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TOE's getting a little crazy?

  1. Nov 1, 2011 #1
    I'll start off by admitting that just because the "laws of the universe" go against what we might intuit them to be is no grounds to assert their falsehood, but I do have to pose a subjective question:

    Do you guys feel that perhaps our current stabs at a ToE are just getting a bit outlandish?

    Personally I do. I understand the idealism that "if the math works, then we've got to run with it" but I wonder if the many multi-dimensional ToE's with all sorts of complicated geometries involving string and the like are just throwing layers of math to cover up the initial logic that is being sacrificed. And of course, the more we find out, the more math (and complicated semantic explanation) we need. In short, at gut feeling I believe we just don't know enough about how the universe works right now to be taking stabs in this manner, and we end up laughing at Occam's Razor in the process.

    Like I said, this is totally subjective, but does anyone feel me on this?
     
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  3. Nov 1, 2011 #2

    martinbn

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    If the math was working it would be great but I don't think it is the case.
     
  4. Nov 1, 2011 #3

    Pengwuino

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    I'm sure this is exactly what they thought when things like QED were being formulated. If you have a better way to explain what is going on, there's a nobel prize waiting for you.
     
  5. Nov 1, 2011 #4
    I think it may be impossible for us to find the Theory of Everything . even If String theory is experimentally verified and we know everything about it (Which is unlikely ), There will be things that will show up that require further explanation and so on . The more we understand things, the more things that show up that require explanation which may require new math tools and new radical physical ideas .
     
  6. Nov 1, 2011 #5
    It seems to me that the basic idea was to use the top-down method: decide what kind of theory you wanted, then figure out the features that any theory with such properties must have. That narrowed it down to 10^500 theories, but the project seems to have gotten stuck there. Also, there is no assurance that the way the Universe works is in accord with any theory with said desirable properties.

    The old bottom-up experimentally driven method may have ended up with a kludgey result, but it works in a broad domain and is reasonably understandable.
     
  7. Nov 1, 2011 #6
    A TOE would explain where the principles of quantum mechanics come from. I've not seen any main stream research agendas that even attempt this. They all seem to just accept the math because it provide results in some situations, and so they feel justified in applying it to all situations. What needs to happen is to derive QM from the principles of logic alone (IMO). And this might tell us where it applies and under what circumstances we can use it. But it seems as of this date we don't really know that QM should be applied to GR.
     
  8. Nov 1, 2011 #7
    Agreed. The current trend does not seem to be to look for a physics that makes sense, but to find the equations that work and hope/assume it will make sense sometime. The later is certainly a pragmatic approach, but I still believe in logic, even if it is bizarre logic. If we extrapolate too far without that solid foundation, I fear we endanger the credibility of our equations even if they work.

    But yes, even with the many QM interpretations out there, it really does seem to me that a good start would be to attempt verification of one of those theories before we set out on a global ToE. It's like everyone is trying to come up with a single best route to Hawaii, but some of us are starting in Tokyo and others in Canada... ok, it's at least a decent analogy...
     
  9. Nov 1, 2011 #8
    What alternative is there to the complexity? Do you accept Quantum Mechanics? Do you accept Relativity? They are both heavily mathematical and difficult for the average person to grasp conceptually. If you accept both, you also must accept the fundamental differences between the two.

    Finding a way to bring them together is mathematically and conceptually advanced. The TOE will, by nature, be more difficult to understand and formulate than either of its two basic components.

    Perhaps Einstein should have given up on formulating GR, since Newton's physics were simpler and accurate enough....

    That's not the way Occam's Razor works.
     
  10. Nov 1, 2011 #9
    Ever heard of the big bang? That is a situation where high density(GR) and very small distances(QM) arise.

    Unless you believe the universe is infinite, and then by necessity have a situation where QM won't apply.
     
  11. Nov 1, 2011 #10
    By your argument, the basics premise for how evolution works would really be in trouble. Sure our world is highly complex. The interactions of one atom with another to form a molecule aren't quite like how one would play with legos, but the individual fundamentals behind the interaction can be argued as "simple." At least for now, it seems that though our universe is complex, it is an emergent complexity. A ToE may be complicated to sort through, but that does not mean its individual components must themselves be complicated (especially, hopefully, as we are getting to more and more fundamental/core bits of the universe). Thus regardless of how complicated the system as a whole seems, if we understand the behavior of the individual components, I see no reason an individual with slight explanation (not even necessarily an expert) can say "hmm, I guess that makes sense."
     
  12. Nov 1, 2011 #11
    I don't see how you get from "my argument" to "evolution being in trouble."

    I'm not saying that an explanation for something complicated is going to be necessarily complex.

    I'm am saying that a union of two fundamentally incompatable and individually complex explanations (GR and QM)will be necessarily complex.
     
  13. Nov 1, 2011 #12
    We may just be arguing semantics here. The way I see it though is that the "merged" system, as you stated, might be complex in that there are many laws and functions which it details built from many individual principles. I think, however, one could suppose a likelihood that the individual components of that system are "simple." In such, I would think that, in matter of perspective alone, treating each model as "complex and incompatible" initially might not be the best place to start. Thus I would agree with friend's line of thinking in that it might be wiser to first get models (i.e. QM) into a build of simple, logical principles that coincides with other models (i.e. CM) in a way that is not inherently incompatible. Then we would would try and build a system on these "simple" principles. To me this is a better ToE. I tend to think that the reason things are "complex" now is because they are not sufficiently understood and much of our work is extrapolation.

    If there were a sort of irreducible complexity, however, I would admit this might not be possible, but as of now, I see no reason to believe that is the case.
     
  14. Nov 1, 2011 #13

    marcus

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    Let's look at the initial post and try to see what this thread is about:
    Basically in this forum we follow current professional research about BTSM (beyond the standard model) lines of investigation. People ask questions about specific research. Give a link to an online PDF. Or discuss some idea from some recent preprint on the "arxiv.org".

    It's not so much about philosophy or feelings. More about definite cases of professional work.

    It is not true that BTSM = "ToE"

    I haven't been seeing much about "ToE" in the professional literature I follow. For example String research has tended to focus on other stuff, more limited goals, since roughly mid-decade.

    A popular research target is developing a quantum theory of the curvature and expansion of spatial geometry. Socalled "quantum gravity" modeling, because basically gravity = geometry. So one wants to have a quantum theory that describes geometry, how it changes etc. how it responds to geometric measurement etc....what actually was happening where the old 1915 (non-quantum) theory of geometry breaks down...

    These are not grandiose "ToE" questions. The work currently in progress on them is not "outlandish". It is not even mostly String. It is beginning to connect with ideas for testing by comparison with astronomical observation (e.g. ancient light = CMB)

    You might first learn about the prevailing approaches to BTSM physics and provide some links to PDF so we have some concrete examples. Then we could see how we feel. About something real. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2011
  15. Nov 1, 2011 #14
    What is simple to you? Even if we were to formulate the TOE(which we could call any theory of Quantum Gravity) solely with arithmetic, the questions of consistency within number theory researchable by Peano's Axioms would arise.

    You cannot develop a simpler logical system than one formulated solely from arithmetic, and yet this would still not be "simple"

    Our current models are "complicated" because the nature of our universe is complicated. Subatomic particles do not behave in a manner that can be modeled with highschool mathematics. The geometry of space and time cannot be constructed within Euclidean geometry.

    If what you are calling the "Theory of Everything" seems a little too crazy, then you are simply not familiar enough with current research. If an extra dimension, or 7, arises from our studies, then so what? Who are we to say this seems unreasonable? 80 years ago Space was static and flat.
     
  16. Nov 1, 2011 #15
    Thank you for giving a considerate and supported reply. Off of what you said, I looked back up at the forum rules, and it seems there may be a better place to move this thread (I have no intention of hiding any subjectivity in my post). As to what I was referring to, I strictly meant when efforts (as you discussed) are touted as a ToE. Sure this is not what you find in many (most) specific pieces of literature, but this is often what is fed to public media (if even not intentionally). You could reword my intentions as a strong feeling to be more cautious in letting the association "ToE" be cast with current theories, especially in personal opinion (as admitted) when having a complex premise and a somewhat ambiguous foundation (in terms of intuitive logic).
     
  17. Nov 1, 2011 #16
    I believe you largely misunderstand me, but I think my statement about explaining a system to someone might be why. Take that from the context of whether or not a system seems complicated at face value and move it to the context of what is being proposed for unknown facets of a system. Perhaps that makes my point clearer. It is no issue that extra dimensions "seem a complicated idea." That is our human/cultural/knowledge bias. When I say something is simple or complex I refer to the number of new ideas needed to accommodate a new theory (without fully supporting empirical evidence). For a very crude interpretation of meaning, a theory just involving strings or just involving extra dimensions would be simpler while a theory needing both is more complex. It's all in the amount of material that must be given at one time (without "conclusive" backing of previous suppositions) which I define more complicated. This is perfectly reasonable, as the simpler the theory while still explaining all parameters, the better. I am, subjectively (as I know no way to quantify the amount of requirements for each theory) suggesting that, given our current knowledge, ToE agendas seem somewhat complex because many new ideas must simultaneously be proposed (while each, individually, is not yet fully backed).

    I will admit ignorance in many cases, but in this regard I think even Hawking, being as highly ambitious as he is in theoretical work, would not find cautiousness in these terms at least reasonable.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2011
  18. Nov 1, 2011 #17

    qsa

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    I do agree with your gut feeling (there must be a better way), but I also think current theories are on some path to the final theory. However, this path is a very long route, but that was dictated by many reasons.

    IMO all forces have the same origin. I disagree with Marcus in the strongest terms possible. But he refuses and side steps my objections all the time. I repeat here

    The whole idea of QUANTUM gravity is just that to take GR away from geometry (in the metric sense) and show its quantum origin (similar to QM) which should have united it with other forces. and to finally show us how all these forces arise naturally together with matter being the center of it all. none of the QG theories has come to anything close. Besides, one of the great achievements have been the development of " effective theories for gravity", so why should it be any different fundamentaly at high energy.
     
  19. Nov 2, 2011 #18
    Indeed so. Our brain has been evolved to understand macroscopic aspects of reality, we may call it classical physics. There is no reason why our brain would be wired to have an intuitive grasp of the laws of nature outside this domain, such as quantum mechanics. Fortunately the laws of nature can be cast in the language of mathematics, and this allows to get us a handle on them.

    Thus, arguments whether some theories are against "common sense" or "gut feeling", "outlandish", and "too mathemaical", are worth nothing.

    What people often overlook is that there are usually pretty good reasons to invoke certain mathematical structures, namely quite definite and oiften highly non-trivial computational results. For example, strings are not just invented ad hoc, rather it can be shown by explicit computation that they lead to gravity at low energies.
     
  20. Nov 2, 2011 #19
    You should go back and reread the last post in this thread where I already explained this wasn't quite what I meant in the OP.

    All the same, I do disagree with you on at least one facet. Our human instinct and intuition are certainly not always reliable, and they can by no means be used to argue a final conclusion in any situation. However, the worth of "gut feelings" should not be discarded entirely. That cautionary feeling of "Hmm, something's odd here, maybe we should go back and check this" may not be unbiased (or sufficient), but that non-linear thinking helps me (and I'd argue most of the world) out quite often. At least it helps me from forgetting my car keys. :) It is worth noting though that our "training" to see the world one way isn't just training. It really means the world is that way on many many many levels. The fact that such emerging theories don't match up with this is definitely a reason to at least say "Hmmmm" first. It just simply isn't a reason to continue to retreat from them after multiple tests and the evidence still holding.
     
  21. Nov 2, 2011 #20

    marcus

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    ==excerpt from previous==
    My post #13:...I haven't been seeing much about "ToE" in the professional literature I follow. For example String research has tended to focus on ... more limited goals, since roughly mid-decade.

    A popular research target is developing a quantum theory of the curvature and expansion of spatial geometry. Socalled "quantum gravity" ...

    These are not grandiose "ToE" questions. The work currently in progress on them is not "outlandish". It is not even mostly String. It is beginning to connect with ideas for testing by comparison with astronomical observation (e.g. ancient light = CMB)

    You might first learn about the prevailing approaches to BTSM physics and provide some links to PDF so we have some concrete examples. Then we could see how we feel. About something real.

    Altrus post #15:... Off of what you said, I looked back up at the forum rules, and it seems there may be a better place to move this thread (I have no intention of hiding any subjectivity in my post). As to what I was referring to, I strictly meant when efforts (as you discussed) are touted as a ToE. Sure this is not what you find in many (most) specific pieces of literature, but this is often what is fed to public media (if even not intentionally). You could reword my intentions as a strong feeling to be more cautious in letting the association "ToE" be cast with current theories, especially in personal opinion (as admitted) when having a complex premise and a somewhat ambiguous foundation (in terms of intuitive logic).
    ==endquote==

    Compliments on your thoughtfulness and reasonableness. And steady focus.

    So the topic is not so much the current science itself but the "hyperscience" in the media. It is about encouraging sober integrity in what is fed to the public. But how shall the debauched be restrained? :biggrin:

    Could Brian Greene be persuaded to wear some kind of chastity belt?
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2011
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