The String Theory Debate

What Is String Theory?

My Image String theory is an area of research in theoretical physics that seeks to unite quantum mechanics - our current theory of very small objects - with general relativity - our current theory of very large objects. To do so, it proposes that all particles are composed of extremely small vibrating strings, and that the universe contains small, hidden extra dimensions. The picture on the right shows an artists rendition of these strings. Although the theory has been in development for nearly 40 years, it is still not a universally accepted physical paradigm. Supporters of the theory allege that it has brought physics closer to finding a single theory of everything, and that the string paradigm will eventually prove itself to be the correct one. Critics, however, point out that string theory has not yet made any experimental predictions. In this site, we present an analysis of this controversy, and thereby learn some general facts about how science is conducted.

The Approach

As this controversy has been ongoing for many years, there is a very large amount of information available, and therefore many possible ways of analyzing the debate. In this site, we take a specific scientometric prospective. The history page provides a timeline of significant events in the development of the theory, as well as data on the size and geographic distribution of string theory research over time. We then move on to analyze networks in the scientific community to gain some perspective on how string theory research is conducted. In Networks in the Public Sphere, we look at how the controversy has spilled over into blogs, websites and popular books. We also provide summaries of major actors and a glossary of key terms for reference. Finally, the bibliography gives the sources for the information used in our analyses.