Unifying the Universe

StarDate: June 28, 2013

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Albert Einstein explained much about how the universe works. But at the smallest of scales, his theories of relativity break down. Einstein spent the last decades of his life trying to unify large and small into a “theory of everything.” Yet the problem was so tough that not even Einstein could crack it.

In fact, scientists are still trying to unify all of physics into a single theory that would explain everything from subatomic particles to black holes.

They’ve developed a theory of almost everything, known as the Standard Model. It breaks the universe into its tiniest building blocks — particles of matter, and particles that allow matter to interact.

Yet even this theory is incomplete. It doesn’t incorporate gravity, for example. And it doesn’t explain dark matter, which makes up more of the universe than the normal matter that makes stars and gas clouds and people.

There are several ideas for unifying all the particles and forces of nature. One example is string theory. It says that all matter in the universe consists of tiny, vibrating strings. It also says that the universe consists of not just the four dimensions we experience — the dimensions of space and time — but six or more extra dimensions — all of which are smaller than an atom.

Experiments with particle accelerators, and observations of the distant universe, may someday help scientists complete the big picture and do what even Einstein could not: unify the universe.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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