Major Actors

Supporters

Thomas Banks

Professor at University of California Santa Cruz studying the foundations of string theory and M-theory. He received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1973. In 1997 he and others formulated explicit mathematical expressions describing the dynamics of M-theory.

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Peter Goddard

British mathematical physicist and one of the earliest physicist to work on string theory. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1971, and is currently the director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He was awarded the Dirac Prize in 1997 in part for his pioneering work in string theory.

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Michael Green

British theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge. He received his Ph.D. from there in 1970. While lecturing at the University of London in the mid 1980's, he and John Schwarz established the foundations of superstring theory.

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Brian Greene

American theoretical physicist and professor at Columbia Universty. He received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1987, and since has become one of the most recognizable proponents of string theory in the popular media. His 1999 book The Elegant Universe and the subsequent NOVA documentary did much to popularize string theory and the controversy surrounding it.

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David Gross

American particle physicist and string theorist at the University of California in Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1966, and developed heterotic string theory while serving as a professor at Princeton University. At Princeton he also did seminal work in formulating the theory of quantum chromodynamics, for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2004.

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Steven Gubser

American string theorist at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. from the same institution in 1998. That year, he, Klebanov, and Polyakov published an influential paper detailing the application of the AdS/CFT correspondence towards deriving meaningful results in quantum field theory.

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Gerardus 't Hooft

Danish theoretical physicist at Utrecht University. He made seminal contributions to the study of string theory dualities in the early 1990's, and developed an early version of the holographic principle. Additionally, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1999 for his earlier work on the mathematical foundations of more conventional quantum field theories.

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Igor Klebanov

Russian string theorist and particle physicist at Princeton University studying the relationship between string theory and quantum field theories. In 1998 he, Gubser, and Polyakov published a highly cited paper showing the power of the AdS/CFT correspondence to produce useful results.

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Juan Maldacena

Argentinian string theorist and professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1996, and two years later proposed the AdS/CFT correspondence. He was awarded the Dirac Medal in 2008.

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Emil Martinec

American string theorist and particle physicist at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1984, and worked with David Gross to develop heterotic string theory in 1985.

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LuboŇ° Motl

Czech string theorist who has recently left academia. HEe runs a blog called The Reference Frame in which he defends string theory against the arguments of its critics. In 2006 he, along with Joseph Polchinski, defended string theory against criticisms levied against it by Lee Smolin in his book The Trouble with Physics.

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Yoichiro Nambu

Japanese-American physicist currently at the University of Chicago. He received his D.Sc. from Tokyo University in 1952, and since then has made seminal contributions to many areas of particle physics. In 1969, he was one of the first to realize that Veneziano's dual resonance model of the strong interaction could be interpreted as a theory of vibrating strings. In 2008 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the origin of mass in particle physics.

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Holger Nielsen

Danish theoretical physicist who was the first to realize in 1969 that Veneziano's dual resonance model of the strong interaction could be interpreted as a theory of vibrating strings.

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Joseph Polchinski

American string theorist at the University of California in Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1980, and in 1995 he introduced D-Branes into string theory, the first to recognize that they were a fundamental component of the theory. He is also a vocal opponent of the criticisms against string theory leveled by Lee Smolin and Peter Woit. He was awarded the Dirac Medal in 2008.

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Alexander Polyakov

Russian theoretical physicist currently at Princeton University. He worked on the foundations of string theory in the early 1980's, and in the 1990's made seminal contributions to the study of dualities in string theory. In 1998 he published a key paper with Gubser and Klebanov on the application of the AdS/CFT correspondence to quantum field theory. Additionaly, was awarded the Dirac Medal in 1986 for his contributions to quantum field theory.

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Joël Scherk

American theoretical physicist who, in 1974 realized, along with John Schwarz, that string theory was capable of describing gravitation. He died unexpectedly in 1980.

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John Schwarz

American string theorist and professor at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1966. He made key contributions to early string theory with both Joël Scherk and Michael Green.

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Nathan Seiberg

Israeli-American string theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He received his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute in Israel in 1982. In 1998 he and Ed Witten detailed the importance of non-commutative geometry to M-theory.

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Andrew Strominger

American string theorist at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982, and in 1996 he and Cumrun Vafa used string theory to derive fundamental results about black hole thermodynamics.

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Leonard Susskind

American string theorist and cosmologist at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in 1965 from Cornell University, and in 1979 was one of the first to realize that Veneziano's dual resonance model of the strong interaction could be interpreted as a theory of vibrating strings. Later, he developed a version of the holographic principle using the AdS/CFT correspondence, and is a proponent of using the anthropic principle as a resolution to the string theory vacuum probelm.

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Cumrun Vafa

Iranian-American string theorist at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton Universty in 1985. He and Strominger applied string theory to describe black hole thermodynamics in 1996. In 2008 he was awarded the Dirac Medal.

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Gabriele Veneziano

Italian theoretical physicist and string theorist. His 1968 dual resonance model of the strong interaction was the first string theory to be discovered, and thus he is regarded as a founder of the field.

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Ed Witten

American mathematician and theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He received his Ph.D. in physics in 1976 from Princeton University. He has made landmark contributions to string theory from the 1980's to the present day, most notably the development of M-theory in 1995. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1990 for his contributions to mathematics and mathematical physics.

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Critics

Richard Feynman

Prolific American theoretical physicist of the twentieth century who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work developing the fundamental principles of quantum field theory. In his later life, he was critical of string theory, believing that it was a research dead-end.

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Daniel Friedan

Professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1980. Initially interested in string theory, he and Emil Martinec developed a systematic formulation of it in 1986. Later, however, he began to regard string theory as a failure due to its lack of experimental basis and the string theory vacuum problem.

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Sheldon Glashow

American particle physicist at Boston University. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1959, and went on to win the Nobel Prize for his work on unification of the fundamental forces of nature. He is a skeptic of string theory due to its lack of experimental support, going so far as to resign from the faculty at Harvard University in 2000 due to the physics departments focus on string theory research.

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Lee Smolin

American theoretical physicist, professor at the University of Waterloo, and researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Physics. He is critical of string theory due to the reliance of the string theory vacuum problem on the anthropic principle, and objects to the dominance which string theory has over the search for a theory of everything. In 2006 he published The Trouble with Physics, outlining these views.

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Peter Woit

American mathematical physicist at Columbia University. He received his Ph.D. in 1979 from Harvard University. He is critical of string theory due to its lack of testable predictions, and objects to the extensive funding string theory research receives despite what he views as its lack of successes. In 2004 he started a blog, Not Even Wrong to voice these objections, and in 2006 published a popular book by the same name.

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