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Paul M

Theory of Everything?

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As a "mainstream physicist", I'll chime in with my 2 pence.

In much of my formal education, the goal was to perform experiments to determine "what is reality". That is, to not just determine laws of motion (for instance) - like the apple falling from the tree - but to determine exactly why the apple falls from the tree.

In my old age, I'm becoming more convinced that that's not the goal of science. The goal of science is to model reality. To develop models which will predict outcomes of experiments. The closer those predictions come to measured results, the better model we say we have. The holy grail is to have a "perfect model" - the so-called "Theory of Everything". I feel that science cannot know when it has such a model, because an infinite number of experiments would be required to verify this elusive model. So we'll never know.

The best we can hope for is to say that reality = perception. The "true nature" of reality alludes us.

James Gort 

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3 hours ago, gort said:

The best we can hope for is to say that reality = perception. The "true nature" of reality alludes us.

James Gort 

I agree and perhaps that is as it should be.  What would we do, would we be satisfied if we had our final theory of everything?  Maybe then we would not be content to just ask "how" .   I have always thought that if it is possible to determine the reality of nature (theory of every thing) then the human brain must surely have the capacity to do it.  Maybe that is just blind faith or ignorance of the difficulty it entails, who knows. Until then, we enjoy the journey. 

Jim

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14 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

Shame! Never mind, we can look elsewhere for interesting ideas.

Olly

I feel deflated too but it wasn't a total waste of energy.

As amateurs it's not our job to peer review all such offerings. If they cause us to discuss current theories to the best of our understanding then we all learn.

Anyway, I still dislike cumbersome String Theory and hope some group find a tidier way to explain the universe. The first time I came across Richard Feynman was in a book , maybe 25 - 30 years ago, whose title I don't remember. It was a collection of essays from leading physicists giving their opinions on the emerging String Theory. The only other contributor I can remember was George Gamow... I digress... I remember that Feynman didn't like String Theory and that's good enough for me! :)

 

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11 hours ago, Paul M said:

I feel deflated too but it wasn't a total waste of energy.

As amateurs it's not our job to peer review all such offerings. If they cause us to discuss current theories to the best of our understanding then we all learn.

Anyway, I still dislike cumbersome String Theory and hope some group find a tidier way to explain the universe. The first time I came across Richard Feynman was in a book , maybe 25 - 30 years ago, whose title I don't remember. It was a collection of essays from leading physicists giving their opinions on the emerging String Theory. The only other contributor I can remember was George Gamow... I digress... I remember that Feynman didn't like String Theory and that's good enough for me! :)

 

For a hostile crtique of string theory there's this book by Lee Smolin. https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Science/dp/061891868X

And a video, too, I've just found which has solved my problem of what to do on an iced up winter morning! 

One of our guests is a heavyweight string theorist and mathematical physicist. He considers Smolin's objections to be serious and worthy of consideration.

My merely amateur perception is that there is something of the epicycle about string theory. Epicycles were doomed because one simple idea was missing - the ellipse - and it was missed because nobody before Kepler was prepared to think 'outside the circle.' :icon_mrgreen: So my hunch is that a fundamental new idea, so far undiscovered because we consider it to be too unreasonable, might stand between researchers and unification. The complexity of the epicycles (Copernicus' were arguably worse than Ptolemy's) was dismantled by the simplicity of the ellipse. I wouldn't be surprised if history repeated itself.

Olly

Edit: I ended up accidentally watching a different Lee Smolin lecture, one about the reality of time. It was excellent so I'll put it in a new thread.

Edited by ollypenrice
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Another "theory of everything" video that Youtube recommended for me. 

This one has rather better credentials than the offering in my opening post. I found it quite interesting and well delivered. Just a shame those Strings pop up eventually! :)

It does help me understand the significance of the Higgs Boson, which I'd really struggled to get enthusiastic about... Just another esoteric particle, innit! :) 

 

 

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