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string theory

string theory, description of elementary particles based on one-dimensional curves, or "strings," instead of point particles. Superstring theory, which is string theory that contains a kind of symmetry known as supersymmetry, shows promise as a way of unifying the four known fundamental forces of nature. The strings are embedded in a space-time having as many as 10 dimensions—the three ordinary dimensions plus time and seven compactified dimensions. The energy-scale at which the stringlike properties would become evident is so high that it is currently unclear how any of the forms of the theory could be tested.

See P. C. W. Davies and J. Brown, ed., Superstrings (1988); L. Smolin, The Trouble with Physics (2006).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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