Course syllabus


FFM485 / FYM485 String theory lp2 HT23 (7.5 hp)

Course is offered by the department of Physics

The course will be given as 16 ordinary lectures (i.e. not on zoom). The lectures will take place in the physics building, 6th floor, room N-F6115. You may not have access to the door to the division of Subatomic and high-energy physics floors where the lecture room is situated. If that is the case, simply wait outside and the lecturer will let you in before the lecture starts.

Due to the number of students, classes have been moved to the FL rooms in the physics building. Check TimeEdit under "Schedule" below. The first class is in FL72 on Tuesday 31/10 at 13:15.

Lecture notes are provided as pdf-files (see YATA) which defines the course together with the textbook by Barton Zwiebach (BZ) (see below) and the home problems.

Instructions on what to read in BZ, including which home problems to solve (as part of the examination), are given on the respective module pages.

Some extra material is included in the course and appears only in the lecture notes (i.e., not in BZ). You will also find links to other texts, both popular and research papers, that you are highly recommended to have a look at. These will, however, not be discussed in the oral exam unless it is specifically said that they are part of the course.

For more information on the examination process see the end of the syllabus.

Contact details

Questions regarding the lectures, home problems etc. that the student is comfortable sharing with everyone is best done on the associated YATA page. Otherwise, please don't hesitate to contact the lecturers via email for any questions.

Course purpose

The purpose of the course is to give some insights into the following features of string/M-theory;

  1. the geometric definition of the theory,
  2. the role of extra dimensions beyond our usual ones, time and three space,
  3. in what sense it corrects Einstein's theory of gravity, i.e., general relativity,
  4. some aspects of the very rich mathematical toolbox,
  5. the so-called AdS/CFT correspondence, and
  6. how it can give rise to the physics of the Standard Model of elementary particles (briefly).



Course literature

  • "A first course in string theory", Barton Zwiebach (BZ) (Cambridge, 2004, 2nd Ed. 2009).

This (mandatory) textbook contains a lot of detailed arguments and calculations. It is in most parts quite pedagogical and easy to read but does nevertheless manage to introduce the reader to some rather advanced aspects of string theory. It also contains, in Part 1, a lot of basic background material that most students should already be familiar with from previous courses. The home problems will mainly be drawn from this book.

  • Lecture notes on String theory, Bengt EW Nilsson

These are the lecture notes that covers this course. We will in general follow Barton's book (not all chapters), with some additional excursions at the end. 

You can read and discuss the text on the YATA page, where the associated lecture notes and additional readings are published.

If you'd prefer to get the entire file as one pdf, it can be found here: String_Theory_Lecture_Notes_2023.pdf

Additional literature recommendations for the interested can be found here.

Course design

Chapters and problems refer to the textbook by Barton Zwiebach (BZ).

The course covers in 16 lectures (2x45 mins) which amounts to approximately 3/4 of the 670 pages (all of Ch. 1 - 14 and parts of Ch. 15 - 21, 23 and 24). There are no exercise classes, so the students are expected  to learn the mathematical tools from the lectures and by working out the home problems (including the mini-project) that are part of the examination.

The huge number of pages covered in the book means that the student should make an effort to extract the more important aspects of the material, for instance by writing their own summary. The lectures and home problems define the course and will of course be most helpful in putting together such a summary, which may also be useful when studying for the oral exam.

The so called "Quick calculations"  in the BZ textbook should provide a good check on your understanding when reading the text and are all highly recommended.

Brief course plan: Calendar weeks 44 - 50 (2022) and 1 - 2 (2023) in brackets:

BZ Part I: Chapters 1 - 14 plus 24. Home problems 1 - 14

Week 1 (44): Chapters 1-4 (2 lectures)

Week 2 (45): Chapters 5-10 (3 lectures)

Week 3 (46): Chapters 11-12 (2 lectures)

Week 4 (47): Chapters 13, 24 and 14 plus extra material (3 lectures)

BZ Part II: Chaps 15 - 21 and 23. One small project with a written report and presentation

Week 5 (48): Parts of Chapters 15-17 plus extra material (2 lectures)

Week 6 (49): Parts of Chapters 18 - 20 briefly (2 lectures)

Week 7 (50): Parts of Chapters  21 and 23 briefly plus outlook (2 lectures)

Week 8 (2): Examination (oral and  project presentations, both mandatory)

The detailed plan can be found here.

It is recommended that the student starts with their project once the final home problem has been handed in, i.e. when we move on to part II in BZ. Any questions about the projects can be asked during the lecture, or by sending an e-mail to the teachers.

Changes made since the last occasion

(Very) minor adjustments in lecture content.

Bengt EW Nilsson will give half of the lectures.

Learning objectives and syllabus

Learning objectives:

After having passed the course in String theory the student should have acquired some understanding of the basic clash between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and how this is resolved in string theory. The student should then have obtained a set of mathematical tools making it possible to compute various physical effects in string theory, and knowledge of how the gravitational force and the standard model of elementary particles are extracted from string theory and its so called D-branes.

The student should also be able to quantize the dynamical string theory and express it in terms of the infinite dimensional Virasoro algebra. Also very important is the expected ability to discuss and evaluate the good and weak points of string theory and its relation to physics in four-dimensional spacetime.

Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen:

Study plan (Chalmers)

Study plan (GU)

Examination form

The course examinations has three parts:

  1. One home problem for each of the 14 chapters in Part 1 of BZ (3 points each).  Handed in electronically in Canvas (in latex or hand-written). 20 points required to pass (necessary but not sufficient for passing the course) and must reached before being allowed to sign up for the oral exam (see 3 below).
  2. One mandatory small project associated to a chapter in Part 2 of BZ or chosen from a list of slightly more advanced problems provided later. Handed in on paper in latex as a short report and presented (15 minutes) in a session at the end of the course. This will allow the students to apply what they have learned to solve some more substantial problems, and also test the student's ability to present a relatively complex topic in a clear way. More information can be found here.
  3. Mandatory oral exam. No aid allowed. You will not be asked to do any calculations during the oral.

The final grade is determined by weight 1/3 for 1. and 2. together, and 2/3 for the oral.

Course summary:

Date Details Due