A pair of researchers from the University of Southern California proposed that there is a link between string theory and quantum mechanics that, if proven, could make string theory or its broader version M-theory the foundation of not just quantum mechanics, but of all physics.
The paper on the proposal was published online in the Physics Letters journal, and was collaborated on by USC Dornsife College of Letter, Arts and Sciences professor Itzhak Bars and USC Ph.D. student Dmitry Rychkov.
"This could solve the mystery of where quantum mechanics comes from," Bars said.
String theory is a hypothetical framework in physics wherein the particles found in our universe is replaced by one-dimensional objects referred to as strings.
The original intent of the conceptualization of string theory was to explain the origin of strong forces, but over time it was reconfigured to adjust to the "commutation rules," which are the fundamental principles for quantum mechanics.
One of the problems regarding string theory was that there has been no means of which to validate any concept related to it. Bars and Rychkov, however, intend to bypass proving string theory using quantum mechanics and do the opposite, which is to use string theory instead to validate quantum mechanics.
In the paper, wherein Bars and Rychkov reformulated string theory using a clearer language, the pair demonstrated certain commutation rules in quantum mechanics that can be derived using the geometry of joining and splitting strings under string theory.
Proving that string theory is the foundation of all physics would be a major breakthrough in the field because there is currently no single set of rules that can be used for the explanation of all the interactions that are happening within the universe. Such a set of rules is known as the elusive Theory of Everything.
When in large scales, physicists utilize the classic Newtonian principles to explain events such as the gravity holding the moon within the Earth's orbit and a fighter jet being propelled forward by its engine. These principles are considered intuitive and can often be seen and studied using the naked eye.
However, when moving to very tiny scales such as 100 million times smaller than an atom, physicists use quantum field theory for the explanation of the interactions that occur between subatomic particles, such as the forces that bind together the protons, neutrons and electrons of an atom.
There are many counterintuitive principles in quantum mechanics, such as allowing for two different particles to occupy the same space, which is nowhere near possible in Newtonian physics. However, it has been validated through the behavior of atoms.
Despite its validation, there remains a mystery in quantum mechanics, which are the origin of the commutation rules that are used to predict the uncertainty in the momentum and position of any point within the universe.
The commutation rules are observed, but their origins are unexplained. If Bars and Rychkov are able to prove that the commutation rules can all be based on string theory, then physics will take a huge step towards the Theory of Everything.