The Fall and Rise of String Theory with Andy Strominger

July 7, 2016

Discover Magazine covers Professor Strominger's journey to String Theory in a new article. 

"Strominger was never one for the beaten path. He dropped out of Harvard twice in the 1970s to live in communes in New Hampshire and China before returning to college, bent on probing the universe through theoretical physics. As an MIT graduate student, Strominger was told to steer clear of risky subjects like string theory; he ignored the advice.

The gamble paid off. In 1985, three years after getting his Ph.D., Strominger co-authored one of the field’s seminal papers — part of the so-called “first string revolution.”

A central premise of string theory is that strings, the most basic unit of nature, vibrate in a 10- or 11-dimensional universe. The three familiar dimensions plus time make four, meaning six or seven “extra” spatial dimensions must lie hidden, shrunk down so small we can’t see them. These minute dimensions have to be “compactified” in a specific way to reproduce the physics we observe, and Strominger and his colleagues determined what that scrunched-up shape had to be: a six-dimensional mathematical object known as a Calabi-Yau space. A particle’s mass, the strength of a given force and other fundamental quantities depend on the shape, or geometry, of this convoluted space."