Damien Broderick (
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 17:14:52 +0000

Supersymmetric string theory, especally in the late-'90s version `second revolution' form
developed by Edward Witten and colleagues, looks set to combine quantumfield theory and Relativity handily and without vexatious contradictions. A very fine new book (I recommend it) is THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, by Briane Greene (Jonathan Cape British hc, 1999). It's the best popular and accessible treatment of superstring theory I've seen. The new and very powerful M-Theory, as everyone here surely knows, neatly combines Type I, Type II B, Type II A, Heterotic-O(32) and Heterotic-E8xE8 string theories as variants, along with 11-D Supergravity, of a single general membrane theory of fundamental particles and forces.

You all thought no-one would ever fit them together! Ha! Think again, cynics! Anyone who hopes to say anything intelligible and interesting about the basic laws of spacetime, circa 1999 model, could usefully read this book. Your next dinner party could be spiced up with amusing remarks about the Euler values of variant Calabi-Yau spaces, and Orbifolds in a high-order Kaluza-Klein manifold.
Dazzle your friends! More hilarious than tachyons! More plausible than twistors!

And it's given me some very cute ideas for sf stories, which is what's *really* important about science, of course. (There's no Big Crunch, for starters, even if the universe turns out to be contracting after all - strings provide a bounce at the Planck scale. And any description of a closed dimensional space that's very large and expanding is also just as legitimately described as very small and contracting - read the kyou doubters - which leads me to wonder if a syllogismobile might get us from here to someway far off by a mirror translation into a transform where everything is *already* close together.)

Damien Broderick