The String Theory Landscape; Extreme Physics II; Exclusive Online Issues; by Raphael Bousso and Joseph Polchinski; 10 Page(s)
According to Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, gravity arises from the geometry of space and time, which combine to form spacetime. Any massive body leaves an imprint on the shape of spacetime, governed by an equation Einstein formulated in 1915. The earth's mass, for example, makes time pass slightly more rapidly for an apple near the top of a tree than for a physicist working in its shade. When the apple falls, it is actually responding to this warping of time. The curvature of spacetime keeps the earth in its orbit around the sun and drives distant galaxies ever farther apart. This surprising and beautiful idea has been confirmed by many precision experiments.
Given the success of replacing the gravitational force with the dynamics of space and time, why not seek a geometric explanation for the other forces of nature and even for the spectrum of elementary particles? Indeed, this quest occupied Einstein for much of his life. He was particularly attracted to work by German Theodor Kaluza and Swede Oskar Klein, which proposed that whereas gravity reflects the shape of the four familiar spacetime dimensions, electromagnetism arises from the geometry of an additional fifth dimension that is too small to see directly (at least so far). Einstein's search for a unified theory is often remembered as a failure. In fact, it was premature: physicists first had to understand the nuclear forces and the crucial role of quantum field theory in describing physics - an understanding that was only achieved in the 1970s.