Unfinished Symphony

Strings may do what Einstein finally failed to do: tie together the two great irreconcilable ideas of 20th century physics

I am generally regarded as a sort of petrified object, rendered deaf and blind by the years," Albert Einstein confided near the end of his life. He was, alas, correct. During the last three decades of his remarkable career, Einstein had become obsessed by the dream of producing a unified field theory, a series of equations that would establish an underlying link between the seemingly unrelated forces of gravity and electromagnetism.

In so doing, Einstein hoped also to resolve the conflict between two competing visions of the universe: the smooth continuum of space-time, where stars and planets reign, as described...

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