# High school string theory project

1. Sep 21, 2014

### CC Richardson

Hi, so I'm new to this forum and wanted to ask for some advice. I REALLY am interest in string theory and I've read around the topic a lot without actually learning about it. In my school we can do an independent study project or ISP. When students do ISPs they have to have a project that can be presented at the end. Don't try to turn me away from doing a project centered around string theory, I am pretty adamant about it, but what kind of project can I do to learn about string theory while I'm still in high school?

2. Sep 21, 2014

### ChrisVer

Summon an angel or a demon and expect for a miracle... It sounds harsh but I guess that's the correct answer to your question.
Now a nice introductory book, that avoids mathematics but has a lot of words, is Zwiebach's introductory course in string theory book.
You can also sit and watch these lectures:
http://perimeterscholars.org/413.html [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
3. Sep 21, 2014

### strangerep

Hmm. So you're "adamant" about spending a significant amount of time studying something which has SFA relevance to realworld physics?

Oh well, I guess it's your time, so... you have the right to waste it in whatever way you choose (sigh).

4. Sep 21, 2014

### mitchell porter

One aspect of string theory that you could focus on, is the extra dimensions. The usual string theory approach is an example of what is called a Kaluza-Klein theory, with extra dimensions which are "small", and only 3 "large" dimensions. So particles and strings can only move long distances in three directions, thus we see a three-dimensional world; but in a Kaluza-Klein theory they also circulate in the extra small directions in different ways, giving rise to their different three-dimensional properties. Maybe you could even understand the mathematics of how this works for the original Kaluza-Klein theory, which starts just with gravity in five dimensions - one time dimension, three large space dimensions, one small space dimension - and obtains gravity plus electromagnetism in the three large dimensions - in this theory, electromagnetism is an effect of the small space dimension.

But there are many many aspects to string theory. You could also just follow whatever aspects most strongly interest you.

5. Sep 21, 2014

Staff Emeritus
When I was in high school, my physics teacher would say "But that's beyond the scope of this course." String theory is beyond the scope of this course. And the one after that. And the one after that. And...well, you get the idea. You are about as far from string theory as a 1st grader is to understanding calculus. That doesn't mean that it's too hard - but it does mean that it's too soon. (Every mathematician was once a 1st grader)

At this point in your development, you don't have the foundation for string theory. You don't even have the foundation for the foundation. The best you could hope for is not to learn about string theory, but to learn what other people think about string theory. This isn't science, and as such, I would hope that your school wouldn't support this as a "science" ISP.

6. Sep 21, 2014

### Haelfix

You could do an experiment with *classical* strings. For instance, you could study the oscillator modes of different types of strings, and study the effects when you change the material, the boundary conditions, the temperature and so forth. You can further decompose them into fourier modes and analyze the higher order harmonics

You might even be able to take one step further and study how these things might change if they were subject to special relativity. Certain calculations are doable for a sophomore in college approximately.

What you won't be able to do, is to really get at the quantum version thereof. That really is too many steps away.

7. Sep 21, 2014

### ChrisVer

Whereas Fourier modes, special relativity and so on, are an everyday life for a highschool student...

In most of cases, I''d recommend a student to present an experimental work and setup, since that needs only some general background of the underlying theory (which can easily be found in words and not maths) and then how the experiment was set up, what's the results and so on....much easier to elaborate rather than trying to explain how the world looks like from the top of a building without having reached the 2nd floor.

8. Sep 21, 2014

### Haelfix

It's challenging but not impossible. I already had an introduction to special relativity in high school, and the calculations I have in mind are not that technically challenging. I've actually seen high school students perform senior in college level calculations before for science fairs and it can be impressive at times.

It really requires an advisor who knows what he/she is doing, which is not always available

9. Sep 24, 2014

### ComplexVar89

It's true the Zweibach isn't up to the level of Polchinski or Green, Schwarz, and Witten, but it should prove an excellent challenge for a high-schooler. Or, are you expecting the chap to understand the prerequisites for graduate/pre-research-level books?

True (for the time being at least), but if one has the dedication to learn the mathematics necessary to study string theory seriously, much less the physics, then one has the mettle to study other subfields in physics. Not really a waste, if you think about it that way, is it?

10. Sep 24, 2014

### strangerep

If one's goal is to understand mainstream physics deeply enough to undertake original research, then such a wide detour is inefficient. Better to take a straight line...

11. Sep 27, 2014

### Blackforest

For historically understandable reasons, speaking about "string theory" is immediately meaning thinking about oscillating modes of different types of strings (why not, as suggested by Haelfix). But there is an alternative forgotten way to study strings. I mean: they can be elastic and elongate! I think that "slacklining" (article on wikipedia) is a funny illustration for your project; isn't it?

12. Sep 28, 2014

### < Ty|son >

Please tell me you people aren't seriously recommending a high school student read Zwiebach's 'A First Course in String Theory', where the bulk of the string theory material requires advanced undergraduate physics. I'm sorry to say this, but convincing a kid to waste his valuable project time on something so absurd, is potentially harmful advice. To the OP: If you want some idea of what string theory is, perhaps you should read a popular science book like Brian Greene's 'The Elegant Universe'. Even then, you're in no position to do a meaningful physics project on string theory, or in fact one at all, unless your physics teacher doesn't decide to just flat out fail you for plagiarising analogies from popular science books, and throwing around technical jargon you have no understanding of. If this project is a part of your physics assessment, I would seriously recommend doing it on something you understand quantitatively.

Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
13. Sep 28, 2014

### Blackforest

And what about the book "String Theory for Dummies (copyright)" by Andrew Zimmermann Jones and Daniel Robbins (see on Amazon - ISBN-13: 978-0470467244 / 384 pages / Wiley and Sons editions / in english / not so expansive)?