Reason as the Leading Motive

Cutting The String

Posted by Jerry on November 21, 2007

Paul Hsieh, over at Noodlefood, posts about the formulation of a new theory in physics that may well be *the* Theory of Everything:

Physicist/surfer Garrett Lisi may have come up with a physics theory that unites all the fundamental particles and forces of nature, including gravity, without relying on dubious multidimensional string theory. According to this related article:

…[H]is proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics.

Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts.

In other words, it doesn’t require invoking arbitrary new dimensions for which we have no evidence. Plus it makes testable predictions that are at variance with the so-called Standard Model. The New Scientist article states that his theory predicts:

…[M]ore than 20 new particles not envisaged by the standard model. Lisi is now calculating the masses that these particles should have, in the hope that they may be spotted when the Large Hadron Collider – being built at CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland – starts up next year.

“This is an all-or-nothing kind of theory – it’s either going to be exactly right, or spectacularly wrong,” says Lisi. “I’m the first to admit this is a long shot. But it ain’t over till the LHC sings.”

David Harriman [Objectivist physicist and philosopher] mentioned in his lecture to our Front Range Objectivism group last year that any physicist who wants to challenge the dominance of string theory will have a very hard time, since nearly all the grant funding in academia for such foundational issues is controlled by people who believe in string theory. It seems that this is borne out by Lisi’s experience, as reported by New Scientist:

Most attempts to bring gravity into the picture have been based on string theory, which proposes that particles are ultimately composed of minuscule strings. Lisi has never been a fan of string theory and says that it’s because of pressure to step into line that he abandoned academia after his PhD. “I’ve never been much of a follower, so I walked off to search for my own theory,” he says. Last year, he won a research grant from the charitably funded Foundational Questions Institute to pursue his ideas.

For those who are interested in the details of his theory, here’s the link to his paper (click on “PDF” on the upper right). The abstract reads as follows:

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

A. Garrett Lisi (Submitted on 6 Nov 2007)

Abstract: All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.

Those who want a semi-technical explanation (with video) can find one here. My own mathematics background is not strong enough to make an assessment of the merits of his theory. Nor do I know any more about the Foundational Questions Institute besides what’s on their webpage. But for what it’s worth, I did meet Garrett Lisi at a dinner party several years ago as a friend-of-a-friend, back when Diana and I lived in San Diego and he was still a graduate student in physics at UCSD. At the time, he struck me as an extremely intelligent man, so he would be a plausible candidate for someone who could have come up with a revolutionary new theory in physics.

I had two thoughts after reading Paul’s post:

1) A consensus among scientists about any theory–a la AGW–does not make it right. Indeed, there have been spectacular cases of the majority of scientists being proven wrong about their acceptance of a theory by some individual or minority who usher in a paradigmatic revolution.

2) I need to start reading my book “Not Even Wrong” by Peter Woit that talks about how the dominance of string theorists have practically stunted the exploration of new ideas in this field, and goes on to point out the flaws in string theory.

P.S. I’m making no judgements about the merit or validity of Lisi’s new formulation: it would be absurd for me to do so, I have neither the background nor any competence in this field. This post is just to make a note of something newsworthy.


3 Responses to “Cutting The String”

  1. I agree, Lisi’s work may or may not turn out to be the Theory of Everything, but its simplicity is very appealing. I posted a blog entry about his theory, with a suggestion for tying it into the Semantic Web, in my Imagining the Tenth Dimension blog today.

    Rob Bryanton

  2. Here is a synopsis of my theory developed over the last 38 years:

    Dick Ropiequet
    No scheme has yet been offered in particle and nuclear physics that permits us to visualize in 3-D, and in true scale, the photons, leptons, hadrons, & nuclides that we infer from our detector displays. That is, until now!
    We lost our ability to visualize particles a hundred years ago when we abandoned the ether. The remedy is to retrieve it! I show how this can be done on my website, http://infiniteparticlephysics.com, where you will find a comprehensive theory of everything requiring just two fundamental particles.
    This new theory lets you ―
    1. Visualize photon structures in 3D
    2. Visualize lepton structures in 3D
    3. Visualize dozens of meson structures in 3D & calculate their mass-energies to ±0.01%.
    4. Visualize dozens of baryon structures in 3D & calculate their mass-energies to ±0.01%.
    5. Visualize hundreds of nuclide structures in 3D & calculate their mass-deficits to ±0.02 MeV (at present just the small nuclides).
    6. Visualize antimatter structures in 3D & calculate their mass-energies to ±0.01%.
    7. Visualize strong-force mechanics as the partial cancellation of the residual expansion-contraction distortion of two defect-pairs when they site with appropriate alignment.
    8. Visualize momentum structures in 3D as a mobile defect cluster centered in a combination of spherical & ellipsoidal point-centered packing-density oscillations of various ratios.
    9. Visualize particle-creation processes in 3D as two impacting particles producing a spherical packing-density oscillation, which fractures the lattice to create lattice defects, and then immediately splits into two oppositely-directed momentum structures).

    The new theory also lets you ―

    1. Understand space as a polycrystalline cubic lattice of ±1/2e charge spheres of 0.2 fm diameter.
    2. Understand mass-energy as lattice shrinkage, where it comes from and why it is conserved.
    3. Understand how a particle acquires charge: the particle creation process endows it with a defect cluster, whose charge is the local imbalance in the ratio of plus to minus space particles.
    4. Understand wave-particle duality: particles & photons have both properties simultaneously, because both are point-centered ellipsoidal packing-density oscillations).
    5. Understand the mechanics of particle-field interactions: when a particle’s defect-aberrated point-centered ellipsoidal packing-density oscillation moves in-and-out through the summation pattern of the inverse-square decremented packing-density oscillations of surrounding matter, its ellipticity (momentum structure) changes, as do those of surrounding matter, proportionately.
    6. Understand gravity: gravitational fields are local variations in the amount of lattice shrinkage that result from the local summation of the inverse-square-decremented lattice shrinkages from all particles & photons & grain-boundaries & black holes that have had time to arrive there.
    7. Understand dark matter as the grain-boundaries of polycrystalline space, which increase the packing density of the space particles; and hence shrink space in a manner analogous to matter, and thus constitute gravitational fields. Grain-boundaries are dark, because their shrinkage is static, and only oscillating shrinkage can produce light.
    8. Understand black holes as regions of space shrunk into body-centered cubic lattice structure.

    • Hi Dick,

      I hope you are well. Please email me when you get the chance. I’d like to help get your materials back onto your website.

      I’m trying to start a small online group to discuss IPP.

      mrreadynet @ gmail . com

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