In this section we'll make the connection between vibrating patterns and the theory of everything. If you understand this section, you'll have a good foundation on which to explore SST in more detail. It's worthwhile to repeat the last sentence of the last paragraph, because herein lies the key. The characteristics and properties of an elementary particle, its mass, and the forces that it can carry, are determined by the precise resonant pattern of vibration that its internal string “plays” or performs. For example, let's take a particle's mass. The energy of any vibrating string is defined by its wavelength and its amplitude. The shorter the wavelength and the greater the amplitude, the more energy it has. If we compare this to a violin again, you can see that if you pluck one of the strings vigorously (with more energy), the more intense the vibration. And if you pluck it more softly (with less energy), it vibrates less vigorously.
Do you know of anywhere else in nature that uses strings as a fundamental structure? I think a moment's thought will reveal that nature has reserved the string for a special role, as a basic building block for other forms. The essential feature of life on earth is the string-like DNA molecule, which contains the complex information and coding of life itself. When building the stuff of life as well as subatomic matter, strings seem to work incredibly well. The distinguishing feature of a string is that it is one of the most compact ways of storing vast amounts of data in a way in which information can be replicated. For living things, nature uses the double strands of the DNA molecule, which unwind and form duplicate copies of each other. Also, our bodies contain billions upon billions of protein strings, formed of amino acid building blocks. Our bodies then, in a sense, can be viewed as a vast collection of strings—protein molecules draped around our bones.
As you know from special relativity, mass and energy are interchangeable. And the greater the mass, the more energy there is to convert, and the same is true in reverse. So if we calculate the energy of the vibrational pattern of the internal string of an elementary particle, we should be able to convert that information into finding its mass. Lighter particles have internal strings that vibrate less energetically (like the softer plucked string), so of course, the heavier particles have internal strings that vibrate more energetically (like the harder plucked string). As you can see, this method can be used to determine a basic characteristic, the mass. But what about finding out about the force it carries?
If you know the mass of a particle, you can also determine its gravitational properties, because as you know, there is a direct relationship between the mass of an object and how this mass reacts to gravity. This means that there is a direct association between the pattern of string vibration and the particle's response to the gravitational force. Using this reasoning, physicists have shown that the detailed aspects of a string's pattern of vibration can also be related to the three other forces. In other words, the vibrational pattern of a particular string will determine which force (weak, strong, or electromagnetic) is being carried by that string. This vibrational pattern is then also used to determine which of the particles are associated with which force. Of particular importance was the discovery that among all the different vibrational patterns, one matched perfectly with the properties of the graviton, the particle thought to carry the force of gravity. Here then is also the unification of gravity with the other three forces.
The graviton is the theoretical particle assumed to carry the gravitational force. Since the other three of the four fundamental forces is carried by a particle, it is a natural conclusion that gravity should be carried by a messenger particle as well. It plays a part in quantum gravity analogous to the role of the photon in electromagnetic interactions described by QED that we covered in the last section.
Our key concept then can be defined in the following way—each elementary particle is composed of a single string, or better yet, each particle is a single string. And all strings are totally identical. What makes particles different is the fact that each of their respective strings has a unique vibrational pattern, their own vibratory fingerprint you could say. And because every physical event or dynamic process in the universe consists of the most basic units that interact with each other, either producing matter or applying a force, SST provides a system of unification that makes it a good candidate for a TOE.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe © 2001 by Gary F. Moring. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.