I know nothing about theoretical particle physics...however, having watched three parts of a series entitled 'The Elegant Universe' I now have a vague understanding and a growing fascination for 'Super Symmetry', 'String Theory', 'M Theory', 'branes', multiple dimensions and the quest to observe 'gravitons' and 'sparticles'.
M Theory was a turning point for String theory...it is a unifying theory that re-connected the five diverse views of strings - M theory (variously stands for Magic, Matrix, Monster or even Murky theory) helps to unite strings as singular unifying theory of the fabric of the universe.
The key problem with String theory is that there is no current way of validating it. It is more like a philosophy than a science. This uncertainty and the blurred lines between theory and true science is always fascinating. The elegant mathematics express a 'possible' world - but does it describe the world as it is? Scientists are in the dark with an increasingly baroque theory which raises more questions than it answers. Just a deliciously interesting area of exploration.
Two labs in the world are attempting to find evidence to support some aspects of String Theory. CERN has built a 27km circular particle accelerator "The Large Hadron Collider'" in order to find some circumstantial evidence to support strings. There are two approaches, to observe 'the absence' of gravitons and to observe 'sparticles' which would prove the idea of Super Symmetry.
The following map shows the location of the LHC:
The instinct to find a singular, elegant theory to explain the fabric of the world around us is surely part of human nature. There have been several chapters in this scientific quest throughout the ages. Until something like the Hadron Collider at CERN can produce some coherant 'proof' - String Theory and its co-dependent ideas will have to remain as philosophy. Perhaps it is the religion of the 21st Century - a bible of physics with its many apostles...
A book like 'The Final Theory' clearly outlines the possibility of Strings being yet another misunderstanding in scientific research...Time will tell...
(Hmmm..thought to self, why on earth does CERN allow public access to a portion of their intranet? For the creators of the web that's a bit odd me thinkst...)