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The Theory of Everything

  1. Jun 18, 2011 #1
    When Hans Christian Orsted discovered electromagnetism in 1820, wedding electricity and magnetism, people probably did not realize the implications. I suppose it was merely a "laboratory curiosity," but of course, today we are fully aware of its fruits. Electrical generators, electrical motors, and alternating current have transformed our society.

    Many physicists today are seeking to unite all four known forces; electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and gravity into a what they call the Theory of Everything. The implications for physics are obvious, I suppose, and if successful, a Theory of Everything would would describe all the forces of nature in a set of laws, principles and equations.

    I'm very curious, though, about what a Theory of Everything might mean for society beyond the study of physics. Would it make possible exotic new technologies like artificial-gravity machines that convert electricity into gravitational fields? Or maybe we might create aircraft that float by turning off earth's gravitational field in the vicinity of the aircraft? Could we create a new technology that trumps nanotechnology by manipulating matter at the subatomic level--a picotechnology?

    What do you think?

    Jagella
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2011 #2

    Pengwuino

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    You're putting the cart before the horse here. How can we know the implications of something we don't even know is possible yet?
     
  4. Jun 19, 2011 #3
    We don't know the implications, but we can make some educated guesses. If we stopped at the limits of our knowledge, then discovery would be impossible.

    Jagella
     
  5. Jun 19, 2011 #4
    I do not think theory of every thing is too far! Scientists were successful in uniting 3 of the four basic forces together. The only thing that stops them is gravity and the question is why is gravity such a weak force.
    So weak that a bar magnet can dominate the force of huge earth on a pin. String theory explains this to some extent saying there are 11 dimensions and we experience only 3 dimensions this might be a reason for its weakness.
    Now keep aside the technologies that are going to be produced what really interesting is all we thought of world may change. It will completely question our intuition, because one of those dimensions time[as far as I know] itself taught us many things like time travel.
    String theory is yet to be proved by experiments. Now its just a postulate.
    Thank you.
     
  6. Jun 19, 2011 #5
    I thought this was the Theory Of Everything:

    be-cool-11x17-web-400x618.jpg
     
  7. Jun 19, 2011 #6
    Can you elaborate a bit on string theory? It's something I've read about often enough but have yet to grasp.


    I believe Einstein's Theory of Relativity is thought to allow time travel. Any ideas on how a Theory of Everything might give us more knowledge on the possibility of time travel?

    Jagella
     
  8. Jun 20, 2011 #7
    Let me explain the second question first.
    if Einsteins theory says one thing theory of every thing wont say something different because theory of every thing is after all an attempt to reconcile quantum dynamics and general theory of relativity. So time travel is possible.
    And coming to string theory it is obvious that I cannot explain every thing in this small place. But the good to know points are
    1) it is one of the contender of theory of every thing not the only one which explains.
    2) It generalizes the 12 basic particles Quarks and leptons as strings vibrating at different frequencies.
    3)the strings are under tension which is proportional to the string length.
    4)the estimated length of this string is 10^-33m that is millionth of billionth of billionth of a cm,this makes it very difficult to observe the strings.
    5)It still needs to be proved and physicists still need to figure out how to prove it.
    thank you
     
  9. Jun 20, 2011 #8

    Pengwuino

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    How is that an educated guess? Educated guesses by definition have something showing that they might be true.

    I'm not sure how you jumped to that conclusion, unless you mean time travel in the same sense of time dilation that we already know exists.
     
  10. Jun 20, 2011 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    Speaking as somebody who works in nanotechnology I can tell you that "picotechnology" doesn't really make much sense as an science or engineering dicipline. There really isn't much of picometre size, atoms are measured in hundreds of picometres upwards but there are no subatomic structures beneath them that are bigger than a few femtometres or less. You cannot actually make anything of picometre size other than small molecules and we already have a word for that field, it's chemistry.

    It is possible that we could include picoengineering in technology such as in data storage devices using Rydberg atoms but that's all. Picotech wouldn't help you manipulate matter better than nanotechnology except in very specific ways.

    Oddly it may be theoretically possible to construct femtoengineered structures utilising nuclear matter but as these structures would require extremely high densities (like those found on the surface of a neutron star) it is unlikely femtotechnology will ever be practical.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  11. Jun 20, 2011 #10
    Thanks a lot for this information. Coincidentally, I've been studying wave-motion basics especially the waves that might propagate through a string or some similar elastic medium. Are these "strings" that constitute quarks and leptons subject to the same principles as a guitar string vibrating? A guitar string has length and is under tension. Its tension and length affects the values of its characteristic frequencies. Do the quark and lepton strings' frequencies vary with length and tension the same way a guitar string's frequencies vary with length and tension?

    Here's the formula for characteristic frequencies:

    fn = n ∙ √ (F / μ) / (2 ∙ L);
    n = 1, 2, 3,...

    F = tension in Newtons
    μ = linear density in kilograms per meter
    L = length in meters

    Jagella
     
  12. Jun 20, 2011 #11
    Ryan, I was being a bit whimsical when I used the word picotechnology. I was speculating that if a Theory of Everything can unite the strong and weak nuclear forces, then that kind of knowledge may open doors to our being able to manipulate subatomic particles in ways we presently cannot--or even in ways we now cannot imagine.

    Science and technology works that way, wouldn't you say? As we make scientific discoveries, that new knowledge often enables us to do what was previously impossible. I posted the example of electromagnetism in the opening post.

    Anyway, I haven't heard that much about nanotechnology lately. I first heard of nanotechnology in an article in Omni Magazine way back in 1987. I was intrigued, to say the least. I was especially excited about the possibility of "cell repair machines" that might heal almost any wound including damage to the central nervous system. Are we closer to such breakthroughs, or are we becoming more conservative about what we may expect from nanotechnology? :confused:

    Jagella
     
  13. Jun 21, 2011 #12

    Ryan_m_b

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    Nano sized robots are science fiction and are currently nothing to do with the real field of nanotechnology (with a few exceptions here and there of scientists who publish ideas rather than research).

    Nanotechnology is a very broad field ranging from engineering sciences e.g. NEMS, to computing e.g. molecular logic gate, right through to nanomedicine which includes;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot" [Broken] idea of tiny robots.

    But that was a bit of a digression, to get back on topic I'm going to have to agree with Pengwuino and say that we cannot make educated guesses or inferences about the technological applications of unknown science. If you have something that you think will be a likely consequence of a TOE you should be prepared to back up any statements with references to the literature.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  14. Jun 21, 2011 #13

    ZapperZ

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    Since no one brought it up, I will.

    The concept of "Theory of Everything" is flawed, per the argument from Anderson, Laughlin, and most condensed matter physicists. It is based on the idea that reductionism can explain everything. It can't, and we have examples of it already in emergent phenomena.

    See

    1. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/1/28.pdf
    2. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/1/32.pdf
    3. http://arXiv.org/abs/hep-th/0210162
    4. R.B. Laughlin, Rev. Mod. Phys., v.71, p.863 (1999).
    5. P. Anderson, Science v.177,p.4 (1972).

    We should not behave like the misguided post-modernists who think that physics principles can also be the guiding principles for society.

    Zz.
     
  15. Jun 21, 2011 #14

    Ryan_m_b

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    I thought we were talking about uniting gravity with a grand unified theory rather than the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_everything_(philosophy)" [Broken]?

    It was my (perhaps flawed) understanding that a TOE in physics would simply allow all fundamental particles/interactions to be understood rather than a theory that any question could be plugged into with the correct answer spat out. Whilst this could, in theory, explain "everything" in terms of reducing it to its most basic components this is unlikely to be the case due to practical reasons (i.e. gathering data for all the fundamental physical reactions in a society) and because some things are emergent.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  16. Jun 21, 2011 #15

    ZapperZ

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    This is what the OP wrote:

    In other words, based on the phrase that I highlighted, there IS an issue on the "implications" of such a thing. I'm trying to temper it down by indicating that just because one has a "theory of everything" for reductionism, it doesn't mean that one can then use it as a "bible" to solve everything else, including issues ".. for society beyond the study of physics.. " Not only that, the OP doesn't seem to be aware of "many-body physics".

    Zz.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  17. Jun 21, 2011 #16

    Ryan_m_b

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    Ah, I didn't pick up on that line and jumped straight to the technology. I quite agree with you, a theory of everything would not be helpful in societal situations apart from indirectly if it provides new technology.
     
  18. Jun 21, 2011 #17

    Astronuc

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    I get the feeling that some folks expect that a TOE will allow society (us) to develop antigravity or some low cost source of energy. If that were the case, then that would have broad implications with respect to geographical mobility and space exploration. However, I don't expect that to be the case.

    At the dawn of the nuclear age, there was a lot of hype about what nuclear energy would do for mankind. There were some benefits, but some of the most lofty ideas (naive expectations) were never realized.
     
  19. Jun 21, 2011 #18
    I first read about these “cell repair machines” in the aforementioned Omni article, and I also read about them in K. Eric Drexler's https://www.amazon.com/Engines-Crea...sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308665022&sr=1-1". The basic idea is to create these “nanobots” and have them replicate themselves so that their number increases exponentially (one nanobot replicates itself, those two nanobots replicate themselves, those four replicate themselves, and onward until after n replications you have 2^n = the necessary number of nanobots to repair the cells).

    I can see some obvious challenges with such a technology. How will the nanobots be controlled, and how will they be fueled?

    In any case, Drexler points out that such nanobots are very possible. They already exist in nature, and if you scratch your finger, your body's cell repair machines will heal that scratch.

    If I understand correctly, radar was first envisioned not by engineers or scientists but by science fiction writers. So while educated guesses may not be proper when making inferences about “unknown science,” "uneducated" guesses occasionally have some merit.

    Jagella
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  20. Jun 21, 2011 #19

    Evo

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    Wow, a quick google would have shown that you are wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Watson-Watt

    Robert Watson was an engineer.

    Christian Hulsmeyer was an engineer.

    Emile Girardeau was an engineer.

    History of invention of radar.

    http://www.whoinventedit.net/who-invented-radar.html
     
  21. Jun 21, 2011 #20

    Ryan_m_b

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    Again this is all http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_science". The current field of nanomedicine has little to say on microscopic robots and even less to say on microscopic robots made via synthetic biology. I'm sorry If you took what I said to mean impossible, I was trying to relay the current focus in the field. We are a long way off being able to make customised synthetic cells capable of acting in the ways that Drexler and others describe.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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