Saturday, November 17, 2007

Theory of Everything?

Garrett Lisi, a 39 year old physicist claims to have got a "Theory of Everything", which is something like the Holy Grail of physics.

The "Theory of Everything" is supposed to be an all encompassing rule of nature, which would be able to explain all the physical phenomena around us. This one single theory is supposed to unite all the four basic interactions of nature :

  1. Gravity
  2. Strong Nuclear Force
  3. Weak Nuclear Force
  4. Electromagnetic Force

A quest for this theory has been around for a long time and a number of theories have been proposed over the ages, but nothing has been able to stand up to the strict scrutiny of physicists. Even the existence of such a theory is a point of major debate.

Lisi has a PhD, but is not attached to any University. He spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii. His theory which he published under the heading of "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" in an online paper on Nov 6th 2007, is yet to convince the physicists of the world, but the initial responses from around the globe are quite encouraging. NewScientist run a cover page article on this.  It is possible that his theory could be experimentally verified as he has predicted a set of new particles.

Lisi has drawn inspiration form one of the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematicians, called E8, which is a highly complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887. E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi's equations match those describing E8.

The Litmus Test for Lisi's theory would be when he would be able to compute the actual characteristics of the 20 newly proposed particles and experimental verification of their existence would take place.

Although such a comparison is premature, one can only marvel at the similarities between the greatest scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein and Lisi. Both of whom were outside the mainstream scientific research.

If you are interested further, you could check out the original paper, the NewScientist article (subscription needed). Lisi has also given a talk on this topic in the International Loop Quantum Gravity Seminar on Nov 13th, 2007. You could listen to it (mp3;7MB), or read it (pdf;8MB). You could also check out this interesting video, though I do not know whether it is authentic or not.

Please share your comments on this and other interesting links with me by dropping a post here.

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