What if electrons were not really elementary, but were formed at the ends of long "strings" of other, fundamental particles? ... The pair ran simulations to see if their string-nets could give rise to conventional particles and fractionally charged quasi-particles. They did. ... As the net of strings vibrated, it produced a wave that behaved according to a very familiar set of laws - Maxwell's equations, which describe the behaviour of light. "A hundred and fifty years after Maxwell wrote them down, here they emerged by accident," says Wen. That wasn't all. They found that their model naturally gave rise to other elementary particles, such as quarks, which make up protons and neutrons, and the particles responsible for some of the fundamental forces, such as gluons and the W and Z bosons. From this, the researchers made another leap. Could the entire universe be modelled in a similar way? "Suddenly we realised, maybe the vacuum of our whole universe is a string-net liquid," says Wen.
physics universe string theory