No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

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No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#1  Postby RichardPrins » Mar 26, 2010 5:16 pm

Research concludes there is no 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8
Published study finds fatal flaws in surfing physicist's popular theory

The "exceptionally simple theory of everything," proposed by a surfing physicist in 2007, does not hold water, says Emory University mathematician Skip Garibaldi.

Garibaldi did the math to disprove the theory, which involves a mysterious structure known as E8. The resulting paper (http://arxiv.org/abs/0905.2658 ), co-authored by physicist Jacques Distler of the University of Texas, will appear in an upcoming issue of Communications in Mathematical Physics.

"The beautiful thing about math and physics is that it is not subjective," says Garibaldi. "I wanted a peer-reviewed paper published, so that the scientific literature provides an accurate state of affairs, to help clear up confusion among the lay public on this topic."

In November of 2007, physicist Garrett Lisi published an online paper entitled "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything." Lisi spent much of his time surfing in Hawaii, adding a bit of color to the story surrounding the theory. Although his paper was not peer-reviewed, and Lisi himself commented that his theory was still in development, the idea was widely reported in the media, under attention-grabbing headlines like "Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything."

Garibaldi was among the skeptics when the theory hit the news. So was Distler, a particle physicist, who wrote about problems he saw with Lisi's idea on his blog. Distler's posting inspired Garibaldi to think about the issue more, eventually leading to their collaboration.

Lisi's paper centered on the elegant mathematical structure known as E8, which also appears in string theory. First identified in 1887, E8 has 248 dimensions and cannot be seen, or even drawn, in its complete form.

The enigmatic E8 is the largest and most complicated of the five exceptional Lie groups, and contains four subgroups that are related to the four fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force; the strong force (which binds quarks); the weak force (which controls radioactive decay); and the gravitational force.

In a nutshell, Lisi proposed that E8 is the unifying force for all the forces of the universe.

"That would be great if it were true, because I love E8," Garibaldi says. "But the problem is, it doesn't work as he described it in his paper."

As a leading expert on several of the exceptional Lie groups, Garibaldi felt an obligation to help set the record straight. "A lot of mystery surrounds the Lie groups, but the facts about them should not be distorted," he says. "These are natural objects that are central to mathematics, so it's important to have a correct understanding of them."

Using linear algebra and proving theorems to translate the physics into math, Garibaldi and Distler not only showed that the formulas proposed in Lisi's paper do not work, they also demonstrated the flaws in a whole class of related theories.

"You can think of E8 as a room, and the four subgroups related to the four fundamental forces of nature as furniture, let's say chairs," Garibaldi explains. "It's pretty easy to see that the room is big enough that you can put all four of the chairs inside it. The problem with 'the theory of everything' is that the way it arranges the chairs in the room makes them non-functional."

He gives the example of one chair inverted and stacked atop another chair.

"I'm tired of answering questions about the 'theory of everything,'" Garibaldi says. "I'm glad that I will now be able to point to a peer-reviewed scientific article that clearly rebuts this theory. I feel that there are so many great stories in science, there's no reason to puff up something that doesn't work."
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#2  Postby james1v » Mar 26, 2010 5:22 pm

Interesting. :cheers:
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#3  Postby natselrox » Mar 26, 2010 5:24 pm

Just before I quit my mathematical career, I was trying to learn about LIE groups. This one brings back good memories!
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#4  Postby Rumraket » Mar 26, 2010 5:39 pm

I hate sensationalistic journalism crap like those headlines:
"Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything."
"10 Year old kid disproves NASA."
etc. etc.

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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#5  Postby natselrox » Mar 26, 2010 5:56 pm

Rumraket wrote:I hate sensationalistic journalism crap like those headlines:
"Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything."
"10 Year old kid disproves NASA."
etc. etc.


Love that!!! :clap: :clap:
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#6  Postby twistor59 » Mar 26, 2010 11:33 pm

Interesting paper. If I understand it right, Distler &Garibaldi show that using the Lisi scheme, you can't construct chiral gauge theories, hence not much use. The Lie group and rep theory in the proof is way beyond me unfortunately.
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#7  Postby Nautilidae » Mar 27, 2010 2:10 am

I have been skeptical about Lisi's theory since I first read about it. While it was quite an interesting theory, it is good that it has been disproved. I didn't know that Lisi's work wasn't peer-reviewed...

I suppose one could call this a victory in the name of science!
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#8  Postby epepke » Mar 27, 2010 5:25 am

This shit is still floating around?

Probably means it will be floating around 50 years from now.
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#9  Postby Nautilidae » Mar 27, 2010 2:51 pm

Having read more on this subject, it spears that Garret Lisi rejects the proof given by Garibaldi:

Garret Lisi wrote:"The criticism from Jacques Distler was initially helpful, but he eventually resorted to making extremely misleading statements. Distler, without ever stating it explicitly, managed to persuade many physicists that the structure of gravity and other forces acting on electrons, quarks, and neutrinos (one generation of fermions) does not fit in E8. But it does. What happens, specifically, is that when one puts everything in E8 in a conventional way, there is also "mirror matter" left over. Distler claims this mirror matter means the theory can't work, but that's incorrect, since there are known ways of dealing with it. I'd rather not speculate about Distler's motivations, or why he chooses to treat non-string theorists with such contempt, but I think this will end up being embarrassing for him."
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#10  Postby twistor59 » Mar 27, 2010 5:01 pm

You're right - it appears that the Distler/Lisi thing has been going for a while. Some initial sparring in here.

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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#11  Postby atrasicarius » Mar 27, 2010 10:05 pm

D'aw, that theory was fun. Oh well, I'm kind of a String Theory guy anyway.
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#12  Postby jamest » Sep 02, 2011 1:27 am


"The beautiful thing about math and physics is that it is not subjective," says Garibaldi.

Really? The [questionable] axioms of maths and physics determine the conclusions of maths and physics. Ask Euclid or Newton.
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#13  Postby rEvolutionist » Sep 02, 2011 1:50 am

The Article wrote:As a leading expert on several of the exceptional Lie groups, Garibaldi felt an obligation to help set the record straight. "A lot of mystery surrounds the Lie groups, but the facts about them should not be distorted," he says. "These are natural objects that are central to mathematics, so it's important to have a correct understanding of them."


Interesting choice of words. :think:
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Therefore God exists (and is a carrot).
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#14  Postby cavarka9 » Sep 02, 2011 4:27 am

the good thing about science is that 100 yrs from now, one of the theories shall be true or closer and no one today can convincingly state why but if we know the answer we will begin justifying it. Let the guys and girls in the future decide with experimental evidence if possible.
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Re: No 'simple theory of everything' inside the enigmatic E8

#15  Postby CdesignProponentsist » Sep 02, 2011 4:47 am

Rumraket wrote:I hate sensationalistic journalism crap like those headlines:
"Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything."
"10 Year old kid disproves NASA."
etc. etc.

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:lol:

That reminds me of the headlines after astronomers calculated the possible impact of an asteroid (I think 2005 yu55) with the earth, then later said that it would safely miss us.

"ASTRONOMERS GET MATH WRONG"
"ASTRONOMER'S EMBARRASSING MISTAKE"
"ASTRONOMERS GET IT WRONG"
"ASTRONOMERS RECANT PREDICTION OF DOOM"

No, they just found another photo of the object from the previous year (pre-discovery), which increased the accuracy of trajectory projection. But that doesn't make for a good headline.

"ASTRONOMERS LOOK LIKE FOOLS" is much better.
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