Theoretical physicists were troubled by the existence of five separate string theories. This has been solved by the second superstring revolution in the 1990s during which the five string theories were discovered to be different limits of a single underlying theory: M-theory.
|Bosonic||26||Only bosons, no fermions means only forces, no matter, with both open and closed strings; major flaw: a particle with imaginary mass, called the tachyon|
|I||10||Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with both open and closed strings, no tachyon, group symmetry is SO(32)|
|IIA||10||Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with closed strings only, no tachyon, massless fermions spin both ways (nonchiral)|
|IIB||10||Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with closed strings only, no tachyon, massless fermions only spin one way (chiral)|
|HO||10||Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with closed strings only, no tachyon, heterotic, meaning right moving and left moving strings differ, group symmetry is SO(32)|
|HE||10||Supersymmetry between forces and matter, with closed strings only, no tachyon, heterotic, meaning right moving and left moving strings differ, group symmetry is E8×E8|
- The type I string has one supersymmetry in the ten-dimensional sense (16 supercharges). This theory is special in the sense that it is based on unoriented open and closed strings, while the rest are based on oriented closed strings.
- The type II string theories have two supersymmetries in the ten-dimensional sense (32 supercharges). There are actually two kinds of type II strings called type IIA and type IIB. They differ mainly in the fact that the IIA theory is non-chiral (parity conserving) while the IIB theory is chiral (parity violating).
- The heterotic string theories are based on a peculiar hybrid of a type I superstring and a bosonic string. There are two kinds of heterotic strings differing in their ten-dimensional gauge groups: the heterotic E8×E8 string and the heterotic SO(32) string. (The name heterotic SO(32) is slightly inaccurate since among the SO(32) Lie groups, string theory singles out a quotient Spin(32)/Z2 that is not equivalent to SO(32).)
Chiral gauge theories can be inconsistent due to anomalies. This happens when certain one-loop Feynman diagrams cause a quantum mechanical breakdown of the gauge symmetry. The anomalies were canceled out via the Green-Schwarz mechanism.