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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Edward Witten and string theory


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Ojan


Edward Witten (1951-now) is an American physicist and mathematician best known for his contributions to string theory. Physicist Brian Greene said,


"In the spring of 1995... Edward Witten - who for decades has been the world's most renowned string theorist - uncovered a hidden unity that tied all five string theories together. Witten showed that rather than being distinct, the five theories are actually just five different ways of mathematically analyzing a single theory... The unifying master theory has tentatively been called M-theory." (The Fabric of the Cosmos, 2003)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Witten.




"Most people who haven't been trained in physics probably think of what physicists do as a question of incredibly complicated calculations, but that's not really the essence of it. The essence of it is that physics is about concepts, wanting to understand the concepts, the principles by which the world works." (Interview with P. W. C. Davies and Julian Brown, 1992)


"I would expect that a proper elucidation of what string theory really is all about would involve a revolution in our concepts of the basic laws of physics - similar in scope to any that occurred in the past." (Interview with P. W. C. Davies and Julian Brown, 1992)


String Theory


"String theory is an attempt at a deeper description of nature by thinking of an elementary particle not as a little point but as a little loop of vibrating string." (


"Generally speaking, all the really great ideas of physics are really spin-offs of string theory... some of them were discovered first, but I consider that a mere accident of the development of planet earth." (Quoted in The End of Science by John Horgan)


"Spreading out the particle into a string is a step in the direction of making everything we're familiar with fuzzy. You enter a completely new world where things aren't at all what you're used to." (




"As of now, string theorists have no explanation of why there are three large dimensions as well as time, and the other dimensions are are microscopic. Proposals about that have been all over the map." (


"If I take the theory as we have it now, literally, I would conclude that extra dimensions really exist. They're part of nature. We don't know how big they are yet, but we hope to explore that in various ways." (


"Vibrating strings in 10 dimensions is just a weird fact... An explanation of that weird fact would tell you why there are 10 dimensions in the first place." (Quoted in A Theory of Everything by K. C. Cole)