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"World on a String," by Hans Christian von Baeyer. The Sciences,September/October 1999, pages 10-13.
This highly readable article illuminates a central quandry of modern physics.Are the most basic constituents of matter points, or are they strings? Stringtheory triumphs in presenting a unified picture of all forces, includinggravity, but its mathematical complexity is massive and has not yet been tamed.The author draws parallels between the strings-versus-points dichotomy inphysics, and the weird world that emerged when mathematicians discarded thenotion that all numbers are derived from division of integers and beganexploring irrational numbers.
--- Allyn Jackson