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Surfer-Physicist's Unified Theory
Freelance physicist A. Garrett Lisi made headlines last year when he published his "Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" to an online wiki. The theory purports to be a blueprint of the universe, showing how all of the particles and forces of the universe are connected.
Lisi, who is speaking at the TED conference in Monterey, California this week, rejects string theory -- currently the dominant model of the universe. Instead, his unification theory places all known particles and the four fundamental forces of nature (electromagnetic, the strong force, the weak force and gravity) onto an exceptionally complex 248-point mathematical model known as E8 that was formulated in the late 19th century. Lisi's schema uses 228 points of the model, with 20 points left over for what he predicts will belong to 20 as-yet-undiscovered particles.
Lisi left academia after obtaining his Ph.D. in 1999, and since then has been working odd jobs to support himself while spending the rest of his time working on physics, surfing and snowboarding.
Lisi: The way gravity fits came from recent research in the Quantum Gravity community. This research provided a framework in which gravity could be treated as one of the other three forces, while still agreeing with Einstein's general relativity. When this was combined with a description of the Higgs field, it all fell into place perfectly. I was shocked to see it work so well; but that shock quickly diffused into excitement, which then congealed into a physics paper.
Lisi: These suggested particles are not so mysterious -- they would be a lot like the Higgs particle, but with color charges that keep them in bound states. I haven't yet solved the problems required to predict their masses, but they would still be recognizable if detected. Of course, if a bunch of particles are detected that are clearly not any of these 20, then this theory is in trouble. And if the Large Hadron Collider (scheduled to go online later this year in Switzerland) finds superparticles or other evidence for strings, I'm going to have to pay out some bets.
Lisi: Sure, I've made all my physics open source, and documented it as well as possible. I've got a personal wiki, Deferential Geometry,( <------<<<< )where I work on ideas out in the open. Many people have taken ideas from my work and run with them, to advance their own, which is good to see. The biggest help with the theory that I've received from others has been from mathematicians, who have provided answers to some of the trickier aspects of E8 group theory. And there has been practical help as well: friends who have offered me places to stay, or donated support, and there's even a surfboard shaper making me a new board -- from 42 Surfboards.
Wired: You said recently: "Since E8 is perhaps the most beautiful structure in mathematics, it is very satisfying that nature appears to have chosen this geometry." Did nature have a choice? Could the E8 framework be the result of an evolutionary process of trial and error that adapted until the universe got it right or do you think that beautiful structure was "ready made"? I guess the equivalent philosophical question for this would be, which came first -- the mathematics or the forces?
Lisi: This is a very unusual aspect of this theory. The largest simple exceptional Lie group, E8, is a unique structure in mathematics. If this structure turns out to be fundamental to how the universe works, then it seems to indicate our universe is not one that exists in a landscape of other possibilities. It would mean our universe is exceptional, and perhaps singular. Of course, it is philosophically questionable to consider other universes to begin with, since we're only aware of one. But, whether this theory works perfectly or not, it is undoubtedly true that the fundamental nature of our universe can be described by mathematics.
Guy is a show off, he got the formula for the Universe, a working wiki all on one page!
NO BODY should be that organized.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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