Scientific Controversies
No. 13: String Theory

Scientific Controversies (Sci Con) is a series of conversations between scientists hosted by PW Director of Sciences Janna Levin.

Our perception of the material world is famously illusory. Nothing is solid. On closer inspection, all things resolve into a long list of fundamental particles, microscopic billiard balls subject to quantum forces. The list of known particles is disappointingly long – a cocktail with too many ingredients in a universe that promised elegance. String Theory attempts to restore elegance by unifying the multitude of ingredients into one. The essential idea: There are no particles, only vibrating loops of string. If true, then all the different quantum particles are just different harmonics played on fundamental strings. So is the entire universe a complex score played out on elementary strings? Or are we lost, distracted by the pursuit of an ideal beauty that the universe simply doesn’t possess?

Director of Sciences, Janna Levin, hosts David Gross, Nobel Laureate in Physics, and Clifford Johnson, Theoretical Physicist and author of the new graphic science novel The Dialogues.

Join us after the conversation for a book signing of Clifford Johnson’s The Dialogues (available for purchase) and star gazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of NY in our garden.

This project is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.