String Theory's Next Top Model

Oct 25, 2007
String Theory's Next Top Model
Different "Calabi-Yau" spaces like the image above offer promising candidates for inflationary models of string theory. Shamit Kachru and his colleagues are hoping to find a simpler, "toy" model to help string theorists address deep conceptual issues. Credit: SLAC

Ernest Rutherford used to tell his physics students that if they couldn't explain a concept to a barmaid, they didn't really understand the concept. With regard to the cosmological implications of string theory, the barmaids and physicists are both struggling—a predicament that SLAC string theorist Shamit Kachru hopes to soon resolve.

String theory is currently the most popular candidate for a unified theory of the fundamental forces, but it is not completely understood—and experimental evidence is notoriously elusive. Physicists can, however, gain crucial insight into the theory by evaluating how accurately its models can predict the observed universe.

Using this indirect approach, Kachru, in collaboration with theorists at Rutgers University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sought models that could reproduce inflation—the prevailing cosmological paradigm in which the nascent universe experienced a fleeting period of exponential expansion.

Although there is already a substantial body of literature presenting such models—spawned in part by publications of Kachru and his Stanford and SLAC colleagues Renata Kallosh, Andrei Linde and Eva Silverstein in 2003—the complexity of the models leaves room for doubt.

"They incorporate inflation, and they're the most realistic models of string theory," Kachru said, "but they're complicated. They're fancy. They have a lot of 'moving parts,' and we need to fine-tune all of them, so we can't verify anything to a high degree of accuracy. It forces us to ask—are we confident that we really understand what's going on?"

To achieve a comprehensive understanding of how inflation can be embedded in string theory, Kachru and his collaborators employed a pedagogical tactic. "What we wanted was an explicit 'toy' model," Kachru explained. "The goal wasn't to have something realistic, but to allow us to understand everything to every detail."

"There are deep conceptual questions about how inflation is supposed to work," Kachru continued. "In order to understand these issues, it's best to have a simple model. There's so much clutter in the complicated examples, you can't disentangle the conceptual issues from the clutter."

The group investigated three versions of the simplest formulation of string theory, and found that they were incompatible with inflation. "This means we're going to have to consider slightly more complicated scenarios," said Kachru. "There are a lot of levels between this and the fancier working models, so we'll find one eventually."

Kachru and his colleagues published their work in Physical Review Letters D, providing a framework for others in search of simple inflationary models of string theory. "There are so many successful models out there that incorporate string theory and inflation, so we'll undoubtedly find a simpler version. When we find that 'toy model,' where all the moving parts are obvious, we can address deep conceptual questions without getting lost in the details."

Source: by Elizabeth Buchen, SLAC

Explore further: New approach to form non-equilibrium structures

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Universe offers 'eternal feast,' cosmologist says

Feb 19, 2007

There is no such thing as a free lunch, some say, but they would be wrong. In fact, the entirety of the universe defies them. According to Stanford physics Professor Andrei Linde, one of the architects of the inflationary ...

Recommended for you

New approach to form non-equilibrium structures

48 minutes ago

Although most natural and synthetic processes prefer to settle into equilibrium—a state of unchanging balance without potential or energy—it is within the realm of non-equilibrium conditions where new possibilities lie. ...

Nike krypton laser achieves spot in Guinness World Records

2 hours ago

A set of experiments conducted on the Nike krypton fluoride (KrF) laser at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) nearly five years ago has, at long last, earned the coveted Guinness World Records title for achieving "Highest ...

Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance

6 hours ago

It is seldom sufficient to read the declaration of contents if you need to know precisely what substances a product contains. In fact, to do this you need to be a highly skilled chemist or to have genuine ...

The future of ultrashort laser pulses

6 hours ago

Rapid advances in techniques for the creation of ultra-short laser pulses promise to boost our knowledge of electron motions to an unprecedented level.

IHEP in China has ambitions for Higgs factory

Jul 23, 2014

Who will lay claim to having the world's largest particle smasher?. Could China become the collider capital of the world? Questions tease answers, following a news story in Nature on Tuesday. Proposals for ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2007
As a simplest model of inflation can be considered the inertial matter condensation. During this the density of energy spreading through vacuum has increased rapidly, which can be interpreted as a fast expansion of space-time. Compare the sound speed drop during condensation of supercritical vapor. This is because the substantial part of energy will start to spread along surfaces of resulting foamy density fluctuations. And the speed of mechanical waves at the water surface is rather low with compare to the energy spreading through bulk phase.
not rated yet Oct 27, 2007
Not string theory again!!! Let it die!!! At this point it is far to convoluted to make any sense and adding theory upon theory isn't going to fix it. When the Grand Unified Theory is found, it will be beautifully simple, in my humble opinion.
not rated yet Oct 27, 2007
Roguetrekker, I think you missed the point! You're right that existing frameworks are hairy and are comprehensible to very few. But this research is seeking a simple model in order to make string theory easier to understand and test.