To describe all physical phenomena in conclusive mathematical equations, and be able to predict the behaviour of all kinds of matter and forces in the universe? Since the early 80's the world's smartest and most talented physicists and mathematicians think they are on the trail towards this 'theory of everything', the holy grail in physics. Although they work scattered around the globe at universities and institutes, the centre of this ambitious project can be found in Princeton. At the same place where Einstein devoted the last 22 years of his life to the same cause. |

After lunch string-theorists and astrophysicists walk past the IAS’s main building to the institute's Bloomberg hall where they will attend a lecture. The Institute for Advanced Studies traditionally employs some of the best theoretical physicists as faculty. Currently 4 out of 5 physics faculty members and their numerous students work on the front-line of string-theory. String theory is a conceptual and mathematical framework that holds its pursuers captivated with the promise of unifying and over-arching established physics theories into one grand 'Theory of Everything'. |

Stringtheorist Nathan Seiberg gives a talk titled "Strings on time dependent orbifolds, II" during the yearly 'Strings' conference, here held in 2002 in Cambridge, UK. String-theory in its basic form postulates tiny strings instead of the tiny point-particles that are common in the accepted and tested physics theories of today. The way any string vibrates dictates its behavior and thus to which kind of 'particle' in the current model it corresponds. |

Edward Witten in his office at the IAS with his student Chris Beasley. After they discussed the progress of Beasley’s work, Witten tries to help Chris to reach for a notch higher. Every Tuesday-morning Witten counsels his three students on their research. Witten has been the best-known and most influential string-theorists for about 2 decades now. Besides the IAS, the nearby Princeton University also employs some of the front-runners in string-theory. A position or fellowship, if only temporary, at either is considered essential for every student who has ambitions in string-theory. |

Opening reception of the yearly Strings conference, here in 2002 in Cambridge. Over the course of about 30 years, string-theory has evolved from an oddity studied and taken serious by few, into the full-fledged effort of the best part of theoretical physicists worldwide that it is now. Critics say string-theory does no longer merit taking up so much of the available funding and talent. In all those years string-theory has barely come up with testable predictions, while other promising 'unifying theories' are neglected. |

Juan Maldacena during his closing talk of the Strings2002 conference, titled "Some thoughts on the wave function of the Universe’. Giving the closing talk of a conference is an honor, traditionally going to a speaker who has done exceptional work in the past year. The speaker for the closing talk is also allowed to give in to a lot more speculation than is acceptable in the other talks. |

In the corridors of the 2002 'Strings' conference, Juan Maldacena answers questions of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking’s postulates on Black Holes are still of basic importance to string-theory, especially for Maldacena who works on solving theoretical problems with Black Holes. Hawking, who cannot speak, uses a wrist-operated computer to phrase sentences. Here, he is flanked by his student Christophe Galfard and his nurse. |

Participants of ‘Strings2002’ conference discussing while waiting for the lectures to recommence. Present at this conference are about 500 theoretical physicist, about half of the global community of string-theorists and adjoining scientific fields like mathematics, astrophysics and high-energy-physics. The level of complexity of what is being presented here is such that few others than string-theorists themselves can grasp it. |

During the Celebration of the 100th birthday of Paul Dirac, one of the founders of modern theoretical physics, Edward Witten gives a public lecture titled "The search for Supersymmetry". Witten specifically mentioned Dirac's insistence on beauty in mathematical equations. For Witten and many other string-theorists, beauty and elegance in the equations they develop is still an important, if not the most important intuitive guideline that they are on the right track. |

Een discussie tussen deelnemers tijdens een snaartheorie-workshop aan de afdeling theoretische natuurkunde van de UVA. Vooral in de zomermaanden en universiteit-vakanties worden dergelijke workshops georganiseerd om snaartheoretici uit verschillende landen op een informele manier met elkaar in contact te brengen. Studenten krijgen zo ook een kans wat op te steken en kennis te maken met vooraanstaande vakgenoten. |

During a workshop on stringtheory, Joseph Polchinsky lectures students and colleagues on some of his latest research. Polchinsky is an influential stringtheorists who made breakthrough contributions to stringtheory in the late ‘90’s. He postulated many-dimensional membranes instead of strings as the ultimate elementary particles. |

During a workshop on stringtheory, Shiraz Minwalla (in corner) and a student reflect on what he just wrote on the blackboard. Among theoretical physicists the blackboard still enjoys unsurpassed popularity to convey one's ideas to colleagues and when collaborating on theories. |

Edward Witten and his student Chris Beasley in his office at the IAS. One of the conditions for getting the well sough-after appointment at the IAS is that a professor, besides his own research, takes time to intensively counsel a number of students. In the past, researchers could do as they pleased. In practice, the interaction with unformed students with fresh ideas and approach proved to increase the productivity of the staff. |

Edward Witten with his student Tamar Friedmann in his office at the IAS. They are working on a series of research-papers on descriptions of elementary particles. One of the main challenges in string-theory is to come up with a testable prediction. Much of what string-theory describes thus far lies far beyond anything that can be tested or observed by modern physics experiments and astronomical observations. But as long as a theory cannot explain some behavior of the world around us, it remains just that; a theory. |

At his office at the IAS, Nathan Seiberg is staring at the blackboard on which one of his students has laid out an idea earlier that day. |

Nathan Seiberg and his collaborator Freddy Cachazo are finishing a scientific paper just before closing time for an online publication. Like most scientists, string-theories publish the results of their research in papers, published in peer-reviewed magazines or online periodicals. It is the most important channel of information to keep everyone in the field updated. For a scientists' career it is essential to regularly publish, in the end it is the sole tangible means to show for what they worked on. |

Students of Theoretical Physics in the common room at the top floor of the Physics faculty building. The facilities for students are particularly good at Princeton University, which has a name to keep up in physics. The top floor of the physics department has computer-, common- and meeting rooms, as well as individual offices for graduate students. |

In the basement of the Physics faculty building student are following a lecture on the mathematics needed as a foundation for working with stringtheory. String-theory is notoriously hard to understand and heavily dependent on complex mathematics-techniques, some of which were solely developed to deal with the complex computations in the 11 dimensions that string-theory requires. |

After a seminar at the IAS, Herman Verlinde (front left) and David Berenstein (right) are going deeper into the issues in the coffee-room. Seminars on stringtheory at the IAS always attract colleagues from institutes and Universities nearby, who take the opportunity to discuss their issues with each other. |

After a seminar by Juan Maldacena, stringtheorists and astrophysicists associated with the IAS, Princeton University and Rutgers University discuss the lecture. Almost every day there is a seminar in one of these institutes about stringtheory and the connections to other fields of science. |

After a lecture, Professor Igor Klebanov answers questions of students at the department of physics. Princeton University is considered one of the best places to start a career in stringtheory. Apart from excellent facilities, the department of physics boasts some of the leading theorists in stringtheory as professors, at a ratio of about 1 professor per 2 students. |

The traditional Friday afternoon tea-break for all the staff and students of the physics faculty building. In the centre is a bust of Albert Einstein, who spent the last 22 years of his life working and lecturing in Princeton. Left and right are professors and students discussing mathematical problems and physics-theories. |

Juan Maldacena (Left) and Oleg Lunin in Maldacena’s office at the IAS. One of the many minutes-long silences that occur while figuring out the mathematics for a scientific paper on which the two theoretical physicists collaborate. |