String theory has as a goal to solve one of the major problems in theoretical physics: reconciling quantum mechanics with general relativity. Quantum mechanics is needed to describe the physics of the very small scale and so far has been used to describe three of the four fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force and the strong and weak nuclear engines.
The general theory of relativity, however, is a classical (non- quantum) theory that describes the remaining force, gravity, but when trying to formulate a quantum mechanical version of the theory in the same way as they do for the other forces, it cannot present a reasonable explanation.
The term “string theory” originally referred to the 26-dimensional bosonic string theories, but later it referred the 10-dimensional superstring theories, which added supersymmetry to the whole picture. Today the term “string theory” implies superstring theory, while the older model is called “bosonisk string theory.” In the 1990s, Edward Witten discovered circumstances that, among others, strongly suggest that the various superstring theories are various special cases of a hitherto unknown 11-dimensional theory called M-theory. These findings gave rise to what is called the second superstring revolution.
The great interest in superstring theories is largely due to the idea that these bring about a theory that explains everything. We still do not know if string theory will be able to describe the universe as the forces and particles we can observe, i.e., the various fields that make up the particle physics Standard Model. It is also not clear how much freedom that theory allows to choose – if string theory will serve as a theory of everything, it must be able to come up with the Standard Model as a unique theory.
On a more concrete plan has string theories led to advances in the mathematics of topology, algebraic geometry, differential geometry, representation of theory for groups, knots, Calabi-Yau room, and several other fields. A significant part of the mathematics later progress is due to string theory. String theory has also led to improved understanding of supersymmetric gauge theory, and, through the so-called AdS / CFT duality led to opportunities to study gauge theories at strong coupling.
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