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Math Science

A New Theory of Everything? 511

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 Dogun ( 7502 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:48PM (#21372731) Homepage
    Seriously. Stop posting stories from New Scientist. Or articles in other publications on New Scientist articles.
  • by pugugly ( 152978 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @09:14PM (#21372985)
    If I'm reading this right anyway, which I may well not be.

    It's more a very good argument for what he thinks the solution will looks like. The mathematics is low enough that I can (barely) understand it well enough to follow the general argument, but certainly not well enough to be able to catch any oversights. But it's the first thing I've seen in a long time that looked simple enough I felt like I could hit the books and maybe get to a point where I *could* understand it properly. (He says, as if he's really done the last three or four things like that he promised himself he would do. My head exploded reading the first volume of "Art of Computer Programming" and I haven't got in gear to finish *that* yet either.)

    But it sure *looks* pretty.

  • by Liquidrage ( 640463 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @09:28PM (#21373139)
    Lubos, on Bee's blog has shown himself to be nothing but an clown. He argues as if he's on the SA forums. When he did attempt to make a point he was quickly made to look like an asshat.

    Judging by the comments from others there, he certainly intelligent, but close minded, immature, and prone to lapses in judgment.
  • Re:Genius? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gringer ( 252588 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @09:45PM (#21373287)
    Thanks. I've just attempted to fix that, referencing your post... []
  • mod parent up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chicken_tonight ( 786398 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @10:01PM (#21373471)
    Really well explained. Thanks.
  • by Xtravar ( 725372 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @10:06PM (#21373515) Homepage Journal
    Aging occurs because getting old is not evolutionarily beneficial (on the genetic level) in the original environment.

    It's not so much that old age was selected against, it's that old age was not selected for. Obviously, as an organism grows older, its likely survival decreases due to predators, accidents, etc. Thus, those humans who had the gene "good health at old age" were just as likely to reproduce as those humans who did not have such a genetic advantage.

    This is easily demonstrated at the bottom of the food chain, where prey organisms have very short lifespans but reproduce in large quantities quickly.

    As to stopping aging, humans spend tons of effort and money on that (cosmetics, medicine), but it's not as simple as one quick fix, and short of genetically engineering our progeny, there's not going to be an immortal human.

    Further, many genes that deal with aging probably have negative consequences later in life. Simple example: When we're young and learning, rapid growth and pruning of our neural networks is beneficial, but such cellular behavior could be negative for functioning in society at a later age.

    In all honesty, I don't want to live forever. I want to get old and die, and I'd much rather know the secrets of the universe than work for hundreds of years and never retire. I think most people would agree - we all just want to age more comfortably.
  • by mauthbaux ( 652274 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:02PM (#21373935) Homepage
    First of all, I think it's amusing that that the first post was modded as "redundant", but on to the topic at hand:

    Biology has at least 1 famous 'Surfer Dude'; Kary Mullis. The guy was granted the Nobel prize for inventing PCR (polymerase chain reaction) which is arguably the most important processe in modern genetics or biotechnology. From what I know of the guy, he's a complete whack-job as well, claiming that hallucinogenic drugs led him to the discovery. He surfs frequently as well. Add in a few alien abduction stories and some other relatively crazy stuff and you get an idea of what he's like. Still, it's hard to argue with a Nobel prize winner.
  • 5 years isn't bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sparky McGruff ( 747313 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @11:35PM (#21374191)
    for a double major in two hard science disciplines. This isn't some foo-foo private university where they'll graduate you in 4 no matter what you do, it's two degrees from a University of California campus. Lots of classes that are required are taught only once a year -- or sometimes even every other year. If you can't get a spot in the class, tough. You get to spend an extra year. God forbid you have two required courses that are only taught once a year -- and they're scheduled at the same hour. It's not uncommon for people to get "out of sequence"... and spend an extra year. (I speak from experience on that front)
  • Go Clifford Algebra (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:08AM (#21374419)
    Clifford Algebras, Grassman Algebras, Spacetime Algebra, and Geometric Algebra are a group of mathematics notations that are related to the ones being used here. The notation in use has interesting properties that make it more likely that an equation will be valid in any number of dimensions, embeds the behavior of complex numbers, quaternions, hypercomplex numbers in a purely real system, etc.

    I have read of ideas for unifying physics by using these notations for their superior ability to reason with space. (David Hestenes has good examples.) A good physical theory should be like a consistent programmer's interface. If the "code" continues to become unwieldly over time, then a point will be reached where rewrites must be done in order to eliminate special cases and bring out hidden symmetries.

    This particular paper may end up failing important tests, but it does seem clear that at some point Clifford Algebras will end up being the thing that ended up simplifying physics.
  • by Rotiahn ( 647005 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:25AM (#21374563)
    Here's the actual paper summarized as a microprocessor analogy (thought I'm sure someone will be happy to correct me where I get it wrong):

    If E8 was a microprocessor, it would have 248 I/O pins. Lisi has discovered that if you put values for gravity into pins 1-12, you get electromagnitism results on pins 128-130. And if you put Strong Nuclear Force values into pints 64-76, then you get weak nuclear Force results from pins 192-204. If you put an electron into pin 36, you get a neutrino out of pin 189. Etc.

    Because E8 seems to produce relationships between all of the fudamental forces (including gravity), Lisi is proposing that E8 must therefor be the key to describing and explaining all of the fundamental components of the universe.

    If his ideas hold true (and thanks to the fact that they have testable predictions there's a way to know), E8 would be the starting point of describing anything in physics.
  • by bradbury ( 33372 ) <> on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:55AM (#21374783) Homepage
    You cannot confine the discussion to simply cosmology. The TOE debate involves much larger aspects of physics and physics research, including all astronomy observations, satellite observatories, earth based observatories, particle accelerators, efforts to develop fusion power, etc. All of these I would classify under efforts to develop a TOE.

    I would agree, that if one did a robust accounting, it would be open to some discussion as to where physics falls with respect to biology. At least in the U.S. I would tend to argue both are in the tens of billions of dollars range.

    But my point stands. Any TOE does *not* impact each and every one of us to the extent that aging and for most of us our eventual deaths does. So one can easily argue -- solve living first -- solve the other stuff later.

  • by pensano ( 168570 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:55AM (#21374785) Homepage
    Thank you for this summary, it's completely accurate.


    (Yes, I'm the author of the paper. Hey look, my server's melting -- must of hit slashdot...)
  • Re:Pure Maths (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pensano ( 168570 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @12:58AM (#21374829) Homepage
    Ha! I agree.

  • by SirBruce ( 679714 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:13AM (#21374959) Homepage

    You have no idea how your reply makes me feel, as I'm someone who stopped studying physics as a Freshman in college and can barely grasp the basic ideas behind the whole thing. :) But a hallmark of your theory seems to be that it's conceptually understandable even to those who don't understand all of the intricate parts.

    I admit I'm still a bit skeptical... I mean, if E8 is the answer, why did none of the other E8 approaches work? But you're doing some unique things in your approach and in them may lie the answer. Almost makes me wish I had stayed in physics, but the math is just beyond me.

    Good luck!
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:40AM (#21375127) Journal
    This very moment I'm on a little vacation on the West Coast near Monterey. I had dinner tonight with a couple of lifelong surfers. Neither of these guys is gonna be doing any kind of physics soon. In fact, I'm not sure either of these dudes, nice guys they may be, could put up much of a fight in a battle of wits with any of the plants in my garden. (on the off-chance that they read this - hey Wayne, yo Rick)

    I'm not sure if they are indicative of the intellectual capacity of surfers, and since I was born and raised in Chicago, and have only lived and worked in large rust belt or northeastern cities, I don't have many surfers to use as a data set. For all I know, they may be the only two surfers who happen to also have slightly fried brains.

    My wife is a former world-class skydiver, and although she's just finishing a PhD in Math (Fluid Dynamics), most of the other skydivers I've met have also not been intellectual powerhouses. Maybe in both cases it has more to do with the level at which you perform those activities, and the time they take up, or perhaps that most of them have military backgrounds. You're not going to be doing a lot of serious science if you spend most of your day hanging ten or chasing hodaddies or whatever it is surfers do when they're not laying on a board waiting for a wave to come, and you're not going to win any Nobel prizes if your spending all your time packing 'chutes and looking for a lift to 20k feet. The military also doesn't seem to encourage a lot of independent thought, which is a necessity for scientific genius. But it's true that a fit body can be very useful when engaged in any intellectual activity, which only gives me much more respect for a guy like ol' Stevie Hawking.
  • Video (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @01:42AM (#21375149)

    I found a cool video [] that explains it all.

    Well, personally I still don't understand a thing, but it looks cool anyways, and hey, what wouldn't one do for karma points!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2007 @03:27AM (#21375681)
  • Re:arxiv? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jfern ( 115937 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @04:58AM (#21376017)
    On the other hand, Grigori Perelman's proof of the Poincare Conjecture was only submitted to the ArXiv, and he actually turned down the Field's Medal.
  • by ioshhdflwuegfh ( 1067182 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @05:24AM (#21376183)

    What is it about this particular representation that makes it a 'Theory of Everything,' as opposed to a new standard model that contains a definition of a graviton?
    If you had a new standard model that includes graviton, you would have had the theory of everything, because the TOE is supposed to be exactly that theory which incorporates the standard model (physics) with gravity, and those are the all interactions known in physics. The only problem is that it is not easy to just add the graviton to the Standard model. It's so complicated that one needs to get a new crack on the whole problem, thus string theory. There, particles are 10 or 11 dimensional objects that fluctuate, where most of these dimensions are microscopic (compactified) so that on low energies they are invisible. Now, there are very very many string theories, depending on how you choose symmetries , backgrounds and what not, and E8 was known as one particular type of theory within the whole String (or M-)theory.

    In the String theory you can pursue at least two types of problems:
    1) you want to find some theories that can in fact reproduce known physics and particularly point out some undiscovered new physics, like new particles (or some astronomical observations), which is what this dude has supposedly done;
    2) Generalize the theory as far as it can go, also in order to find perhaps some smaller set of principles that govern the whole wealth of the theory

    As far as the TOE is concerned, there is of course also the possibility of some quite different theory that is TOE, like loop gravity, non-commutative geometry stuff, etc. but those don't have yet the popularity of the string theory.
  • by Dr. Smoove ( 1099425 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @02:24PM (#21381615)
    Spoken well, and I am really surprised to see something like this on /. I agree totally, except the DMT part. I've smoked it a bunch of times, real deal, pure white (not orange). It's more like traveling to alternate dimensions, forgetting you exist, and just seeing really, *really* crazy stuff. I can't see how it would lead to the realizations of self/universe that LSD can potentially lead to. In part because you have no time to reflect on what's happening on DMT. If you're smoking it right and it's good, by the time you exhale, the room already looks funny, the smoke is already transforming into clowns/dinosaurs/geometric shapes, and by 10-30 seconds later all of a sudden you're in ancient babylonia, in the future , wondering what the gigantic cat god in front of you is trying to say with her mind. A friend of mine also had a very bad experience on it because of someone saying the wrong thing when she started to enter her trip. She had a panic attack, and felt uncomfortable in the room where it happened from that day forth. With LSD it's like it comes on, your mind races a lot, and you have time to take it all in (or try to).
  • Audio etc (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bjorniac ( 836863 ) on Friday November 16, 2007 @03:13PM (#21382351)
    Garrett recently gave a talk to the International Loop Quantum Gravity Seminar: [] has slides and audio from the talk (and many other less controversial talks).

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