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Cosmology, astrophysics and particle physics


Boundary conditions in the context of string theory
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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[Q] Is it conceivable to talk about boundary conditions in the usual sense? Or make guesses of boundary conditions when we're working in ten or eleven dimensions?

Well, if you start early enough and if there really are extra dimensions that are not collapsed to zero, and you start early enough, your initial condition would have to be specified in this large number of dimensions. That's certainly true. But we'll have to see what happens as a result of considering at the same time the base space and the target space, as they call them in superstring or M-theory, because it looks as if the most fundamental way to look at the theory is in the base space, just one dimension nowadays—formerly two—and the target space is then one of the consequences of the theory, one of the constructs in the theory. So the whole concept of initial condition might somehow change.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann (1929-2019) was known for his creation of the eightfold way, an ordering system for subatomic particles, comparable to the periodic table. His discovery of the omega-minus particle filled a gap in the system, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.

Listeners: Geoffrey West

Geoffrey West is a Staff Member, Fellow, and Program Manager for High Energy Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is also a member of The Santa Fe Institute. He is a native of England and was educated at Cambridge University (B.A. 1961). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1966 followed by post-doctoral appointments at Cornell and Harvard Universities. He returned to Stanford as a faculty member in 1970. He left to build and lead the Theoretical High Energy Physics Group at Los Alamos. He has numerous scientific publications including the editing of three books. His primary interest has been in fundamental questions in Physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles and their interactions. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena grew out of his work on scaling in quantum chromodynamics and the unification of all forces of nature. In 1996 this evolved into the highly productive collaboration with James Brown and Brian Enquist on the origin of allometric scaling laws in biology and the development of realistic quantitative models that analyse the influence of size on the structural and functional design of organisms.

Tags: boundary conditions, base space, target space, superstring, M-theory

Duration: 1 minute, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010