[FRIAM] Is mathematical pattern the theory of everything?

Carl Tollander carl at plektyx.com
Sun Nov 25 01:12:03 EST 2007

Some are sympathetic but have reservations.
Sabine  Hossenfelder:  
Christine Dantas: 
Peter Woit:  http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=617
John Baez: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/week253.html
Steinn Sigurðsson: 

Some of the sharp-elbow folks have stronger reservations.
Lubos Motl: 
Jacques Distler: 

One of the more sympathetic people is actually Garrett Lisi: 
You can see a talk here: http://relativity.phys.lsu.edu/ilqgs/  (look at 
Tues, Nov 13th).

I currently find Sabine's oft-referenced discussion the most accessible, 
which is not to say that I necessarily understand it all.
Next try: Steinn Sigurðsson's post which purports to give a simple 
description of Garrett's argument and some problems with it.

Caveat: I have not read Lisi's paper and have not formed my own opinion 
of it yet.  These links are just pointers to discussions. 

Time to dig out Georgi's book on Lie Algebras, like I didn't have 
anything else to think about....

Richard Lowenberg wrote:
> Of interest to some.   rl
>  From the New Scientist (there are important diagrams at the site-- <http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19626303.900;jsessionid=OEGLIBGOIACB
>  >
> Is mathematical pattern the theory of everything?
> by Zeeya Merali
> GARRETT LISI is an unlikely individual to be staking a claim for a
> theory of everything. He has no university affiliation and spends most
> of the year surfing in Hawaii. In winter, he heads to the mountains
> near Lake Tahoe, California, to teach snowboarding. Until recently,
> physics was not much more than a hobby.
> That hasn't stopped some leading physicists sitting up and taking
> notice after Lisi made his theory public on the physics pre-print
> archive this week (www.arxiv.org/abs/0711.0770). By analysing the most
> elegant and intricate pattern known to mathematics, Lisi has uncovered
> a relationship underlying all the universe's particles and forces,
> including gravity - or so he hopes. Lee Smolin at the Perimeter
> Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada,
> describes Lisi's work as "fabulous". "It is one of the most compelling
> unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says.
> That's some achievement, as physicists have been trying to find a
> uniform framework for the fundamental forces and particles ever since
> they developed the standard model more than 30 years ago. The standard
> model successfully weaves together three of the four fundamental
> forces of nature: the electromagnetic force; the strong force, which
> binds quarks together in atomic nuclei; and the weak force, which
> controls radioactive decay. The problem has been that gravity has so
> far refused to join the party.
> Most attempts to bring gravity into the picture have been based on
> string theory, which proposes that particles are ultimately composed
> of minuscule strings. Lisi has never been a fan of string theory and
> says that it's because of pressure to step into line that he abandoned
> academia after his PhD. "I've never been much of a follower, so I
> walked off to search for my own theory," he says. Last year, he won a
> research grant from the charitably funded Foundational Questions
> Institute to pursue his ideas.
> He had been tinkering with "weird" equations for years and getting
> nowhere, but six months ago he stumbled on a research paper analysing
> E8 - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248
> points. He noticed that some of the equations describing its structure
> matched his own. "The moment this happened my brain exploded with the
> implications and the beauty of the thing," says Lisi. "I thought:
> 'Holy crap, that's it!'"
> What Lisi had realised was that if he could find a way to place the
> various elementary particles and forces on E8's 248 points, it might
> explain, for example, how the forces make particles decay, as seen in
> particle accelerators.
> Lisi is not the first person to associate particles with the points of
> symmetric patterns. In the 1950s, Murray Gell-Mann and colleagues
> correctly predicted the existence of the "omega-minus" particle after
> mapping known particles onto the points of a symmetrical mathematical
> structure called SU(3). This exposed a blank slot, where the new
> particle fitted.
> Before tackling the daunting E8, Lisi examined a smaller cousin, a
> hexagonal pattern called G2, to see if it would explain how the strong
> nuclear force works. According to the standard model, forces are
> carried by particles: for example, the strong force is carried by
> gluons. Every quark has a quantum property called its "colour charge"
> - red, green or blue - which denotes how the quarks are affected by
> gluons. Lisi labelled points on G2 with quarks and anti-quarks of each
> colour, and with various gluons, and found that he could reproduce the
> way that quarks are known to change colour when they interact with
> gluons, using nothing more than high-school geometry (see Graphic).
> Turning to the geometry of the next simplest pattern in the family,
> Lisi found he was able to explain the interactions between neutrinos
> and electrons by using the star-like F4. The standard model already
> successfully describes the electroweak force, uniting the
> electromagnetic and the weak forces. Lisi added gravity into the mix
> by including two force-carrying particles called "e-phi" and "omega",
> to the F4 diagram - creating a "gravi-electroweak" force.
> [snip]
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