7 January 2011

Oh no - Witten gave up!

Witten now works on Khovanov homology. No, this is not a mistake. He is working on Khovanov homology. This is incredibly disappointing, for a simple reason: Khovanov homology is related to unification as much as dinosaur hunting is.

In other words, Witten has given up on finding unification - he is now doing pure mathematics.

To be honest, Witten has given up on unification already several years ago, but many hoped that he might come back to it. But now, as an old man, he has definitely left the quest. This is really really sad.

Witten was the inspiration for many people, with his uncompromising search for unification. But now he has chosen to do what he likes most: abstract mathematics that few people understand; abstract mathematics that has no relevance to physics.

That is the sadness of Witten's story: the smartest man on Earth has not succeeded in unification; he is so disillusioned that he left the quest.

Why did this sad story happen? His insistence to cling to supersymmetry, to higher dimensions and to string theory put him on the wrong path. And he was never able to backtrack.

For a really great man, look at Steven Weinberg. In contrast to Witten, he really is backtracking: Weinberg does not believe in supersymmetry any more, he is cautious about the Higgs, he does not believe in higher dimensions or strings any more.

That is the way one wants to grow old: getting rid of your prejudices, and getting nearer to wisdom. Instead, Witten has maneuverd himself into a prison defined by string theory. It will be interesting if he will ever leave it.

Mind you, this is interesting as a human destiny. The ideas Witten is proclaiming are not interesting since decades. What a sad story.

Many years ago, Buber once wrote a booklet around the question that God asks Adam in paradise: "Where are you?" Buber argues that God asks this question every day to every person: "Where are you?" Where are you on your path? Where are you in your life? Where are you in your calling?

Witten is a successful person by every standard one wants to apply. And maybe his calling was to show that string theory is a dead end. But was it really? Wasn't his calling to do more?

6 January 2011

Do think about alpha - to be a good theoretical physicist

The fine structure constant alpha=1/137.03... is really a taboo subject. Go to wikipedia and look at the entry "Theory of everything": there is not a word about the need to explain alpha. Go to the wikipedia article "List of unsolved problems in physics": the same. Yes, the prejudice is really strong: "If you think about alpha, you are not serious."

And that is the exact opposite of what Feynman said: "all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it".

Do you know anybody who worries about the number? Search the internet; you will find nobody who does. Ergo: we have no good theoretical physicists at present!

4 January 2011

Do not ask about alpha ...

One of the biggest mystery of nature is the origin of the fine structure constant alpha, 1/137.03 ..., and its running with energy.

There is a taboo asking about this origin - mostly because only cranks attempts answers. But not asking has bad consequences: it implies to let go the aim of the search for unification. If we do not go on asking, we will not find the answer; instead, we will get lost in fantasy land. The issue of alpha illuminates our aim: it tells us where we need to go.

But look at recent history. GUT proponents don't ask about alpha. SUSY proponents don't. String theorists don't. Loop quantum gravity researchers don't. Nobody asks! And indeed, all these researchers have lost the right way.

So, in fundamental physics we have a problem: if you think about alpha, you are doing cranky science. And if you don't, you do GUTs, or strings, or similarly cranky theories. What a situation! Prejudices have maneuvered researchers into an impasse. Whatever they do, it is cranky.

There is only one conclusion possible: be courageous and think about alpha - but seriously.

3 January 2011

On points

One way to see them: A point is an infinitesimally small sphere.

Gravity and quantum theory imply that no length shorter than a Planck length can be measured or observed.

Given this, points are idealizations that have no basis in measurements. Space is NOT smooth and is not made of points.

But wait! How can we describe the world without space? Space MUST be smooth! How else can we write down evolution equations?

Space must be smooth and must not be smooth. What a bad situation to be in. Any theory of everything must show a way out.

2 January 2011

Where to search?

If grand unification, supersymmetry, higher symmetries, higher dimensions, string theory and loop quantum gravity are dead alleys, where do we have to search for a theory of everything? Nobody knows. If nobody knows, what can be done? To think. Let me try. No prejudices means
  • There are 3 dimensions.
  • There are no points.
  • There are no other gauge groups.
What does this imply? I have no clue. The hardest problem seems to be the lack of other gauge groups. Where do gauge groups come from? Nobody knows. A few think that U(1), SU(2) an SU(3) come from the complex numbers, the quaternions and the octonions. But how? And why three dimensions?