Home Science Space Surfing the universe, part-time physicist snowboarding toward explanation of everything


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U.S. physicist Garrett Lisi is working on an explanation of the Theory of Everything, a theory that would explain everything in the universe.           

An explanation of the Theory of Everything (ToE) has been attempted by physicists since German-American physicist Albert Einstein first developed his General Theory of Relativity in 1915/1916.

Lisi's new unified field theory is hoping to connect quantum physics (Standard Model) and gravitation (General Theory of Relativity) using the exceptional Lie algebra E8. Like Einstein--who was outside the physics communtiy when he was working as a patent examiner before developing his world-renowned theories that changed the world--Lisi is a surfer, snowboarder, and bridge builder, among other things, as he works on his own theory without the security of an university position.

In the Theory of Everything (abbreviated ToE), Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which involves the force of gravity (a force that attracts all objects of mass), would be combined with the theories of the Standard Model, which involves the electromagnetic force (a force that exerts an electromagnetic field on charged particles), the weak force (a force that controls radioactive decay), and the strong force (a force that binds together quarks in atomic nuclei).

This combination of theories into one all-encompassing theory—the Theory of Everything—would explain all of the known physical phenomena of the universe and combine all four of these fundamental forces of nature into one understandable and integrated theory of the universe.

Not an easy task to say the least.

On November 8, 2007, Lisi’s paper called “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything” was posted on the Web at: http://arxiv.org/abs/0711.0770.

In his abstract, Lisi states, “All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.”

For a likely easier-to-understand explanation of his theory, go to the Telegraph.co.uk article “Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything” by science editor Roger Highfield. Make sure you read page 2, which goes into more details of the theory.

Thirty-nine year old Lisi, who is also known as Antony Garrett Lisi, has a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in theoretical physics, in 1999, from the University of California, San Diego.

So does this part-time physicist and part-time “surfer dude” have a valid theory to explain everything in the universe?

On one end of the critique of Lisi’s work, U.S. physicist Lee Smokin describes it as "one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years."

On the other hand, Czech theoretical physicist Lubos Motl has described the article as a "huge joke" without a "glimpse" of physics. [Wikipedia article: Antony Garrett Lisi.]

The middle ground is being taken by U.S. mathematical physicist Peter Woit. He states, "... I’m glad to see someone pursuing these ideas, even if they haven’t come up with solutions to the underlying problems. Garrett is a serious and competent researcher who has pursued a non-traditional career path, and was recently awarded a grant to by the FQXI organization."

What will result from Lisi’s new theory will be decided by physicists in the upcoming months, or maybe years. Until then, it’s exciting reading for people interested in learning all they can about the universe.


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