String Theory Reflection
In my reflection on relativity, I declared that relativity was the strangest branch of science I had seen yet. When I wrote my reflection on quantum mechanics, I declared that it was even stranger than relativity. One might be starting to wonder if the trend will continue; is string theory even stranger than quantum mechanics? In my opinion, it is actually not; in a world full of increasingly bizarre physics, string theory, while still not nearly so intuitive as Newtonian physics, is at least logical and, to a degree, straightforward. So the first, most obvious question about it is, why is this? Why is string theory so straightforward and logical, while quantum mechanics, its most recent predecessor, is clearly not?
I think that part of the reason it is so straightforward is that it is based on a single, originating idea. Quantum mechanics, as we discussed, is based on the conglomeration of the results of a wide range of experiments. As a result, it is more a hodgepodge of ever-changing charts than it is a theory with a simple core concept. String theory, however, was created originally as a concept; the fact that it seems to fit this universe perfectly is remarkable, but string theory could be developed and used without the basis of any additional real-world data to refine it (although it is not clear why we would want to do this in the first place). Because it starts off as a simple (well, maybe not quite simple), straightforward idea, string theory, at least in theory, is conceptually much simpler than quantum mechanics.
There is one thing that we discussed in class that I am simply not yet convinced of, and that is the theory that we can't detect anything below the Planck scale with strings. This may well be demonstrably true, but I haven't seen nearly enough evidence to prove it to me as of yet. The idea of a string being used as a probe was equated with the using of a tennis ball as a probe; it was stated that we couldn't get a picture with a smaller resolution than that of the tennis ball. I would argue, however, that we could get as small-resolution picture as we want, given the ability to measure the ball's velocity and position with enough accuracy; taking into account details down to the level of gravity, for example, would give us a remarkably clear image. Granted, we can't measure the velocity and position of a single particle with infinite accuracy, so we just use two particles measuring each point. There are always ways to get around practical difficulties, and a practical difficulty, albeit a very large one, is all that this problem seems to be.
Just for fun, I'll challenge another assumption made in our class discussion; I am willing to accept this assumption, but I think that it is deserving of some philosophical thought: What makes up strings? Yes, I know, they're the basic building block, they can't be broken down, etc., but if they aren't made of anything, how can they exist? Are strings the intersections of alternate, twisted-up dimensions? Are they the ancestors of Pac-Man, come to take over the universe? Wait a second; they have taken over the universe… In any case, I would think that strings would have to be made of at least something; knowing what this 'something' is would, I should think, help explain the origins of the universe, from the big bang or even from before it, if there was a universe before this one and if strings are as indestructible as they are made out to be.
String theory may be much more straightforward than quantum mechanics, but, as a candidate for a grand unified theory of everything, it has a great more potential. It raises questions on all scales of this universe, although its questions seem to focus on the very small at the present tine. This is most likely true not necessarily because the tiny stuff in this universe is the strangest; it is more likely because string theory has not developed nearly enough to begin to illustrate many of the philosophically and scientifically complex ideas apparent on larger scales. Someday, though, it most likely will; after all, continuing to learn and think is the ultimate goal of science.