Edited the question thanks to some helpful commenters.

Are the sound waves emitted by fundamental strings so small as to be impossible to interact with the world? In other words, do they disappear, like sub-planck length fluctuations that are obscured by the size of fundamental strings? OR, is it theoretically (not physically) possible to "listen" to the strings, discern pitches, etc.

Original Question:

I mean, vibrating strings make sounds no matter what they are or what scale they're on, right? If there are loops of strings in bosons and fermions, then aren't they kind of like really small violin strings, which are also attached at each end. So, if you have strings vibrating with different whole numbers of peaks and troughs, they should each have their own pitch, even if not in the most immediately obvious sense... Either way, at least you don't have fire photons at it to observe it if you can listen to it.

Is listening to string theory a possibility?

Has it been attempted, and if so, how?

Or does air pressure interaction or some other problem make this impossible?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ To excite a fundamental string one needs about the Planck energy, the corresponding oscillation of the sound wave would have a way to high frequency outside the audible spectrum. So it is not possible to hear the vibrations of these strings. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Dec 30, 2012 at 11:42
  • $\begingroup$ Is that in the context of the human ear, or is it just plain impossible to detect? What I'm imagining is kind of like radio astronomy, but for fundamental strings. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2012 at 11:54
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Which medium (gas?) should tranport that "sound"? $\endgroup$
    – Georg
    Dec 30, 2012 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ I guess something like that. Extremely hot gas maybe? Similar to how gamma ray detectors pick up individual photons, you'd have to try to "hear" the frequencies in a really, really "quiet" place with not a lot of "stuff" in it. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2012 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ For Gods sake , Freya, think of the dimensions of a string as compared to a atom of a gas or the median distance beween atoms in a gas! $\endgroup$
    – Georg
    Dec 30, 2012 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


The notion of fundamental strings making sounds is inapt.

Fundamental strings are so-called because of their similarity, in certain senses, to an oscillating rope, cord, or string. An oscillating string is a nice physical example of harmonic behavior, eigenmodes, and so on. The oscillating string makes a sound, but the sound is a result of the air around the string being excited. In a vacuum, the oscillating string would make no sound.

Fundamental strings have similar behavior; they can be described in terms of their boundary conditions (both ends free, both ends fixed, or one free and one fixed) and their oscillatory modes. However, they do not create sound in the sense that our vibrating, physical string does. As I stated above, the sound is not a property even of the physical string, merely a consequence of its interaction with the air. While strings must interact with other "stuff" in order to have any consequence in our universe, that interaction does not manifest itself as anything that we might think of as "sound waves".

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! Clears up a lot! If there's no sound as a property of the string itself, then it's definitely not like the sub-planck length fluctuations at all! Does that mean that they have the potential to make sound, given circumstances that just don't exist in our universe? Or do they differ from, say violin strings in another specific way that makes this kind of sound completely incompatible with fundamental strings? $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2012 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ If you think of sound as being the way one object's excitations interact with another object, then yes, they make a "sound". However, this notion is metaphysical, at best, and any analogies that we might try to draw from sound waves would likely prove useless. They are only like violin strings in the sense that they have certain properties can be described with a similar set of equations. $\endgroup$
    – KDN
    Dec 30, 2012 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Just to make sure I'm understanding: in an abstract sense, yes there is "sound" (as in the excitation/interaction) but not in a way that has any specific meaningful correlation to the more concrete, observable "sound" and "sound waves"? $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2012 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ If it helps to think about it that way, then sure. Don't try to explain it to anyone else that way though, it will just confuse (I regret mentioning it myself. :) $\endgroup$
    – KDN
    Dec 31, 2012 at 15:37

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