Geometry is all
2007 11 28

From: economist.com


A shape could describe the cosmos and all it contains

One of the mysteries of the universe is why it should speak the language of mathematics. Numbers and the relationships between them are, after all, just abstract reasoning. Yet mathematics has shown itself to be particularly adept at describing both the contents of the universe and the forces that act on them. Now comes a paper which argues that one branch of the subject—geometry—could form the basis of all the laws of physics.

Physicists are an overbearing bunch. They have long sought a “theory of everything”. Such an opus would unite the fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism and the two forces that become apparent only at the atomic scale—with the matter on which they act, in a single, overarching framework. It would describe the universe as it existed at the moment of its creation in the Big Bang.

The nearest thing they have to this—the Standard Model of particle physics—is messy in places and partial, because it omits gravity. Three decades of effort have been expended on string theory, which includes gravity but at the expense of having the universe inelegantly sprout hidden dimensions. Other potential avenues, such as loop quantum gravity, are also proving untidy. That a theory of everything might emerge from geometry would be neat, but it is a long shot.

Nevertheless, that is what Garrett Lisi is proposing. The geometry he has been studying is that of a structure known to mathematicians as E8, which was first recognised in 1887 by Sophus Lie, a Norwegian mathematician. E8 is a monster. It has 248 dimensions and its structure took 120 years to solve. It was finally tamed earlier this year, when a group of mathematicians managed to construct a map that describes it completely.

Dr Lisi had been tinkering with some smaller geometries. Soon after reading about this map, however, he realised that the structure of E8 could be used to describe fully the laws of physics. He placed a particle (including different versions of the same entities, and using particles that describe matter and those that describe forces) on most of the 248 points of E8. Using computer simulations to manipulate the structure, he was able mathematically to generate interactions that correspond to what is seen in reality.

Using geometry to describe the world is not new. Murray Gell-Mann performed a similar trick 50 years ago in an attempt to make sense of the plethora of particles that was then emerging from experiments. He placed these on the points of a geometric structure known as SU(3), and found that, by manipulating the structure, he was able to reproduce the interactions of the real world. Dr Gell-Mann also identified points that had no known particles associated with them—and predicted the existence of particles that would fill those gaps. He was awarded the Nobel prize after they were detected. Interestingly, some 20 gaps remain in Dr Lisi's model. That suggests that 20 particles (or, at least, 20 different identities of particles) have yet to be discovered. If Dr Lisi can calculate the masses of these, he will have made predictions that can be tested experimentally.

The particles must be relatively massive, because they would otherwise have been discovered already. Detecting massive objects takes energy. (Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2, outlines how energy is equivalent to mass times the square of the speed of light.) When it is completed, the Large Hadron Collider, a machine being built at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, will create particles with greater masses than have yet been seen. It is due to start its scientific work in the summer of 2008, so a test of Dr Lisi's theory could come soon.

Although some famous physicists are championing the idea, Dr Lisi, who spends his time surfing and snowboarding and is not employed by a university or research institute, has by no means won the acceptance of all physicists. His work, which has been posted on the internet, has not yet been accepted for publication in any journal, although he has presented his ideas at research institutes and the work on which his paper is based was funded by a grant from a charitable foundation.

Certainly, there are glitches with Dr Lisi's analysis and some of the truly fundamental problems that plague more conventional work remain. Yet the theory has several appealing facets. It is elegant. It is expected to make testable predictions. Unlike some of the more complicated efforts to devise a theory of everything, this one should either succeed relatively rapidly or fail spectacularly. And that is more than can be said for three decades of work by other physicists.

Article from: http://economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10170958



Related Articles
Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything
The discovery of DNA variability, holographic blueprints and the symphony of life
What some Think About Existence
Red Ice Creations Radio - Jay Weidner - Magic Square, Numerology, Geometry & Gematria (Subscription)
Secrets of the Hebrew Letters
The Complete Flower of Life
The Grail Star geometry
The Search for the God particle
Despite Rumors, Black Hole Factory Will Not Destroy Earth
Milky Way Black Hole May Be a Colossal Particle Accelerator
Physicists Probe the Fifth Dimension
Tenth Dimension
Worlds Largest Superconducting Magnet Switches On
How does the Universe work and What is Reality?


Latest News from our Front Page

Norway Joins the Race to Develop Killer Robots
2014 10 24
Norway is a large exporter of weapons, which makes the resolution of the debate about creating killer robots an important issue for everyone.  One could debate the overall merits or failings of robotic systems, but an area that clearly has become a point for concern on all sides is the emergence of "killer robots." According to robotics pioneer, David Hanson, ...
Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
More News »