The latest press release hyping a string theory paper in a misleading way comes from my alma mater Princeton, which I find quite depressing. According to yesterday’s press release, entitled Princeton physicists connect string theory with established physics:
String theory, simultaneously one of the most promising and controversial ideas in modern physics, may be more capable of helping probe the inner workings of subatomic particles than was previously thought, according to a team of Princeton University scientists.
The theory has been highly praised by some physicists for its potential to forge the long-sought link between gravity and the forces that dominate within the atomic nucleus. But the theory — which posits that all subatomic particles are actually tiny “strings” that vibrate in different ways — has also drawn criticism for being untestable in the laboratory, and perhaps impossible to connect with real-world phenomena.
However, the Princeton researchers have found new mathematical evidence that some of string theory’s predictions mesh closely with those of a well-respected body of physics called “gauge theory,” …
This has nothing to do with the controversial failed project of using string theory to provide a unified theory of particle physics and gravity. What it is about is another check of something not very controversial at all: the pretty much universally believed idea that a very special un-physical quantum field theory, N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills theory, at strong coupling can be described by a weakly-interacting string. This AdS/CFT correspondence is now almost ten years old and a significant amount of evidence for it has accumulated. What the press release is referring to is this paper by Igor Klebanov and collaborators, which studies numerically an integral equation derived in this paper.