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Name: Edwin A.
Status: student
Age: 17
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 11/9/2003

For many years, people thought that there was nothing smaller than the atom, now we have neutrons and protons and electrons. But we are also talking about the 'particles' that make up these - called strings. Listening to a television program last night, it was said that these strings are the building blocks for everything. Now my first question is this, are strings just like chromosomes for example, so sting/DNA means the characteristics of an object, so x amount of strings equal one property, say 'oxygen'. My second question is this, what makes up the strings, the television program said energy. If so what type of energy?

You ask very good questions. They are at the frontier of what is known and extend beyond that frontier.

Strings oscillate like violin strings. They have a fundamental frequency, but also many overtones. It is these modes of vibration that decide what particles are described by the strings. What actually is vibrating is not at all understood. But this is similar to the wave function of quantum mechanics, which can, for example, describe an electron. What is waving is not obvious. The mathematics does describe the properties of an electron with as much detail as is permitted by the constraints of quantum mechanics.

The waving, however, does take energy; the higher the frequency of the wave, the greater the energy and so the greater the mass of the particle described by that string. Remember E = mc^2!

Strings are not like chromosomes, which are complex objects made up of many molecules. A string is the most fundamental object we can currently conceive of. It is size is enormously less than the size of chromosomes. It is not the number of strings, but the mode of vibration of the string that determines the properties of the particle described by that string.

I am sorry that it is not yet possible to give more satisfying answers to your questions. Stay tuned!

Best, Dick Plano...

I did not see the program on "strings" but it is only one view of elementary particle physics. That whole area is in a state of rapid change and a whole lot of speculation -- from 9 to 11 dimensional spaces, Planck dimensions, holographic and/or multiple Universes, and extraordinarily complicated mathematics -- the list is long. What is "in" today is "out" tomorrow. For some understanding of the issues at least, I would recommend two books for your reading, and partial comprehension: "Supersymmetry" by Gordon Kane and "Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics" by Martinus Veltman.

Vince Calder

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