Mod+ The Unification of Physics: The Quest for a Theory of Everything

#1

The holy grail of physics has been to merge each of its fundamental branches into a unified “theory of everything” that would explain the functioning and existence of the universe. The last step toward this goal is to reconcile general relativity with the principles of quantum mechanics, a quest that has thus far eluded physicists. Will physics ever be able to develop an all-encompassing theory, or should we simply acknowledge that science will always have inherent limitations as to what can be known? Should new theories be validated solely on the basis of calculations that can never be empirically tested? Can we ever truly grasp the implications of modern physics when the basic laws of nature do not always operate according to our standard paradigms?

Featuring physicists Katherine Freese, Marcelo Gleiser, and Max Tegmark. Hosted by Steve Paulson.
 
#2
The conversation is enjoyable and interesting from a physics point of view. Three brilliant minds in their fields.
Unfortunately it seems we put too much expectations on physicists to tell us about the meaning of life, nature of consciousness or speculate about other forms of life etc... They are very technical people, coming from a strictly reductionist approach, they are stuck in their "mythology" and the resulting narrative is pretty elementary and unsophisticated, imho.

As Alex has pointed out many times in his show one cannot fail to notice the staggering contrast between the "biologic machine living in an accidental universe with no purpose" paradigm, and the grasping at straws to avoid presenting it as it is, to attach some human meaning to what has no ultimate meaning or direction by definition.

One can really feel the philosophical trap from which these minds are trying to escape, to no avail... Or at least in public, where it's best to keep singing to the choir. I wouldn't be too surprised if, behind close doors, the tune changed a bit or two...
 
#3
Unfortunately it seems we put too much expectations on physicists to tell us about the meaning of life, nature of consciousness or speculate about other forms of life etc.
I agree. There are also theoretical reasons to conclude that probably a theory of everything is not possible:

http://forum.mind-energy.net/forum/...odcast/5486-is-a-theory-of-everything-posible

As Alex has pointed out many times in his show one cannot fail to notice the staggering contrast between the "biologic machine living in an accidental universe with no purpose" paradigm, and the grasping at straws to avoid presenting it as it is, to attach some human meaning to what has no ultimate meaning or direction by definition.
Well, I do not share this idea, because the meaning of our life depends on what we do, not whether it is false or true that we are "living biologic machine in an accidental universe with no purpose".

Besides the situation is too complicated to be summarized in a black or white: I do not think we mere biological machines because I state that we are probably spirits and our death is a transition, but I do not know if the universe has an intrinsic purpose because the evidence about an afterlife does not imply that the universe has an intrinsic purpose.
 
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#4
Well, I do not share this idea, because the meaning of our life depends on what we do, not whether it is false or true that we are "living biologic machine in an accidental universe with no purpose".

Besides the situation is too complicated to be summarized in a black or white: I do not think we mere biological machines because I state that we are probably spirits and our death is a transition, but I do not know if the universe has an intrinsic purpose because the evidence about an afterlife does not imply that the universe has an intrinsic purpose.
In general I agree, meaning is what direction, purpose we give to our "local" lives no matter what is our belief of the grander scheme of things. However we are also greatly inspired by specific values, philosophies or worldviews, to the point that these views can radically change who we are and how we relate with the world.

I see a problem with those who literally profess this nihilistic creed of bio-robots in an accidental universe, with no free will (a là Sam Harris), living a sophisticated but meaningless illusion in our head.

Fortunately, rarely I've met someone who fully embraces this whole mythology. Those rare instances are typically fundamentalists who take this idea very seriously and usually have an "evangelical" agenda, which isn't different from any other sort of preachers.

I find all this utterly irreconcilable with any attempt to give a "local meaning" to one's life. If this is one's creed, there is a strident cognitive dissonance between how one perceives the world and his place in it and how one could find some "local meaning" to conducts his life. Not only that, it's not just about rationalizing this concept. The very act of fully subscribing and advocating such a world view can have a strong impact on the moral choices and the way one acts in the world. In particular it has a potential of triggering destructive or self-destructive forces in our psyche, especially when facing difficult times.

Most of the agnostic and atheists I know endorse some of these arguments to validate their anti-religious position, but if you scratch the surface their true position is more of an "I don't know what the universe or life is all about", than anything else.

This is perfectly fine to me. We don't indeed know the ultimate answers, and most of the aforementioned arguments are much more of an intellectual defense against the old spectres of organized religion, than a statement about the ultimate reality.

Science, and physics in particular, are not aimed at solving the existential questions. Attempting to use our limited current understanding of the physical universe to jump to definitive Big Answers is a very naive approach. One that is unlikely rational or sensible and can have disastrous consequences.

It is much easier and honest to create meaning and purpose in one's life by realizing that we don't have all the Answers, than enclosing oneself in a strict and suffocating ideological box whose assumptions are based on fragmentary and sketchy knowledge.

The latter really seems just an exercise in neurotic and hopeless need for rationalization.
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
One of the most amusing things from physics is the "unnaturalness" revealed by the Higgs Boson* and the silly claims about how we must be in an "ugly" universe that's part of a more mathematically beautiful multiverse. Why not just invoke God and be done with it? Are people so desperate for the universe to align with our notions of beauty?

Better to bite the bullet and at least consider Absurdism
.

*"In peril is the notion of “naturalness,” Albert Einstein’s dream that the laws of nature are sublimely beautiful, inevitable and self-contained. Without it, physicists face the harsh prospect that those laws are just an arbitrary, messy outcome of random fluctuations in the fabric of space and time."
 
#6
The conversation is enjoyable and interesting from a physics point of view. Three brilliant minds in their fields.
Unfortunately it seems we put too much expectations on physicists to tell us about the meaning of life, nature of consciousness or speculate about other forms of life etc... They are very technical people, coming from a strictly reductionist approach, they are stuck in their "mythology" and the resulting narrative is pretty elementary and unsophisticated, imho.

As Alex has pointed out many times in his show one cannot fail to notice the staggering contrast between the "biologic machine living in an accidental universe with no purpose" paradigm, and the grasping at straws to avoid presenting it as it is, to attach some human meaning to what has no ultimate meaning or direction by definition.

One can really feel the philosophical trap from which these minds are trying to escape, to no avail... Or at least in public, where it's best to keep singing to the choir. I wouldn't be too surprised if, behind close doors, the tune changed a bit or two...
Surprisingly, I agree with that 100%
 
#7
I will play devil's advocate and ask if what we now call the Higg's boson is indeed the particle postulated by Higgs some 40+ years ago.
If we consult the super orthodox related Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson#The_new_particle_tested_as_a_possible_Higgs_boson

we will find far too many conditional, uncertain statements:

In January 2013, CERN director-general Rolf-Dieter Heuer stated that based on data analysis to date, an answer could be possible 'towards' mid-2013,[144] and the deputy chair of physics atBrookhaven National Laboratory stated in February 2013 that a "definitive" answer might require "another few years" after the collider's 2015 restart.[145] In early March 2013, CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci stated that confirming spin-0 was the major remaining requirement to determine whether the particle is at least some kind of Higgs boson.[146]

And of particular interest is the summarizing table of the "current status":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_...rticle_as_a_Higgs_boson.2C_and_current_status

It looks like there are still too many "tentative" or yet to be confirmed elements to really know what this Boson-like particle is, and if matches the expected characteristics 100%.

I think I am going to read this book sooner or later:
The Higgs Fake: How Particle Physicists Fooled the Nobel Committee
cheers
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#9
Additionally, physics is not a total description of the world. Causality, qualia, arguably even time are unaccounted for.

That's a lot of stuff to leave out of the Theory of Everything, and that's before we even pick apart the concept of natural "laws". Seems like circular reasoning to me, to observe regularities than happen then extrapolate said regularities as defining what can and cannot happen.
 
#11
Additionally, physics is not a total description of the world. Causality, qualia, arguably even time are unaccounted for.

That's a lot of stuff to leave out of the Theory of Everything, and that's before we even pick apart the concept of natural "laws". Seems like circular reasoning to me, to observe regularities than happen then extrapolate said regularities as defining what can and cannot happen.
It would probably make more sense to call it the "Theory of Everything We Know At The Moment" :D
Since that's essentially what they are talking about when they discuss how to reconcile Quantum Field Theory and General Relativity... the stuff that we know already about but we struggle to fit into a single coherent model.
 
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