If one were to somehow manipulate the strings of string theory that supposedly constitute the most fundamental aspects of reality, would this individual become able to warp reality?

Context: I'm thinking of a means by which some characters in my story begin creating reality-warping technologies which end up become a "magic system" thousands of years later, and I'm wondering if it'll be sufficient enough for me to say "in this universe, string theory is an accurate model of the universe, hence the characters becoming able to augment the physical universe and create faster-than-light technology and such."

It begins with an artificial means of "entangling" people in the "strings" and creating a megascale supercomputer that can link up to these "stringers" mentally so they can process the information required to concentrate on the individual strings. Does this idea seem believable given the concepts involved, or am I wholly misunderstanding what the strings are capable of doing?

Edit (some clarification):

Essentially I'm thinking of a naturalistic world that presupposes the existence of some kind of amalgam of the concepts of String Theory, the quantum foam, the Higgs Field, the Force from Star Wars, and some woo concepts like Aether, Akasha, ki, etc. And it does kind of fall into the "quantum physics can do anything" TV trope, except I'm trying to envision a fictionalized version of String Theory, because I don't want to peddle quantum mysticism (which I hate personally). I'm gauging my understanding of String Theory so I can make a more fantastic version of it for the sake of practical utility in my science fiction setting, and for the sake of consistency of this "magic system" (which is really the most advanced technology possible in this fictional setting).

I wanted my fictional world to be identical to ours up until the discovery of this hidden force on the smallest levels of reality possible, and that manipulation of this fundamental fabric would also allow some levels of reality heightening in localized areas, established using supercomputers and machinery that can interact with this underlying framework.

I'm not calling it String Theory at all; I'm making a fictionalized version of it that is based on the idea of String Theory—that the physical universe's most fundamental constituents are strings that vibrate in 10^500 different configurations. If one can theoretically alter the vibrational configurations of these strings, would that person be able to transmute any form of matter or energy into that of another, if the vibrational configurations are all that's required?

Never mind the means by which characters in this story are able to manipulate these "strings." I'm just seeing if I understand actual String Theory before I go any further.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This looks like one big handwave now. Can you tell us what aspect of string theory made you think any of this would be even remotely feasible? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ How would manipulating strings looks different from manipulating known elementary particles? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ Also, please read tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/… - and please, please avoid it. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ If strings exist, and their vibration in the 10 spatial and 1 temporal dimensions (in 10^500 different possible configurations) decides how they embody the physical universe, I assumed that manipulating these configurations would affect the world on higher (but no necessarily macroscopic) scales. Judging by these responses I imagine not? I wonder then what it would mean to affect these strings' vibrational configurations. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ @JasonPerry what kind of "manipulation" you have in mind? And why theory that is pretty consistent with our understanding of relativity would suddenly help to break it? If you can make string behave in a way that contradicts physics as we know it, then you can as well make protons and electrons do it. Or atoms. Or whole humans directly. Because all that string theory does is replace some properties in the point of one particle. "On distance scales larger than the string scale, a string looks just like an ordinary particle". $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 23:26

4 Answers 4


Consider this graph I made:

enter image description here
Absolutely, positively, not quantitatively correct.

In any work where you're trying to use a super-science-y explanation, you have to gauge your audience well. At times . . . I'm not good at that. Some of my answers here should make that apparent. You need to consider two main, related things:

  1. Is whoever's going to consume this actually going to benefit from more science? That is, will they understand the world better if you add this much detail? Will the device or situation become more plausible?
  2. Is it necessary? Consider Chekhov's gun. If you describe in detail how someone manipulates strings, it must be essential for the plot. Same goes for any spaceship engine, weapon, piece of technology, etc.

Let's look at plausibility. The answer to your revised question is "Sort of". Strings in string theory do have different properties based on how they "vibrate". If you can change these vibration modes for a given string, then it will behave like a different type of a string - and thus a different particle. For basic transformations - say, an electron to a muon - this shouldn't be too hard, if you're willing to accept a little bit of magic (and I think most of us are).

Now, how specific should you be? That's where my totally-not-quantitatively-accurate graph comes in. Right now, at this level of detail, you're probably halfway along the $x$-axis. You've described a basic premise of matter manipulation without trying to justify how the action of manipulation works. Star Wars came close to this by using midi-chlorians to explain how the Force works, a move that hasn't been totally popular with fans. Why?

  • It goes into way more detail than is needed, and thus shows its implausibility.
  • Originally, everyone was captivated by the unexplained magic of the Force.

You've obviously avoided the second pitfall by starting at a certain level of science and sticking to it. You've avoided the first by not trying to explain away every single bit of the premise.

So, in summary: Yes, I think this would work, and I think it's convincing enough if you state it like this.

  • $\begingroup$ I probably should edit my question because I clarified further in other comments, but I'm not going to call it String Theory; I'm attempting to gauge my understanding of it so I can create a fictionalized version of it for the sake of my story. As for the rest of your answer, I've already decided that I'd like to have a naturalistic explanation for the thing in my fictional universe. It just needs to presuppose the existence of this means of warping reality at varying scales. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JasonPerry Excellent, thank you. I've edited my answer; I hope it helps a bit more. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:16

You could exchange strings for a machine that reads minds and grants requests at its own discretion. Examples are 'Forbidden Planet' and 'The Matrix'.

However, if you want to avoid the mechanical or reality is a hoax, you might have the planet be a gestalt intelligence (http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1113410130/bacteria-actually-communicate-much-like-neurons-in-the-brain-scientists-say-102215/). This has been done in fiction before, but I can't recall the title.

In this instance, still, to make anything flashy and dramatic would either require reality to be fake (the dreams of the planet) or the world to be connected to some fancy machine that provides delivery through some as-yet-unknown process.

As others have pointed out, the really magical seeming things in quantum mechanics may just be an artifact of using probabilistic mathematics, instead of deterministic math, to solve the problems. This hasn't been conclusively proven yet.

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like Gaia from Asimov’s Foundation sequels- perhaps that’s what you were thinking of $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:05

Unless you need particle physics powers, nanobots are what you want. String theory is only relevant at very high energies, so any string theory device will use huge amounts of power, and possibly give you a huge explosion. If you want to make and manipulate everyday objects, there is no reason to modify nuclei. Just put the right atoms in the right places.

  • $\begingroup$ An old iteration of the story explained everything with nanorobots but I wanted to go a lil crazier with high energy crap, and the engineering of new, artificial composite particles. Energy sources for the current iteration of the story involves either presupposing the existence of negative energy or the energy is siphoned off of alternate universes (or both, whatever). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 2:45

String theory has pretty much become a bust in current physics thinking. It became so complex, absolutely full of cook's constant variables (constants that are thrown in to make the equation work, but that vary from application to application) that it became synonymous with handwaving.

Basically, it became so obscure that you could essentially make anything you wanted out of it. A theory that was that malleable became useless. Anything could be answered by beginning with 'assume a string that...'

Occam's Razor necessitated that it be abandoned.

However, the beauty of it to SciFi writers is that it WAS popular, and widely known, so it makes a good explanation for what would otherwise be fantasy.

So by all means go for it, but under no conditions (except by assumption) consider that it has anything to do with real physics.

  • $\begingroup$ That's pretty much what I was going for. In high school I wasn't a fan of String Theory because it was not really a scientific theory, but now I set it as a self-consistent (?) system that could explain crazy shit in my story. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ Most of this is incorrect. Yes, there are plenty of objections to string theory's lack of good experimental predictions - and some of those are objections are valid. But string theory is still quite popular. It has potential to be a theory of everything, including a theory of quantum gravity. It's widely worked on now, and isn't "obscure", "abandoned" or "handwaving". $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @ HDE 226868 String Theory is very popular among wanabe physicists and SciFi fanatics. I never said it wasn't.. But among serious theorists, it's past history. It is handwaving physics. How can you build a credible theory around something that allows anything to become anything else in any of an infinite number of universes? It just has no practical value as a model. It's quack science, driven by guys who only want to sell books, and drive public imagination. It's not unlike the proponents of earth being the center of the universe hanging on to their beliefs well after Copernicus. It's dead. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ Far as I'm aware, it's just not testable right now. Unless someone has found a way to test since I last checked (admittedly in like 2011 when I watched Lawrence Krause lectures over and over). And if it's not testable, then it's not a theory or even a hypothesis. Just a "what if." $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 3:21

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