This week’s string theory hype is embedded in a story by Michael Schirber about the possibility of variation of fundamental constants that has appeared on msnbc.com, foxnews.com, and Slashdot. According to Schirber:
A popular alternative to relativity, which assumes that sub-atomic particles are vibrating strings and that the universe has 10 or more spatial dimensions, actually predicts inconstant constants.
According to this string theory, the extra dimensions are hidden from us, but the “true” constants of nature are defined on all dimensions. Therefore, if the hidden dimensions expand or contract, we will notice this as a variation in our “local” 3D constants.
It’s kind of funny to hear that string theory “predicts” that constants like the fine structure constant will vary in time. When Michael Douglas was here in New York giving a talk last year and was asked about predictions of the string theory landscape, he said that the best one was that the fine structure constant would NOT vary. His argument was that it couldn’t vary since effective field theory arguments would imply a corresponding variation in the vacuum energy, something inconsistent with observation. So string theory both predicts that the fine structure constant will vary, and predicts that the fine structure constant will not vary.
For more string theory hype, Michio Kaku now has a MySpace site, including a blog. He also has his own web-site, mkaku.org, which has recently been redesigned and now prominently features an offer of signed copies of his (softcover) books for $50.
Update: There’s an informed take on what the data about varying fundamental constants actually says from Rob Knop.