This week’s string theory hype is brought to you by a press release headlined Dark Matter and String Theory? from the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, and another one from the Vienna University of Technology. These have led to a BBC News report which is getting wide distribution, claiming that Neutrons could test Newton’s gravity and string theory. According to the BBC, this is going to allow a search for:
supersymmetric particles, part of some formulations of string theory that suggest that many extra dimensions exist over tiny length scales, which would require the precision that is only now possible with the team’s approach.
The actual physics here is described in this paper. You’ll need to find an atomic physicist to explain exactly what this is about, but the claim is that the author’s new techniques in resonance spectroscopy can potentially be applied to measuring the gravitational potential at micrometer distance scales. This hasn’t actually been done yet. As for what string theory predicts about how the gravitational potential will deviate from the Newtonian value at these distances, the story is the usual: no predictions at all one way or another. Such violations would be very interesting, but say nothing one way or another about string theory.
Update: The folks at Slashdot have started to get a clue, stripping the nonsense about string theory from this story before posting about it here.