String Theory Makes New Connections Between Physics and Mathematics
Some 100 years ago, Albert Einstein was struggling with the theory that would reconcile gravity (the force that holds the earth together, and governs the universe at large) with the principle that nothing can travel faster than light. He succeeded only after learning a then-new mathematical language. Its elegance, and the numerous tests it passed, have established Einstein’s theory among the greatest intellectual accomplishments of mankind.
Nevertheless, the theory is challenged by another such accomplishment—quantum mechanics—which governs the world of the very small. To describe the very smallest possible scales, Einstein’s language becomes inadequate, and new mathematics is needed.
String theory is an attempt to reconcile Einstein’s theory with quantum mechanics. It posits that the basic building blocks of nature are tiny strings of energy, rather than indivisible point particles. Large chunks of string theory are still missing, although enough has been accumulated to be confident that it is on the right track, even without direct tests. Countless applications to pure mathematics have emerged along the way.
Dr. Johannes Walcher, Canada Research Chair in Mathematical String Theory, is working in this new research field at the boundary of physics and mathematics, where the language of string theory is being developed. The ultimate aim is to blend space and time into the string notion and thus to unify Einstein’s theory with quantum mechanics.
Walcher’s research will advance knowledge about string theory. Joining other efforts in Canada and around the world, it may lead to new breakthroughs in mankind’s understanding of nature.