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Math Science

A New Theory of Everything? 511

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the it's-all-made-of-stars dept.
goatherder writes "The Telegraph is running a story about a new Unified Theory of Physics. Garrett Lisi has presented a paper called "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" which unifies the Standard Model with gravity — without using string theory. The trick was to use E8 geometry which you may remember from an earlier Slashdot article. Lisi's theory predicts 20 new particles which he hopes might turn up in the Large Hadron Collider."
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A New Theory of Everything?

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  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:51PM (#21372773) Homepage Journal
    ... by discovering the previously-unpredicted particles that his paper predicts, especially of the properties of the new particles match the predictions, then there is no doubt whatsoever that he'll win the Nobel Prize in Physics.

    Back in the day, I thought I might win the Nobel when I grew up. But life intervened; as of this month I have twenty years as a software engineer. I'm sick to death of it. But I'm not going back to Physics - download the tracks in my sig, and you can help me go back to school to study musical composition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:59PM (#21372855)
    He'd say Great, cause if we can detect those particles, now knowing what to look for, this theory will start to be validated.

  • by Admiral Ag (829695) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:59PM (#21372857)
    Haha. You aren't the only one. The first thing I thought of was this classic Arthur C. Clarke short story: The 9 Billion Names of God.

    http://lucis.net/stuff/clarke/9billion_clarke.html [lucis.net]

  • Re:Lubos Motl (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzRoy (602691) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @10:17PM (#21373597)
    I wouldn't dismiss it yet. This is only one person.

    Would you completely dismiss some new IT products because Steve Balmer speaks out calling it garbage? Probably not.

    If lots of other people also spoke out calling it garbage then you might start paying attention. Now I don't know if this guy is the Steve Balmer of the physics community or not, but I know nothing about him so why should I trust his word over some other guy I know nothing about either?
  • by Black Sabbath (118110) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:18AM (#21374491) Homepage
    Wow. I really, really hope that you are in education.

    I have Bachelor degree in Physics (over 20 years ago) and I had no idea what the hell was being talked about. Your explanation is BRILLIANT. It does not assume readers are morons, does not portray science as magic, explains the subject in a way that even a layman finishes reading it with a better understanding than they started, and even manages to infuse some feeling for what the scientific discovery process is like. Amazing.

    As someone who originally got into science because of Carl Sagan's Cosmos I can honestly say that if I had lecturers like you I would still be doing science. (not surprisingly, the subjects that I did best in had lecturers cut from the same cloth).

    Thank you.
  • by ColaMan (37550) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:00AM (#21374843) Homepage Journal
    Adding 20 new, unobserved, unproven particles makes for an "exceptionally simple" theory? Wonder what Occam would say about that.

    I dunno, but the guy(s) who worked out the periodic table would likely approve:

    (Dmitri taps his newly formed periodic table)

    "Hmmm. Looks like some element should fit here."

    (20 years later)

    "Hey look! We've just discovered germanium, and it fits *right there*"
  • by epine (68316) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:40AM (#21375137)
    Apples and oranges could equally well have described matter and energy prior to special relativity. How could Lubos be so clueless as not to recognize that many insights in physics arose precisely because someone dared to add apples to oranges? Lubos has an interesting psychological configuration. He would be an ideal subject in an fMRI imaging protocol on the pathological constriction of rational thought. I'd love to see how his brain glucose dances while I recited out loud the most recent Peter Woit blog post. I suspect his amygdala would be more fired up than the tympanist at an indoor performance of the 1812 Overture.

    Lubos should at least feel compelled to explain why the apples of adding fermions to bosons is completely unlike the oranges of adding matter to energy, but he's always lacked that layer of subtly in his expository style.

    In more general terms, Peter Woit also suffers some misconceptions concerning the evolution of physics as a discipline. Fifty years ago, the formalisms were less daunting. A good physical intuition could usually be translated to an acceptable formalism. Much progress was made on that basis. Once the standard model was achieved, the balance shifted. These days most of the obstacles to further progress are inherent to the expressive power of the available formalisms. At one end of the spectrum you have people working within formalisms that are far too expressive (string theory) and hence far removed from any specific prediction. At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who take a step back and potter away within formalisms that might ultimately prove to be insufficiently expressive for the physics we actually have.

    If the string theorists have managed to demonstrate that the expressive power of string theory exceeds any practical potential for concrete prediction, that actually amounts to good progress. I see the present era of physics as being more about determining the advantages and disadvantages of the available formalisms (on the spectrum of insufficiency to excess sufficiency) quite apart from predicting actual particles, however nice that might be. The cost of each new fundamental particle discovered experimentally has increased exponentially. How could any serious thinker be surprised we ended up at this impasse?

    It has always been a problem with the psychology of earthlings that we undervalue negative demonstrations. From what I read (quite a lot, without understanding much of the math at all) it seems as thought Lisi is exploring a coherent mathematical system which at least contains certain essential features of known physics in an unusual combination. I regard that as a useful line of inquiry regardless of whether or not it is doomed with respect to describing the whole of known physics.

    Obviously, this places physics on a far different trajectory for the amount of work required relative to the progress achieved than the glory days of the mid 20th century. What I suspect is driving the social turmoil within the discipline is that society has not necessarily agreed to continue funding physics to the same level given this severe softening of trajectory. Funding continues on inertia despite original premises that are no longer true. Woit presses for a return to those original premises (short path from new theory to verifiable predictions), while ignoring that it might no longer be possible to progress on those terms due to vastly more constraints emanating from the formalisms themselves.
  • by xtracto (837672) on Friday November 16, 2007 @06:47AM (#21376621) Journal
    Aaaah, and this is what differentiates Slashdot from sites like say, digg or reddit.

    Thank you!
  • by jericho4.0 (565125) on Friday November 16, 2007 @07:55AM (#21376983)
    You don't have to do a lot, if you're nervous. Regarding LSD, 100 micrograms is the standard dose nowadays. (in the 60's, it was ~300mg). ~35mg is enough to get a taste of what it's like, and might be enough to change your thought patterns in ways you might find interesting.

    Here's a tip from an experienced psyconaut; The way out of a 'bad trip' (an uncomfortable mental space one might experience on LSD), is more LSD. No joke. The discomfort comes from not being in the experience enough. The hippies had it about right with the 300mg. Still, LSD isn't for everyone, and one shouldn't do until it feels right. Mushrooms (Cubenzas, espcially), are quite like LSD, but most people describe them as 'softer'.

    You only live once.

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