Why String theory?


Over many centuries physicists have developed ways of understanding reality, from the tiny to the enormous, the freezing to the fiery. Their quest? To explain of all nature with just one set of rules. It’s been a long journey, with many dead ends and setbacks. But some are hoping we’re nearly there.

Taken from whystringtheory.com/motivation/the-basics/

Why String Theory is a website set up by by Edward Hughes and Charlotte Mason in Summer 2012 at the University of Oxford. The project was funded by the Royal Society via Dr Joseph Conlon’s University Research Fellowship. Dr. Joseph Conlon, Charlotte Mason and Edward Hughes wrote the articles.

The website is aimed at a general audience. The website motivates string theory and why scientist are interested in it. The website assumes no prior knowledge of advanced mathematics or physics.

Not for the layperson

If you want a proper introduction to string theory then I suggest the following books:

  • Barton Zwiebach, A First Course in String Theory, Cambridge University Press, 10 Jun 2004 – 578 pages.
  • Richard J. Szabo, An Introduction to String Theory and D-Brane Dynamics, Imperial College Press, 2004 – 128 pages.
  • Joseph Polchinski, String Theory: Volume 1, An Introduction to the Bosonic String, Cambridge University Press, 2 Jun 2005 – 424 pages.


Why String Theory?

A Marian rock called Jake Matijevic



Above is a picture of a rock taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on board NASA’s Curiosity rover. The rock has been called “Jake Matijevic” by the team in commemoration of influential Mars-rover engineer Jacob Matijevic (1947-2012).



The above image shows the robotic arm of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity with the first rock touched by an instrument on the arm.


Mars Program

Hubble goes eXtreme


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has produced an image of galaxies going back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine. The image shows galaxies as old as 13.2 billion years. The Universe is about 13.7 billion years old. The image is of a small patch of sky, only a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full moon, located at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field.


(Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team)

The photograph was assembled by combining 10 years of Hubble Space Telescope photographs, which amounts to more than 2,000 individual images.


(Illustration Credit: NASA; ESA; and Z. Levay, STScI; Moon Image Credit: T. Rector; I. Dell’Antonio/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

The above image gives you an idea of the angular size of the image.

For more details consult NASA’s webpages.




Ig Nobel prize for physics


Joseph Keller (US), Raymond Goldstein (US/UK), Patrick Warren and Robin Ball (UK) have been awarded the 2012 Ig Nobel prize for physics for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail [1,2].

The winners were announced and awarded on Thursday 20th September.

Anyone interested should examine the Ponytail Equation.


[1] Raymond E. Goldstein, Patrick B. Warren, and Robin C. Ball, “Shape of a Ponytail and the Statistical Physics of Hair Fiber Bundles.” Physical Review Letters, vol. 198, no. 7, 2012.

[2] Joseph B. Keller, “Ponytail Motion,”, Journal of Applied Mathematics, vol. 70, no. 7, 2010, pp. 2667–72.


Ig Nobel prizes

Possible space junk sighted across UK

Last night people across the UK saw bright objects in the night sky. The police in north-east were contacted by concerned members of the public reporting sightings of UFO’s lighting up the night sky.


“It’s hard to say exactly, whether it was a chunk of rock coming in from outer space, burning up in the atmosphere or a bit of space debris, we call it, space junk, which is basically man-made stuff from a spacecraft that’s burning up in the atmosphere.”

“[The meteor was] probably 80 miles up or so, high up, moving very fast, actually, 18,000 miles an hour, probably, at least.”

Dr Tim O’Brien, associate director of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, speaking to the BBC

It is thought that the “light display” was due to space debris burning up in the atmosphere. The timing, the brightness and colour of the meteors suggest that they were not part of the expected natural meteor showers.


BBC News