Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity provided physicists with both an improved understanding of gravity as well as new, unanswered questions. While it was groundbreaking, it wasn’t able to describe gravity as a consistent quantum theory, or one that successfully describes all of the forces of nature. To this day, Einstein’s dream of linking gravity with electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces into a single framework has yet to be realized.
Two scientists later proposed an idea where gravity and electromagnetism could emerge from the same theoretical approach, but only with additional dimensions in the equations. While their theory was too simple to completely describe the universe, their idea of the “compactification” of dimensions eventually became the foundation of string theory research.
Physicists at Penn have published a paper with a “quadrillion” string theory solutions that each describes a hypothetical universe with the same particles and fundamental forces as our own. Penn Today sat down with co-authors Mirjam Cvetic, Ling Lin, and Muyang Liu to learn more about what these solutions mean, how physicists use tiny strings to explain physical phenomena, and how the field of theoretical physics will progress in the future.