Evidence in Theory: Superstrings and The Quest for Unification


Nineteenth Annual Darwin College Lecture Series 2004

Lecture 8   :   March 5th 2004

Brian Greene

University of Columbia



In the last decade, tremendous progress has been made in the quest to realize s dream of a unified theory of all matter and all forces through an approach known as superstring theory. To date, however, there are no direct experimental results in support of the theory; belief in the s relevance is based almost entirely on mathematical evidence. In this lecture, which presumes no technical background, the key developments leading to string s discovery will be reviewed and the basic elements of string theory will be discussed and illustrated visually. We will entertain the possibility that physics 5Ais entering a new realm in which mathematical evidence will play an increasingly important role in guiding cutting-edge research.


Brian Greene received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the physics faculty of Cornell University in 1990, was appointed to the position of full professor in 1995, and in 1996 he joined Columbia University as a professor of physics and mathematics. He has lectured at both a general and technical level in more than twenty countries and is widely regarded for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory. In his research, Professor Greene has focused on the extra dimensions required by string theory, and sought to understand their physical, mathematical, and observational consequences. His book, The Elegant Universe, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, won Europe's top prize for a book on science, and spent half a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Professor Greene has had many media appearances including The Charlie Rose Show, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, The Century with Peter Jennings, CNN and Time, Nightline in Primetime, The Conan O'Brien Show, a cameo appearance in New Line Cinema's Frequency, and he recently hosted a three-part NOVA special based on his book. Currently, Professor Greene is co-director of Columbia's Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Phyics (ISCAP), and is leading a research program applying superstring theory to cosmological questions. 

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