String Theory

String theory (and its alter ego M-theory) is currently the most viable candidate for a unified theory of physics which describes all forces of nature, encompassing the physics of gravity as well as quantum field theory. MIT is a main center of research in string theory, with five faculty members and numerous postdocs and graduate
students working in this area.

Work on string theory at MIT is currently focused in several different directions. Dan Freedman (math/physics) is currently working on aspects of the AdS/CFT correspondence, which can be used to derive quantitative non-perturbative information about gauge field theories using gravity and string theory.

Hong Liu has long been interested in issues in quantum gravity, such as the quantum nature of black holes and the Big Bang singularity, using the framework of string theory. During the last decade, his interests also branched into understanding dynamics of exotic quantum matter, including the quark-gluon plasma and strongly correlated electron systems. His current research lies at the interface between these subjects, enabled by the discovery of holographic duality, under which certain quantum matter systems are mathematically equivalent to quantum gravities in one dimension higher. His goal is to develop a multi-pronged approach, by bringing together insights from string theory/gravity, nuclear physics, and condensed matter physics, to tackle questions which the traditional methods within each discipline have proved inadequate to address. Washington Taylor is working on nonperturbative formulations of string theory and on relating the space of string vacua to observable physics. Barton Zwiebach is working on tachyon condensation and string field theory, and he has recently written an undergraduate textbook on string theory.

The string group in the CTP interacts broadly with the other groups within the CTP, and with the astrophysics group in the physics department. Faculty in other departments working in string-related areas include Isadore Singer (math). In addition to the regular MIT faculty, Ashoke Sen spends two months each year with the group as the Morningstar visiting professor. Current long-term visitors and postdocs working in the area of string theory include Silviu Pufu and Julian Sonner.

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