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String theory?

  1. Nov 16, 2006 #1
    I like physics but Im not much good at it. My younger brother has suddenly become quite passionate about it, hes joined the science club and everything. I dont usually post anything here Im more into just reading peoples thoughts, but hes asked me about the string theory and I havent a clue what to tell him. He has never been a fan of school in fact he has been failing. Suddenly his marks have jumpped and he seems really focused. I want to encourage him, any info in that would spark his interest yet not confuse him (or myself) would be awsome. I dont think Ive heard of the string theory. I looked through my physics books but I didnt see anything. Perhaps it has another name? I think it has to do with forces. I hate searching for things online. I get so many contradictions and I never know who I can believe and who is full of it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2006 #2
    if its a high school text book, string theory isn't going to be anywhere in there.

    its a theory of little quantum strings holding the universe together
  4. Nov 16, 2006 #3
    String theory is one tough cookie. One will need to know classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamic, Relativity, as well as some more advanced math such as PDE's, topography, etc... :(
  5. Nov 16, 2006 #4


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    Just find and continually buy him books on string theory and the subjects that lead up to it, as per Agnostic's list.

    Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe is an excellent one. Enough detail to really stretch your brain but still pretty accessible (if you read it twice - and slowly, slow enough so as not to create cranial stretch marks. I'm not kidding on this one).
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2006
  6. Nov 19, 2006 #5
    If you have a pretty decent internet connection, you can download (legally) the PBS documentary based on Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" from their website (or plenty of other video websites).


    As a sparkly introduction to string theory it's pretty good, though obviously almost completely devoid of specific (which is almost all maths). My parents stopped doing physics over 30 years ago (before even quarks were known to exist!) and they managed to follow the programs and found them entertaining.

    Once your little brother has seen that, reading the book might be a bit easier because he can relate the ideas to some of the graphics/animations in the TV show which helps a lot when you're introduced to a Calabi Yau space for the first time! As Dave says above, get him to read it slowly, it's a book you have to concentrate on for large parts.

    Other than that, I recommend going to your local decent bookstore and buying a few pop science books. Authors like Gribbin are usually pretty good at explaining quantum or relativity stuff in a way that pre-university people can follow well.
  7. Nov 19, 2006 #6


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    Don't forget Michio Kaku's Hyperspace and Parallel Worlds!
  8. Nov 19, 2006 #7


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    Not all people are happy with string theory.
    Big problem is it doesn't make any testable predictions.

    Books along this line
    Lee Smolin's The trouble with Physics
    Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong
  9. Nov 21, 2006 #8
    String Theory should be taught to people studying philosophy...assuming they have a very good math background.
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