introduction to M-theory

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brötchen
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introduction to M-theory

Postby brötchen » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:07 pm UTC

i would really like to get a very basic understanding of M-theory but i have trouble finding a reasonable introduction to the topic. everything i find is either very very high level or just: "well there are lots of curled up dimensions and mater is composed of vibrating strings, that's string theory, there are different types of string theory, M-theory combines them." and not much beyond that. i don't want to get a really deep understanding of the mathematics behind m-theory i just want a basic overview of what M-theory is, why we believe it might be true, and what it explains/implies.

also not directly related but i don't want to start two threads and the same people who might help me with finding an introduction to M-theory might also be able to help me with this: a friend of mine is looking for a good book on quantum mechanics which can be understood, at least in part, with a high school level knowledge of mathematics and physics. any recommendations ?

thanks in advance for your help
please excuse my bad English its not my native language

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KestrelLowing
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:18 pm UTC

The book I read that first really introduced me to string and M-theory was The Elegant Universe. It's written so a knowledgeable lay-person can understand it. I read it my freshman year of college, and it was as easy to understand as string theory can be. I probably could have understood it my freshman or sophomore year – once I had a general understanding of physics and atomic structure.

If you don't want to read, there's a fairly decent documentary that I believe you can find online that is called The Elegant Universe (it's based off the book). It's a NOVA series, and does a fairly decent job covering most of what's in the book, and it has pretty animations. I saw the documentary probably when I was in 9th grade, and it was a nice introduction. That sparked my interest enough to get the book, and I found it an entertaining read.

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doogly
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby doogly » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:10 pm UTC

I highly recommend In Search of Schroedinger's Cat by Gribbons for your friend.
For you, I got nothin. How much physics do you have? Zwiebach has a string theory intro book that is pretty good. Brian Green's stuff is nice enough, I hear, for popular stuff, but it's too cheerleader-y for me. I think with a field that is still a work in progress you need something a bit more technical so you can get a handle on dealing with it critically.
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brötchen
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby brötchen » Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:37 pm UTC

thanks so far
i will definitely look into "the elegant universe" and tell my friend about "In Search of Schroedinger's Cat"
doogly wrote:How much physics do you have?

I have a very basic understanding of the standart modell of partical physics and a slightly less basic understanding of rleativity, besides that i don't have much more physics knowledge that might be usefull in understanding string theory and M-theory

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PM 2Ring
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby PM 2Ring » Thu Aug 12, 2010 4:33 pm UTC

brötchen wrote:I have a very basic understanding of the standard model of particle physics and a slightly less basic understanding of relativity, besides that i don't have much more physics knowledge that might be useful in understanding string theory and M-theory

In that case, you may find these sites useful.
The Asimov Project wrote:* A set of writings in spaceflight, the sciences, and related technologies. Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Isaac Asimov, prolific popularizer of science.
[...]
# Elementary Classical Physics (v3.1.8 )
# A Relativity Primer (v1.0.5)
# Elementary Relativistic Physics (v1.7.1)
# Elementary Quantum Physics (v1.0.2)


This next site has more advanced material than The Asimov Project, with more maths, and some material relating to string theory.
Greg Egan's Home Page wrote:I am a science fiction author and computer programmer. This site contains:
[...]
* the Foundations series of introductory science articles;
* some more technical science notes;


There are a lot of great articles on quantum physics at the website of Nobel laureate, Frank Wilczek.

This next site covers material that's of interest if you really want to get into M-theory, but be warned: it uses some pretty advanced mathematics. Higher Gauge Theory

danreil
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby danreil » Sun Aug 15, 2010 5:02 am UTC

This is a great site for learning a good deal of modern physics with little previous physics knowledge. (culminating in string theory)

http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html

brötchen
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby brötchen » Sat Oct 16, 2010 2:31 pm UTC

thanks for all your help but after reading throgh the linked pages and starting to read "the elegant universe" im not much further... is there anyplace where i can find a step by step explenation of the string theoretic interpretation of a simple pariticle interaction (like elektron positron anihalation or something like that) ? i think if i could just understand one process based on string theory that could realy help me start to understand more.

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doogly
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby doogly » Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:31 pm UTC

Electrons exist in a low energy approximate regime according to string theory, so the specialization to that process might make the problem not look much like string theory anymore at all! If you want to see actual calculations though, I think Polchinski is one of the better places to look, or Schwartz and Green (other Green)
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erik542
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby erik542 » Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:17 pm UTC

I'd suggest looking over chapters like 6-14 of zweibach's First Course in String Theory for some of the foundations of the theory and notation and then jump up to a book like Schwarz.

willancs
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Re: introduction to M-theory

Postby willancs » Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:18 pm UTC

The problem I find with string theory/M theory is that it tends to be divisive - there are many who are convinced it holds the answers, for example Hawking, who is sure enough that his latest book on the fundamental questions of existence virtually skips over the existence of other theories or of doubt over string theories. And then there are others who doubt it, who see epicycles in curled up dimensions, and who think that the string theorists have got way ahead of themselves and are playing mathematical games. And it seems to me that neither side has really got enough knowledge of string/M theories to back up their case - never forget that M theory is far from fully defined, and instead describes properties of the theory we hope will emerge.

So yep, I'd agree with the Brian Green(e?) stuff, and he'll give you the perspective of a string theory fan. But for balance, have a look at some doubt - Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics seemed to me a pretty fair minded discussion, from a physicist who doesn't accept string theory. It will also give you a great introduction to the theory itself, before moving on to Smolin's issues with it.


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