String Fever



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Setting the Scene

In String Fever, Lily explores the String Theory as a metaphor for the motivations behind her personal interactions.

The String Theory is often referred to as the "Theory of Everything." It has earned this moniker due to the fact that, through mathematics and physics, it attempts to explain how everything works with just one theory. It has earned some notoriety for the possibility that it could combine several standing physics theories and potentially even explain the existence of gravity.

Previously, the Particle Theory was the accepted idea for studying matter. It states that matter is made of tiny particles that cannot be seen. String Theory maintains that this concept is incorrect, and that matter "particles" are actually tiny loops of string that can be used to explain how other particles and forces act. The theory states that the type of matter the strings represent depends on the direction in which they are moving. This is to say that by moving in one direction the loop acts one way, and by moving in another direction it will act in a different way.

There are several critiques of String Theory. Among them, the fact that multiple versions of the theory exist and that none have been determined to be completely right. Critics also warrant that the mathematical laws of the theory yield multiple plausible solutions, and that these laws are only used to predict, not prove, what could or might happen. Because of these problems, some people believe that String Theory should be ruled out as "unscientific."

Publication Date







The Masque


Theatre and Performance Studies


Producer's Note

Welcome to The Masque's performance of String Fever. We are excited to bring you this special production, sponsored by La Salle's Explorer Connection, as part of the yearlong initiative to celebrate the sciences in conjunction with the opening of the Holroyd Science Center.

String Fever shows the perspective of a forty-year-old woman struggling to find life's meaning, both theoretically and through her personal connections. Lily's relatable predicament through the lens of science is a humorous, progressive ·piece that has perfectly found its place in our 80th season.

The past 80 years has shown much growth and positive change for our organization. This year we've met the challenge of keeping The Masque relevant on-campus and in the community with a re-branding initiative. Please pay a visit to our new website, www.lasalle.edu/masque. to learn more about our improvements.

We are pleased to bring back Tom Reing, directing for his l0th year at La Salle! Tom is truly part of the "Masque family," and has recently started a new initiative to produce contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Britain through the lnis Nua Theatre Company. His mix of intellectual humor and a knack for teaching continually creates memorable, educational theater experiences for our casts and crews. String Fever is no exception.

Much gratitude and thanks go out to all of the departments, staff and faculty that had a role in making this production possible. First and foremost, to the Celebration of Science, Explorer Connection and Philadelphia Center for sponsoring the show and taking interest in promoting science through the performing arts. Special thanks to Dr. Prushan, Dr. Gentry, Julia Gwiszcz, Dr. Moore, Administrative Services, University Advancement, University Communications, The Dean of Students Office, Physical Facilities, The Programming Center and Multimedia Services. The Executive Board would especially like to thank our faculty advisor Dawn Wanner for her commitment to the betterment of our organization.

80 Years and Counting!

Carolyn Holl
Producer and President

A Word from University Sciences

String Fever and String Theory
Can String Theory bring order to the wildly chaotic world of quantum mechanics? Can anything bring order to the wildly chaotic world of human behavior?

The early 20th century was marked by an explosion of scientific ideas culminating in the development of quantum mechanics to explain the atomic structure of matter. Accompanying this success, however, was an apparent contradiction within our understanding of physics - how to rationalize the theory of large things (planets, people, apples) with that of very small things (electrons, atoms, and molecules). Classical mechanics and general relativity control the physics of large objects. These objects obey 9 the rules of motion that we have experienced throughout our lives and seen with our own eyes. The physics of large objects is deterministic - if we know the forces acting on an baseball then we know where it is now and can accurately predict where it will be in the future. The world of small things, however, is wildly chaotic. Quantum mechanics throws out all the rules of that we have learned about large tangible objects, and replaces them with probabilities rather than absolutes. Small objects such as electrons do not exist as discrete particles. Instead they can only be described as probabilities spread across space. We can never know an electron's absolute location in space since a single small object can be in several places at the same time including being simultaneously on opposite sides of a wall. This is clearly quite different than holding an apple in ones hand and knowing that it is either there or it is not.

It was Albert Einstein's fervent hope that he would be able to construct a single theory that would bridge between the well-ordered, predictable world of large objects and the probabilistic chaos of small ones. He died a beaten man, never having discovered such a "Theory of Everything.". In recent years, however, mathematicians and physicists have developed such a model based on String Theory. Not all physics accept this model, but its proponents claim that it can bring a new rule of order to the world of electrons and atoms using a theory that applies equally to planets and stars.

The challenge of String Theory, and this is a theme mentioned throughout String Fever, is that the solution is almost worse than the problem. Rather than presenting an observer with a simple model to bridge the gap between order and chaos, String Theory presents a model that is even more arcane and abstract than the quantum mechanics that it is trying to explain. It describes all matter (large and small) as strings that loop and vibrate through space. In the play, Artie says "a particle makes sense, [it is something] you can hold on to." He says that the problem with a string is that it is "wishy washy, a little something that winds or knots or loops." Worse, String Theory requires the mathematician to describe the world using 10 dimensions, not the 3 dimensions of space and 1 dimension of time that we are used to. Lily describes these as "hidden dimensions that no matter how hard you look you can't see ... but that the small vibrations matter." As Lily says, the problem with String Theory is that "every time you think you have an answer you end up with another question." And is this not like human behavior, where trying to reach a state of understanding can instead lead to further confusion? Can quantum mechanics or human behavior ever be predicted through simple formulas?

S.T. Gentry
La Salle University
Dept. of Chemistry

Rights Statement


String Fever