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Hawking: No 'Theory of Everything' 465

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-all-been-punked dept.
Flash Modin writes "In a Scientific American essay based on their new book A Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow are now claiming physicists may never find a theory of everything. Instead, they propose a 'family of interconnected theories' might emerge, with each describing a certain reality under specific conditions. The claim is a reversal for Hawking, who claimed in 1980 that there would be a unified theory by the turn of the century."
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Hawking: No 'Theory of Everything'

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  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:07PM (#33751050) Journal

    He's a theoretical physicist. Theories ARE his results.

  • by Cyberax (705495) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:16PM (#33751182)

    You forget important addition to Goedel's theorem. Namely: "all philosophical consequences of Godel's theorem are bunk" (including this one).

    Regarding your comment: there ARE complete and consistent formal systems. For example, real number theory is complete.

    You can't have consistent, complete system if it's _complex_ _enough_ to describe integers.

  • by abigor (540274) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:22PM (#33751262)

    No.

  • by onionman (975962) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:31PM (#33751414)

    Instead, they propose a "family of interconnected theories" might emerge

    Which, if you read them all at the same sitting and follow all the connections, just might read like one big...unified theory.

    This seems very, very close to a distinction without a difference.

    No, there is a very important difference. Hawking is stating that there may be "locally everywhere solutions" without a "global solution." This is a very important concept in advanced mathematics. Go read about the mathematical terms "sheaf" and "local-global principle."

    Hawking is essentially saying that there very well may not be one single theory which explains everything. Instead, there may be a bunch of theories, each of which is valid only in certain areas, and which agree with one another where they overlap, even without a global solution.

    For a simple example which many readers may already be familiar with, consider the complex logarithm (e.g. the natural log on the complex numbers). To make it well defined, you must make a "branch cut" and decide which branch you want to take. Different branches agree where they overlap, but there is no single global solutions... just a patchwork of solutions that agree where needed (blah, blah lift to a covering space). Pick up a book on complex analysis for details.

  • by gangien (151940) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:31PM (#33751416) Homepage

    here*

    aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggg

  • Re:Past His Prime (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday September 30, 2010 @03:55PM (#33751778) Homepage Journal

    But, Hawking is past his prime.

    He's only ten years older than me, kid. He's a physicist, not a football player. Unless you get alzheimer's or drink a lot or play high impact sports (boxing or non-US football) your brain doesn't suffer much if any.

    Like one of my old college profs was fond of saying, "kid, I've forgotten more than you've ever learned".

    However, after his comments on active SETI being dangerous

    I agree with him about that. Actively hunting for species that make us look like chimpanzes by comparison doesn't seem like the smartest thing we can do.

    coaching a crappy minor league team

    I'd say that research at Cambrige is hardly equivalent to coaching a crappy minor league team. And the list of his accomplishments puts your "past his prime" into perspective (see the wikipedia article on him):

    1975 Eddington Medal
    1976 Hughes Medal of the Royal Society
    1979 Albert Einstein Medal
    1981 Franklin Medal
    1982 Order of the British Empire (Commander)
    1985 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    1986 Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
    1988 Wolf Prize in Physics
    1989 Prince of Asturias Awards in Concord
    1989 Companion of Honour
    1999 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society[45]
    2003 Michelson Morley Award of Case Western Reserve University
    2006 Copley Medal of the Royal Society[46]
    2008 Fonseca Price of the University of Santiago de Compostela[47]
    2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States[4]

    "When I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my pistol." -- Stephen Hawking

    I think I'll change my sig...

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:09PM (#33752010)

    it will by the turn of the century. the 22nd century will be the century of Linux on the dozens-of-cores desktop.

  • ORLY (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @04:19PM (#33752126)

    [Citation Needed]

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @05:09PM (#33752890) Homepage

    Because you don't understand Godel's theorem, which is grossly misunderstood by basically everyone who's ever heard of it colloquially. Here, have a little read [scientopia.org] on how it's so wonderfully misunderstood, and so horribly misapplied.

  • Re:Wisdom from DS9 (Score:4, Informative)

    by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10link ... inus threevowels> on Thursday September 30, 2010 @08:33PM (#33754710) Homepage

    Well, that seemed strange to me, so I looked back over the textbook's diagram for a NOR gate. I thought, "Surely this can't be correct. If you switch the pMOS transistors and the nMOS transistors, then you've got a logical AND gate.
    Really the important rule is that there has to be voltage in the right direction between gate and source to turn a transistor on. So if you try to use a N channel in the top side of a logic circuit (or a P channel in the bottom side) you will get a follower (output voltage follows input voltage at some offset) rather than a switch.

    You can try building it if you want and with the right transistors it will work up to a point but the output levels will always be lower than the input you feed in (unlike with a proper CMOS gate that relies on switch-like behaviour).

  • Re:Past His Prime (Score:3, Informative)

    by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:50PM (#33755128)

    He's only ten years older than me, kid. He's a physicist, not a football player. Unless you get alzheimer's or drink a lot or play high impact sports (boxing or non-US football) your brain doesn't suffer much if any.

    Lots of US football players get concussions. I don't believe that helps them.

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