-dimensional volumes and so on). D-branes are defined by the fact that worldsheet boundaries are attached to them. D-branes have mass, since they emit and absorb closed strings which describe gravitons, and — in superstring theories — charge as well, since they couple to open strings which describe gauge interactions. From the point of view of open strings, D-branes are objects to which the ends of open strings are attached. The open strings attached to a D-brane are said to "live" on it, and they give rise to gauge theories "living" on it (since one of the open string modes is a gauge boson such as the photon). In the case of one D-brane there will be one type of a gauge boson and we will have an Abelian gauge theory (with the gauge boson being the photon). If there are multiple parallel D-branes there will be multiple types of gauge bosons, giving rise to a non-Abelian gauge theory. D-branes are thus gravitational sources, on which a gauge theory "lives". This gauge theory is coupled to gravity (which is said to exist in the bulk), so that normally each of these two different viewpoints is incomplete.

3.

Superstring theory

Superstring theory is an attempt to explain all of the particles and fundamental forces of nature in one theory by modelling them as vibrations of tiny supersymmetric strings. Superstring theory is a shorthand for supersymmetric string theory because unlike bosonic string theory, it is the version of string theory that incorporates fermions and supersymmetry. So far the theory has made no quantitative experimental predictions, so that the theory could be falsified (tested). The deepest problem in theoretical physics is harmonizing the theory of general relativity, which describes gravitation and applies to large-scale structures (stars, galaxies, super clusters), with quantum mechanics, which describes the other three fundamental forces acting on the atomic scale.

The development of a quantum field theory of a force invariably results in infinite (and therefore useless) probabilities. Physicists have developed mathematical techniques (renormalization) to eliminate these infinities which work for three of the four fundamental forces – electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces – but not for gravity. The development of a quantum theory of gravity must therefore come about by different means than those used for the other forces. The basic idea is that the fundamental constituents of reality are strings of the Planck length (about 10−33 cm) which vibrate at resonant frequencies. Every string in theory has a unique resonance, or harmonic. Different harmonics determine different fundamental forces. The tension in a string is on the order of the Planck force (1044 newtons). The graviton (the proposed messenger particle of the gravitational force), for example, is predicted by the theory to be a string with wave amplitude zero. Another key insight provided by the theory is that no measurable differences can be detected between strings that wrap around dimensions smaller than themselves and those that move along larger dimensions (i.e., effects in a dimension of size R equal those whose size is 1/R). Singularities are avoided because the observed consequences of "Big Crunches" never reach zero size. In fact, should the universe begin a "big crunch" sort of process, string theory dictates that the universe could never be smaller than the size of a string, at which point it would actually begin expanding. Our physical space is observed to have only three large dimensions and—taken together with duration as the fourth dimension—a physical theory must take this into account. However, nothing prevents a theory from including more than 4 dimensions. In the case of string theory, consistency requires spacetime to have 10 (3+1+6) dimensions. The conflict between observation and theory is resolved by making the unobserved dimensions compactified. Our minds have difficulty visualizing higher dimensions because we can only move in three spatial dimensions. One way of dealing with this limitation is not to try to visualize higher dimensions at all, but just to think of them as extra numbers in the equations that describe the way the world works. This opens the question of whether these 'extra numbers' can be investigated directly in any experiment (which must show different results in 1, 2, or 2 + 1 dimensions to a human scientist). This, in turn, raises the question of whether models that rely on such abstract modelling (and potentially impossibly huge experimental apparatuses) can be considered scientific. Six-dimensional Calabi–Yau shapes can account for the additional dimensions required by superstring theory. The theory states that every point in space (or whatever we had previously considered a point) is in fact a very small manifold where each extra dimension has a size on the order of the Planck length. Superstring theory is not the first theory to propose extra spatial dimensions; the Kaluza-Klein theory had done so previously. Modern string theory relies on the mathematics of folds, knots, and topology, which were largely developed after Kaluza and Klein, and has made physical theories relying on extra dimensions much more credible.

3.1. Number of superstring theories
Theoretical physicists were troubled by the existence of five separate string theories. A possible solution for this dilemma was suggested at the beginning of what is called the second superstring revolution in the 1990s, which suggests that the five string theories might be different limits of a

single underlying theory, called M-theory. Unfortunately, however, to this date this remains a conjecture. String theories Type Bosonic (closed) Bosonic (open) I IIA IIB HO HE M-theory Spacetime SUSY dimensions generators 26 26 10 10 10 10 10 11 N=0 N=0 N = (1,0) N = (1,1) N = (2,0) N = (1,0) N = (1,0) N=1 chiral no no yes no yes yes yes no open heterotic strings? compactification? no yes yes no no no no no no no no no no yes yes no gauge group none U(1) SO(32) U(1) none SO(32) E8*E8 none tachyon yes yes no no no no no no

The five consistent superstring theories are:

The type I string has one supersymmetry in the ten-dimensional sense (16 supercharges). This theory is special in the sense that it is based on unoriented open and closed strings, while the rest are based on oriented closed strings. The type II string theories have two supersymmetries in the ten-dimensional sense (32 supercharges). There are actually two kinds of type II strings called type IIA and type IIB. They differ mainly in the fact that the IIA theory is non-chiral (parity conserving) while the IIB theory is chiral (parity violating). The heterotic string theories are based on a peculiar hybrid of a type I superstring and a bosonic string. There are two kinds of heterotic strings differing in their ten-dimensional gauge groups: the heterotic E8×E8 string and the heterotic SO(32) string. (The name heterotic SO(32) is slightly inaccurate since among the SO(32) Lie groups, string theory singles out a quotient Spin(32)/Z2 that is not equivalent to SO(32).)

Chiral gauge theories can be inconsistent due to anomalies. This happens when certain one-loop Feynman diagrams cause a quantum mechanical breakdown of the gauge symmetry. The anomalies were canceled out via the Green–Schwarz mechanism. Please note that the number of superstring theories given above is only a high-level classification; the actual number of mathematically distinct theories which are compatible with observation and would therefore have to be examined to find the one that correctly describes nature is currently believed to be at least 10500 (a one with five hundred zeroes). This has given rise to the concern that superstring theories, despite the alluring simplicity of their basic principles, are, in fact, not simple at all, and according to the principle of Occam's razor perhaps alternative physical theories going beyond the Standard Model should be explored. This is aggravated by the fact that it is

exceedingly hard to make predictions from any superstring theory which can be falsified by experiment, and in fact no current superstring theory makes any falsifiable prediction.

3.2. Integrating general relativity and quantum mechanics
General relativity typically deals with situations involving large mass objects in fairly large regions of spacetime whereas quantum mechanics is generally reserved for scenarios at the atomic scale (small spacetime regions). The two are very rarely used together, and the most common case in which they are combined is in the study of black holes. Having "peak density", or the maximum amount of matter possible in a space, and very small area, the two must be used in synchrony in order to predict conditions in such places; yet, when used together, the equations fall apart, spitting out impossible answers, such as imaginary distances and less than one dimension. The major problem with their congruence is that, at Planck scale (a fundamental small unit of length) lengths, general relativity predicts a smooth, flowing surface, while quantum mechanics predicts a random, warped surface, neither of which are anywhere near compatible. Superstring theory resolves this issue, replacing the classical idea of point particles with loops. These loops have an average diameter of the Planck length, with extremely small variances, which completely ignores the quantum mechanical predictions of Planck-scale length dimensional warping.

3.3. The five superstring interactions
There are five ways open and closed strings can interact. An interaction in superstring theory is a topology changing event. Since superstring theory has to be a local theory to obey causality the topology change must only occur at a single point. If C represents a closed string and O an open string, then the five interactions are OOO, CCC, OOOO, CO and COO. All open superstring theories also contain closed superstrings since closed superstrings can be seen from the fifth interaction, and they are unavoidable. Although all these interactions are possible, in practice the most used superstring model is the closed heterotic E8xE8 superstring which only has closed strings and so only the second interaction (CCC) is needed.

4.

M-theory

In theoretical physics, M-theory is an extension of string theory in which 11 dimensions are identified. Because the dimensionality exceeds the dimensionality of superstring theories in 10

dimensions, it is believed that the 11-dimensional theory unites all five string theories (and supersedes them). Though a full description of the theory is not known, the low-entropy dynamics are known to be supergravity interacting with 2- and 5-dimensional membranes. This idea is the unique supersymmetric theory in eleven dimensions, with its low-entropy matter content and interactions fully determined, and can be obtained as the strong coupling limit of type IIA string theory because a new dimension of space emerges as the coupling constant increases. Drawing on the work of a number of string theorists (including Ashoke Sen, Chris Hull, Paul Townsend, Michael Duff and John Schwarz), Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study suggested its existence at a conference at USC in 1995, and used M-theory to explain a number of previously observed dualities, sparking a flurry of new research in string theory called the second superstring revolution. In the early 1990s, it was shown that the various superstring theories were related by dualities, which allow physicists to relate the description of an object in one super string theory to the description of a different object in another super string theory. These relationships imply that each of the super string theories is a different aspect of a single underlying theory, proposed by Witten, and named "M-theory". Originally the letter M in M-theory was taken from membrane, a construct designed to generalize the strings of string theory. However, as Witten was more skeptical about membranes than his colleagues, he opted for "M-theory" rather than "Membrane theory". Witten has since stated that the interpretation of the M can be a matter of taste for the user of the name.[1] M-theory (and string theory) has been criticized for lacking predictive power or being untestable. Further work continues to find mathematical constructs that join various surrounding theories. New formulations are proposed to join many theoretic situations (usually by exploiting string theoretic dualities[clarification needed]). Witten has suggested that a general formulation of M-theory will probably require the development of new mathematical language.[citation needed] However, the tangible success of M-theory can be questioned, given its current incompleteness and limited predictive power, even after so many years of intense research. Prior to 1995 there were five (known) consistent superstring theories (henceforth referred to as string theories), which were given the names Type I string theory, Type IIA string theory, Type IIB string theory, heterotic SO(32) (the HO string) theory, and heterotic E8×E8 (the HE string) theory. The five theories all share essential features that relate them to the name of string theory. Each theory is fundamentally based on vibrating, one dimensional strings at approximately the length of the Planck length. Calculations have also shown that each theory requires more than the normal four spacetime dimensions (although all extra dimensions are in fact spatial). Yet, when the theories are analysed in detail, significant differences appear.

Type I string theory and others The Type I string theory has vibrating strings like the rest of the string theories. These strings vibrate both in closed loops, so that the strings have no ends, and as open strings with two loose ends. The

open loose strings are what separates the Type I string theory from the other four string theories. This was a feature that the other string theories did not contain.

String vibrational patterns The calculations of the String Vibrational Patterns show that the list of string vibrational patterns and the way each pattern interacts and influences others vary from one theory to another. These and other differences hindered the development of the string theory as being the theory that united quantum mechanics and general relativity successfully. Attempts by the physics community to eliminate four of the theories, leaving only one string theory, have not been successful.

M-theory M-theory attempts to unify the five string theories by examining certain identifications and dualities. Thus each of the five string theories become special cases of M-theory. As the names suggest, some of these string theories were thought to be related to each other. In the early 1990s, string theorists discovered that some relations were so strong that they could be thought of as an identification.

Type IIA and Type IIB The Type IIA string theory and the Type IIB string theory were known to be connected by T-duality; this essentially meant that the IIA string theory description of a circle of radius R is exactly the same as the IIB description of a circle of radius 1/R, where distances are measured in units of the Planck length. This was a profound result. First, this was an intrinsically quantum mechanical result; the identification did not hold in the realm of classical physics. Second, because it is possible to build up any space by gluing circles together in various ways,[dubious – discuss] it would seem that any space described by the IIA string theory can also be seen as a different space described by the IIB theory. This implies that the IIA string theory can identify with the IIB string theory: any object which can be described with the IIA theory has an equivalent, although seemingly different, description in terms of the IIB theory. This suggests that the IIA string theory and the IIB string theory are really aspects of the same underlying theory.

Other dualities There are other dualities between the other string theories. The heterotic SO(32) and the heterotic E8×E8 theories[2][3] are also related by T-duality; the heterotic SO(32) description of a circle of radius R is exactly the same as the heterotic E8×E8 description of a circle of radius 1/R. This implies

that there are really only three superstring theories, which might be called (for discussion) the Type I theory, the Type II theory, and the heterotic theory. There are still more dualities, however. The Type I string theory is related to the heterotic SO(32) theory by S-duality; this means that the Type I description of weakly interacting particles can also be seen as the heterotic SO(32) description of very strongly interacting particles. This identification is somewhat more subtle, in that it identifies only extreme limits of the respective theories. String theorists have found strong evidence that the two theories are really the same, even away from the extremely strong and extremely weak limits, but they do not yet have a proof strong enough to satisfy mathematicians. However, it has become clear that the two theories are related in some fashion; they appear as different limits of a single underlying theory.

Only two string theories Given the above commonalities there appear to be only two string theories: the heterotic string theory (which is also the type I string theory) and the type II theory. There are relations between these two theories as well, and these relations are in fact strong enough to allow them to be identified.

Last step This last step is best explained first in a certain limit. In order to describe our world, strings must be extremely tiny objects. So when one studies string theory at low energies, it becomes difficult to see that strings are extended objects — they become effectively zero-dimensional (pointlike). Consequently, the quantum theory describing the low energy limit is a theory that describes the dynamics of these points moving in spacetime, rather than strings. Such theories are called quantum field theories. However, since string theory also describes gravitational interactions, one expects the low-energy theory to describe particles moving in gravitational backgrounds. Finally, since superstring string theories are supersymmetric, one expects to see supersymmetry appearing in the low-energy approximation. These three facts imply that the low-energy approximation to a superstring theory is a supergravity theory.

Supergravity theories The possible supergravity theories were classified by Werner Nahm in the 1970s. In 10 dimensions, there are only two supergravity theories, which are denoted Type IIA and Type IIB. This similar denomination is not a coincidence; the Type IIA string theory has the Type IIA supergravity theory as its low-energy limit and the Type IIB string theory gives rise to Type IIB supergravity. The heterotic SO(32) and heterotic E8×E8 string theories also reduce to Type IIA and Type IIB supergravity in the low-energy limit. This suggests that there may indeed be a relation between the heterotic/Type I theories and the Type II theories.

In 1994, Edward Witten outlined the following relationship: The Type IIA supergravity (corresponding to the heterotic SO(32) and Type IIA string theories) can be obtained by dimensional reduction from the single unique eleven-dimensional supergravity theory. This means that if one studied supergravity on an eleven-dimensional spacetime that looks like the product of a tendimensional spacetime with another very small one-dimensional manifold, one gets the Type IIA supergravity theory. (And the Type IIB supergravity theory can be obtained by using T-duality.) However, eleven-dimensional supergravity is not consistent on its own — it does not make sense at extremely high energy, and likely requires some form of completion. It seems plausible, then, that there is some quantum theory — which Witten dubbed M-theory — in eleven-dimensions which gives rise at low energies to eleven-dimensional supergravity, and is related to ten-dimensional string theory by dimensional reduction. Dimensional reduction to a circle yields the Type IIA string theory, and dimensional reduction to a line segment yields the heterotic SO(32) string theory.

Same underlying theory M-theory would implement the notion that all of the different string theories are different special cases.

Recent developments In late 2007, Bagger and Lambert set off renewed interest in M-theory with the discovery of a candidate Lagrangian description of coincident M2-branes, based on a non-associative generalization of Lie Algebra, Nambu 3-algebra or Filippov 3-algebra. Practitioners hope the BaggerLambert-Gustavsson action will provide the long-sought microscopic description of M-theory.

4.1. M-theory and membranes
In the standard string theories, strings are assumed to be the single fundamental constituent of the universe. M-theory adds another fundamental constituent - membranes. Like the tenth spatial dimension, the approximate equations in the original five superstring models proved too weak to reveal membranes. P-branes A membrane, or brane, is a multidimensional object, usually called a P-brane, with P referring to the number of dimensions in which it exists. The value of 'P' can range from zero to nine, thus giving branes dimensions from zero (0-brane ≡ point particle) to nine - five more than the world we are accustomed to inhabiting. The inclusion of p-branes does not render previous work in string theory wrong on account of not taking note of these P-branes. P-branes are much more massive ("heavier") than strings, and when all higher-dimensional P-branes are much more massive than strings, they can be ignored, as researchers had done unknowingly in the 1970s. Strings with "loose ends"

Shortly after Witten's breakthrough in 1995, Joseph Polchinski of the University of California, Santa Barbara discovered a fairly obscure feature of string theory. He found that in certain situations the endpoints of strings (strings with "loose ends") would not be able to move with complete freedom as they were attached, or stuck within certain regions of space. Polchinski then reasoned that if the endpoints of open strings are restricted to move within some p-dimensional region of space, then that region of space must be occupied by a p-brane. These type of "sticky" branes are called Dirichlet-P-branes, or D-p-branes. His calculations showed that the newly discovered D-P-branes had exactly the right properties to be the objects that exert a tight grip on the open string endpoints, thus holding down these strings within the p-dimensional region of space they fill. Strings with closed loops Not all strings are confined to p-branes. Strings with closed loops, like the graviton, are completely free to move from membrane to membrane. Of the four force carrier particles, the graviton is unique in this way. Researchers speculate that this is the reason why investigation through the weak force, the strong force, and the electromagnetic force have not hinted at the possibility of extra dimensions. These force carrier particles are strings with endpoints that confine them to their pbranes. Further testing is needed in order to show that extra spatial dimensions indeed exist through experimentation with gravity.

4.2. Membrane interactions
One of the reasons M-theory is so difficult to formulate is that the numbers of different types of membranes in the various dimensions increases exponentially. For example once one gets to 3 dimensional surfaces, one has to deal with solid objects with knot-shaped holes, and then one needs the whole of knot theory just to classify them. Since M-theory is thought to operate in 11 dimensions this problem then becomes very difficult. But just like string theory, in order for the theory to satisfy causality, the theory must be local, and so the topology changing must occur at a single point. The basic orientable 2-brane interactions are easy to show. Orientable 2-branes are tori with multiple holes cut out of them.

4.3. Matrix theory
The original formulation of M-theory was in terms of a (relatively) low-energy effective field theory, called 11-dimensional Supergravity. Though this formulation provided a key link to the low-energy limits of string theories, it was recognized that a full high-energy formulation (or "UV-completion") of M-theory was needed. Analogy with water For an analogy, the Super gravity description is like treating water as a continuous, incompressible fluid. This is effective for describing long-distance effects such as waves and currents, but inadequate to understand short-distance/high-energy phenomena such as evaporation, for which a

description of the underlying molecules is needed. What, then, are the underlying degrees of freedom of M-theory? BFSS model Banks, Fischler, Shenker and Susskind (BFSS) conjectured that Matrix theory could provide the answer. They demonstrated that a theory of 9 very large matrices, evolving in time, could reproduce the Super gravity description at low energy, but take over for it as it breaks down at high energy. While the Super gravity description assumes a continuous space-time, Matrix theory predicts that, at short distances, non-commutative geometry takes over, somewhat similar to the way the continuum of water breaks down at short distances in favor of the graininess of molecules. IKKT model Another matrix string theory equivalent to Type IIB string theory was constructed in 1996 by Ishibashi, Kawai, Kitazawa, and Tsuchiya.

5.

List of string theory topics 5.1. String theory
     Strings Nambu-Goto action Polyakov action Bosonic string theory Superstring theory o Type I string o Type II string + Type IIA string theory + Type IIB string theory o Heterotic string  N=2 superstring  M-theory o Matrix theory o Introduction to M-theory  F-theory  String field theory  Matrix string theory  Nonlinear sigma model  Tachyon condensation  RNS formalism  String theory landscape  History of string theory o First superstring revolution o Second superstring revolution

5.1.1.
    

String duality

T-duality S-duality U-duality Montonen-Olive duality Mysterious duality

5.1.2.
     

Particles and fields

Graviton Dilaton Tachyon Ramond-Ramond field Kalb-Ramond field Magnetic monopole

5.1.3.
       

Branes

D-brane S-brane Black brane Black holes Black string Brane cosmology Quiver diagram Hanany-Witten transition

5.2. Supersymmetry
    Supergravity Superspace Lie superalgebra Lie supergroup

5.3. Conformal field theory
        Virasoro algebra Mirror symmetry Conformal anomaly Conformal algebra Superconformal algebra Vertex operator algebra Loop algebra Kac-Moody algebra

Wess-Zumino-Witten model

5.4. Geometry
     Kaluza-Klein theory Compactification Why 10 dimensions? Kähler manifold Ricci-flat manifold o Calabi-Yau manifold o HyperKähler manifold o + K3 surface o G2 manifold o Spin(7) manifold Generalized complex manifold Orbifold Conifold Orientifold Moduli space Horava-Witten domain wall K-theory (physics) Twisted K-theory

       

5.5. Holography
  Holographic principle AdS/CFT correspondence

5.6. Gauge theory
        Anomalies Instantons Chern-Simons form Bogomol'nyi Prasad Sommerfield bound Exceptional Lie groups o G2, F4, E6, E7, E8 ADE classification Dirac string P-form electrodynamics

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