String Theory: Testing The Untestable?
    By News Staff | September 1st 2010 12:05 AM | 25 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    String theory was originally developed to try and describe the fundamental particles and forces that make up our universe.  Over the last 25 years, string theory has become some physicists' contender for a 'theory of everything', reconciling particle physics with cosmology - a puzzle that tormented Einstein for the last 30 years of his life.

    It contends that the subatomic particles found in nature, such as electrons and quarks, may not be particles at all but instead tiny vibrating strings.      String theorists said our universe is 10-dimensional but during the big bang, 6 of those 10 dimensions curled up into a tiny ball and the remaining '4' (they count time as a dimension even though it relies on the other three dimensions) expanded explosively, providing us with the universe we know and love, including the cast of "Jersey Shore".

    How did these six dimensions compactify?  There's no mathematical basis for topology and properties of these higher-dimensional universes.  Where do strings come from?  No one knew so what we ended up with were multiple 'string theories', which means it stands a chance of not being a theory at all.   Some even proposed M-theory (11-dimensions) to get away from focusing on strings entirely.(1)

    There's no shortage of instances where theory, deduction or inference have survived being falsifiable just fine and later been proven to be correct but in a modern science world a half dozen 'theories of a theory' won't get much traction outside people who want funding.

    An upcoming article in Physical Review Letters says it can change all that and make string theory experimental.  Their reasoning?   They say string theory seems to predict the behavior of entangled quantum particles and since that prediction can be tested in the laboratory, they can now test string theory - predicting how entangled quantum particles behave provides the first opportunity to test string theory by experiment because quantum entanglement can be measured in the lab.(2)

    There is no obvious connection to explain why a theory that is being developed to describe the fundamental workings of our universe is useful for predicting the behavior of entangled quantum systems but if it checks out, it will be an interesting insight.

    "This will not be proof that string theory is the right 'theory of everything' that is being sought by cosmologists and particle physicists. However, it will be very important to theoreticians because it will demonstrate whether or not string theory works, even if its application is in an unexpected and unrelated area of physics," says professor Mike Duff, lead author of the study from the Department of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London.  "If experiments prove that our predictions about quantum entanglement are correct, this will demonstrate that string theory 'works' to predict the behaviour of entangled quantum systems.

    "This may be telling us something very deep about the world we live in, or it may be no more than a quirky coincidence.  Either way, it's useful."

    Article: M. J. Duff , L. Borsten, D. Dahanayke , W. Rubens, A. Marrani, 'Four-qubit entanglement from string theory', arXiv:1005.4915v2 and Physical Review Letters 2010 (in press)


    (1) String theory

    String theory, and its extension M-theory, are mathematical descriptions of the universe. They have been developed, over the last 25 years, by theoreticians seeking to reconcile the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics. (The former describes the universe at the level of cosmology – the very large, while the latter describes the universe at the level of particle physics – the incredibly small). One of the major bugbears, especially of M-theory, is that it describes billions of different universes and ‘anything’ can be accommodated in one or other of the M-theory universes. Researchers have no way of testing which of the answers that string/M-theory gives us is ‘right’. Indeed, they all may be right and we live in one universe among an infinite number of universes. So far no one has been able to make a prediction, using string theory, that can be tested to see if it is correct or not.

    (2) Qubit (quantum bit) entanglement

    Under very precisely controlled conditions it is possible to entangle the properties of two quantum particles (two quantum bits, or qubits), for example two photons. If you then measure the state of one of these entangled particles, you immediately affect the state of its partner. And this is true if the particles are close to one another or separated by enormous distance. Hence Einstein’s apposite description of quantum entanglement as ‘spooky action at a distance’. It is possible to entangle more than two qubits, but calculating how the particles are entangled with one another becomes increasingly complex as more particles are included.

    Duff and colleagues say they realized that the mathematical description of the pattern of entanglement between three qubits resembles the mathematical description, in string theory, of a particular class of black holes. Thus, by combining their knowledge of two of the strangest phenomena in the universe, black holes and quantum entanglement, they realized they could use string theory to produce a prediction that could be tested. Using the string theory mathematics that describes black holes, they predicted the pattern of entanglement that will occur when four qubits are entangled with one another. (The answer to this problem has not been calculated before.) Although it is technically difficult to do, the pattern of entanglement between four entangled qubits could be measured in the laboratory and the accuracy of this prediction tested.


    If String Theory can predict the behavior of entangled particles, what does String Theory tell us about the actual nature of entanglement? I feel that that part is left out. If String Theory is a Theory of Everything, it should explain the fundamental nature behind entanglement.

    Ever since I first read Brian Greene's book, "The Elegant Universe," I've had more than just a passing interest in the evolving attempts to refine and prove the various portions of the theory. However, given that my background is in biology rather than physics, I do believe that until they determine the physics behind the formation of life, they'll never be able to wrap it up into a neat unified theory. Life is as much a matter of physics as it is chemistry, and could potentially be considered a dimension in of itself, albeit as with several other dimensions dependent on other dimensions to interact appropriately for it to exist.
    As for proving string theory, sometimes proof demands a good graph. I've always envisioned a graph for string theory dimension points following a sigma curve within a hollow 12 point starfruit (12 to account for interactions that may affect the overall interaction of the 10 theorized dimensions) with the lazy S curve through the center reflecting the state of interaction between the dimensions at varying energy levels that create what is "real." It's not a perfect graph model, but it could give us a three dimensional view of how the 10 or 11 dimensions in string theory work together in forming reality as we know it.
    Mathematics is the DNA of the universe, and it is my opinion that string theory is our best model so far in understanding all of the interactions of everything in the universe. I wish everyone involved with sweating the details good luck, and success in our lifetimes.
    Chris Qualls

    Well said.

    Thank you. I admit my views are often out of the box. But then again, a dozen years ago few gave the multiverse theory much credence, and now it's nearly being accepted as a fact of reality. I keep in mind that what we consider cutting edge science in our time may be considered much to do about nothing a century from now. As noted, there are competing string theories, and as our science and technology advances these theories will be cut and pasted to the point of being quite different from the original models. (For some reason I am reminded of the competition between two famous inventors, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla - I hope the search for the "perfect" string theory is less contentious!) It will take several advancements in technology, some driven by the desire to prove or disprove steps in the string theories, others by the needs of related sciences, before we will know who the winner is, and even then, the details may become lost in the emerging "theory of everything" mythology. Someday we shall see the fruits of the seeds planted years ago, but for now we must be content to observe the growing tree.
    Chris Qualls

    *Sigh* And speaking of out of the box thought processes, the phrase "Found three to find one, need six to find two, and nine to find three; ends at twelve" came to mind when I read back over the article. I have an idea where that through thread was going, recounting the history of our knowledge of physics and projecting in what direction that knowledge would have to grow to find the perfect sting theory model, but I am not a physicist, and do not want to postulate in depth on matters that I have but a layman's knowledge. If it inspires someone to take another look at their data, great, otherwise it's possibly another red herring to add to the school. This will be my last post in this thread, unless someone desires another comment. Again, good luck!

    I think this is another example of String "Theory" having the mathematical clout to predict *anything*. That is the problem. It can predict anything and everything, including 10>500+ stable or meta-stable vacua!! Any "theory" that can predict everything in fact predicts *nothing*. It is not a theory, particularly when there are many versions of it and no-one knows what it actually is!

    Regarding an explanation and derivation of quantum entanglement, I would recommend a reading of some literature on the Bohm Interpretation of QM. Bohm-like theories explain entanglement / non-locality as a fundamental part of the ontology of the "guiding wave" basis of their construction! They are inherently non-local. Bohm-like theories also remove the infamous "measurement problem" and all other supposedly "mysterious" properties erroneously assumed to be "the way things are" due to the wrong standard (Copenhagen type) interpretation of QM.


    Roy J

    Scientists eventually will find that the string theory actually is a “spring theory.” Springs, not strings, make up the subtle connections and associations binding these relationships. Further, there is a super-unifying, mathematical formula that accurately can measure this relationship.

    It will more likely end up being the 'aether' of the 20th century.   And no, there is no "super-unifying, mathematical formula" that does any such thing, so if you are here to advertise one, we will all just make goat noises at you.

    I am not saying the Standard model will be proven right away either but it's less magical than string theory.
    This guy has been posting the same thing in the comments section of this story in various websites. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of responding to his outrageous claims.

    Yes anonymous, I posted this response on two different article/websites--and I guess I was unaware that there were restrictions on separate article postings. My apologies. Also, what makes you think I am a "him?" Unconditional Peace is not gender identifying; it is universal. Further, just because science has yet to disclose something does not make it inaccurate, let alone "outrageous." I rather enjoy this subject matter, and appreciate the intelligent and interactive dialogues. Have a great evening.

    "Aether," like Y2K? The Standard model has too many indefinable variables to properly stand even with magic. Ahh yes, I do love the sound of goat noises in the morning with a hot cup of coffee.

    I don't consider Y2K aether because the world did not stop as some feared - it didn't stop because billions of dollars were spent rewriting COBOL code to prevent that from happening.   String theory may be aether, as aether existed in the 19th c., as may dark matter.   Heck, the Higgs boson may be aether if it turns out to not be one thing.

    But I am not sure what you mean about indefinable variables in the SM (I know of only one) ... especially compared to string theory.
    Amateur Astronomer
    String theory is an attempt to describe the zero point in abstract terms without accepting the Dirac Sea of Energy. In past decades it was a prudent way to advance science without making enemies in the commercial energy markets. Aether was a popular topic a few years ago, until the leading proponent was murdered. Now my friends in private correspondence recommend not using the aether word unless it is connected to parapsychology, ghosts and spooky things. Zero point is safe to talk about, because Albert Einstein talked about it, and it can be discussed without creating a path forward to new scientific discoveries. The objection to Aether is that it gets connected to proposals for building machines and testing theories. A safer topic is Overunity or Overutility, because it is associated with a different history of failures, fakes, and frauds. Until now string theory has been safe to work on, because it didn’t predict anything that can be tested. That peaceful time of prudent low productivity is ending with a victory last year of the Dirac Sea proponents. They derived the Dirac Sea of Energy from black holes of General Relativity. Now with Dirac Energy in the strings they act like springs. That means the abstractions have become physical. All of the abstractions of string theory are giving way to physical structures like the zero point oscillators, with energy partitions, virtual states, probability functions, transient disturbances, and dynamic causes. It is forcing string theory to come out of hiding and be tested. Eventually one of the several string theories will emerge as the best one. Then the researchers will be faced with the choice of finding a safe place to hide it, or bringing it forward into the new energy dispute against all of the disinformation campaigns, intimidation, and violence that impact the science of energy. I predict they will find a hiding place. Y2K was not a natural event. It was a planned obsolescence. I did work in IT during the 1960’s, before IT became a separate profession. In those days I was specifically instructed by my management not to design Y2K compliance into my COBOL systems, although it could have been done in five minutes of normal work pace. Tell me about billions of dollars to fix it later.
    Hi, Jerry. I am new to the discussions on this site, and I thank you for your thoughtful post. I am going to take time to read it in detail over the weekend. Have a great weekend.

    To Unconditional Peace,

    Are you saying this "super-unifying, mathematical formula exists now? in which case can you please provide it, or point us in it's direction?? Or are you saying it exists out there somewhere, yet to be discovered?

    Also, by "spring" do you mean something analogous to the helix shaped objects we are all familiar with? If so, we are talking about a 3 dimensional object which immediately places all sorts of severe constraints on any construction of the types of fields and fluxes that would be generated, in ways I cannot imagine!! How many dimensions are they propagating in for instance?

    I am saying that this "string theory" is constricted by the linear mathematical relationship that binds a cause-and-effect dynamic. Thus, a linear "string theory" creates a myriad of conflictions. A syzygy, connected by double helix spings, originating from any central point and connecting any two existential points, is both measurable and calculable. Using a cause-and-effect mathematical formula that incorporates gravity, relativity, and an X factor of influence, connected by double helix springs and infused into pi with another physicalism (also measurable and identifyable) will yield a formula that will accurately measure the vector presures. This bridging formula will provide the foundation to take the next steps in quantum "spring mechanics."

    Why don't you give us that formula? You seem to be pretty confident about spring mechanics, so why do you stop at suggesting there is a "bridging formula"? Why don't you describe the rest of spring mechanics, and even give us the formulas for spring mechanics?

    Because that would take all of the fun out of the scientific discovery process. To easily acquire the "Holy Grail" of a super-unifying field theory would be perhaps like finding a beautiful dead woman. However, I will be coming out with a paper soon containing all the juicy/critical details for your dissection and practical application. I will look forward to your analysis at that time...

    I think you can understand our frustration, when string theory has been developed for over 25 years and only until now they come up with something that can be predicted. When you waste that much time and money on something, all the fun has already been taken out of the scientific discovery process.

    Anyway, you seem to be so confident that you have discovered the "holy grail", why is that? Moreover, who are you?

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Like finding a beautiful dead woman? Do you mean like finding something that you are sexually attracted to but can't have sex with? Is that such a problem? Or do you mean its worse than an ugly dead woman or an ugly live woman?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    His/her paper just got a lot more interesting.   I am 99.999% sure (hey, we need 5 standard deviations in physics) it will be pseudoscience mumbo jumbo but if he says string theory is a beautiful-yet-dead woman it may be the best analogy of 2010.    I hope Lauren Rugani reads his comment!
    Hey, Hank. I certainly wouldn't want to commence a holiday weekend without a responsive comment to yours. So, here it is: Mumbo. Jumbo. Scientifico. Best wishes for a great weekend ahead, too.

    Helen, I actually was referring to a relationship between the string theory and Mother Nature. The intentions behind my comment were not of a sexualized nature. To me, everything is Divinity, so dualistic characteristics (such as gender or sex) are irrelevant; woman was just the noun I selected. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for me to have used a genderless noun, rather than "woman." Mea Culpa here. Now, as for the relationship between string theory and Mother Nature... It's my theory that materializing matter is upheld by a system of springs, rather than strings. More on this later. Until then, have a great weekend!


    I have no knowledge of the things on this page but enjoyed reading the article


    I have no knowledge of the things on this page but enjoyed reading the article