Let me start by saying my own personal academic training was in molecular biology, and I am woefully unqualified to understand, much less attempt to explain, string theory. In fact, every time I think I am a relatively intelligent guy, some article about string theory appears in the Science Times section of the NY Times that leads me to believe otherwise. I find this subject strangely fascinating because, let’s be serious here, how in the world are you possibly going to figure out the origin of the universe? And here is another one for you: before the origin of the universe, time did not exist. Think about that with your morning coffee.
As legend goes, when Albert Einstein neared his final moments, he furiously attempted to scribble down equations that would provide a grand unifying theory of the four fundamental forces of nature, ie the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the force of gravity and the electromagnetic force. He did not succeed, and many theoretical physicists are now attempting to use “string theory” to understand how, in the first minutiae of a fraction of a second after the universe was formed after the Big Bang, these four forces were unified as one singular grand unifying force. But even if you do not have a background in theoretical physics, there are numerous books that discuss string theory for the non physicist, and amongst the best of them are Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory” and a few excellent blogs, which include http://blog.physicsworld.com/tag/string-theory/