Magic, Mystery, and Matrix

Physicists learned rather unexpectedly, beginning in the early 1970s, that the problem of quantum gravity could be overcome by introducing a new sort of fuzziness. One replaces “point particles” by “strings”. Of course, the point particles and strings must both be treated quantum mechanically. Quantum effects are proportional to Planck’s constant \hbar, and stringy effects are proportional to a new constant \alpha' (equal to approximately (10^{-32}cm)^2) that determines the size of strings.

— Edward Witten

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2010.05.03 Monday ACHK