String Theory

The names of the fundamental forces are related to their strength. The strong force is much stronger than electromagnetism and is thus able to overcome the repulsive force between objects with the same electrical charge (protons or quarks). The weak force is weaker than electromagnetism but still much stronger than gravity. The reason that we almost only recognize gravity in everyday life is that the macroscopic objects are neutral. They don't carry an effective color charge and they carry - if at all - only very small electric charges. For gravity there is no negative charge (negative mass), so that all the small gravitational effects add up to something which is strong enough to move galaxies and build black holes. The seperate description of the forces is quite accurate by now. This is summarized in the standard model of particle physics.

Theory of everything

A measure for the strength of a force are the coupling constants of the corresponding theory. They are, however, not constant, but depend on the energy level one is dealing with. If one extrapolates their values to high energies, one discovers that the couplings of electromagnetism, strong and weak force meet at a certain energy level almost in one single point (see Figure 1). This supports the idea that those three forces could be just different aspects of one and the same universal force. There are several theories which try to describe this unification. They are called GUTs, 'grand unified theories'. However, to be really 'grand', such a unification should also include gravity, whose coupling constant is far weaker still at this high energies. The theory, which will manage to unify all forces, including gravity, is sometimes called TOE, "theory of everything". String theory is one candidate, and at present actually the only one for this TOE.


'SUSY' stands for supersymmetry and means that there is an exchange symmetry between fermionic particles (like quarks and electrons) and bosonic ones (like photons and even gravitons, if one includes gravity into the considerations). It does, however, not relate the already known particles, but it predicts new supersymmetric partners to the known particles (called e.g. squarks, selectrons, photinos and gravitinos). So far none of those superparticles has been discovered, but there are a lot of theoretical reasons for believing in supersymmetry. Supersymmetry is an integral part of string theory, or more precisely 'superstring theory'. If supersymmetry is realized at energies not too far above the scale of electroweak symmetry breaking, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN may be able to discover its signatures in its ongoing searches of physics beyond the standard model.


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Univ.Doz. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Harald Skarke

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