A brane, in string theory and related theories such as supergravity theories, is a physical object that generalizes the notion of a point particle to higher dimensions. For example, a point particle can be viewed as a brane of dimension zero, while a string can be viewed as a brane of dimension one. It is also possible to consider higher dimensional branes. In dimension p, these are called p-branes. The word brane comes from the word "membrane" which refers to a two-dimensional brane.
Branes are dynamical objects which can propagate through spacetime according to the rules of quantum mechanics. They have mass and can have other attributes such as charge. A p-brane sweeps out a (p+1)-dimensional volume in spacetime called its worldvolume. Physicists often study fields analogous to the electromagnetic field which live on the worldvolume of a brane.
In string theory, D-branes are an important class of branes that arise when one considers open strings. As an open string propagates through spacetime, its endpoints are required to lie on a D-brane. The letter "D" in D-brane refers to the fact that we impose a certain mathematical condition on the system known as the Dirichlet boundary condition. The study of D-branes in string theory has led to important results such as the AdS/CFT correspondence, which has shed light on many problems in quantum field theory.
Branes are also frequently studied from a purely mathematical point of view since they are related to subjects such as homological mirror symmetry and noncommutative geometry. Mathematically, branes may be represented as objects of certain categories, such as the derived category of coherent sheaves on a Calabi-Yau manifold, or the Fukaya category.
- Moore, Gregory (2005). "What is... a Brane?" (PDF). Notices of the AMS 52: 214. Retrieved June, 2013.
- Aspinwall, Paul; Bridgeland, Tom; Craw, Alastair; Douglas, Michael; Gross, Mark; Kapustin, Anton; Moore, Gregory; Segal, Graeme; Szendröi, Balázs; Wilson, P.M.H., eds. (2009). Dirichlet Branes and Mirror Symmetry. American Mathematical Society.
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