11 May 2013

No new TOE candidate in sight - researchers, be courageous!

So far, all 2013 papers on hep-th and gr-qc in the arxiv were disappointing. No new ideas arose on the theory of everything. No new TOE proposals.

Some obstinate people still work on supersymmetry or strings, even though they do not lead to predictions or uniqueness. Some quantum gravity people still work on their pet models, but without any predictions or uniqueness.

There are no new opinion pieces either. In the past, people used to write texts in which they told what their opinion are. Nothing hard, just their own opinions and beliefs. All these are gone. Nobody has an opinion any more about where to look for unification. No opinion pieces means that nobody has the courage to tell others what to do, where to search, or what to speculate. A whole generation of leaders, professors, and researchers has become silent.

In the past years, every researcher used to give interviews. Nowadays, interviews only cover multiverses and similar nonsense. The search for a TOE has stopped to be a topic for interviews. Researchers have lost faith, it seems.

Look at Steve Carlip, well-known researcher in general relativity. Since 2009, he thinks that space is made of "fluctuating lines". He tells this in every paper since. What happened? He was called all sort of names by colleagues. And he has to focus on defending the approach, instead of building on it.

Yes, it is hard to speculate if others call you crazy. Yes, it is hard to brainstorm if others call you mad. Simply forget the criticisms! Please, dare to dream again! Dare to speculate! Dare to brainstorm! Find the nature of nature! Find the components of nature! Inspire the young women and men we need to find the TOE!


  1. It is simple to forget the criticism if you have funding. But it is impossible to get funding if everybody else is against your line of research.

  2. Vladimir, you are right. Not only the researchers, also the referees need to be courageous.

  3. If the best physics - the Standard Model - only works by perturbations (rather than providing complete solutions), then how does the universe know what to do?

    The universe can't be the same thing as the physical model of the universe (for the above reason), so what is it then? And why is it?

  4. Just answer, and you will be famous!

    What you ask is just one way to ask for the theory of everything. Go after it!

  5. There should be nothing, you would think. If there isn't nothing, then there must be less than nothing.

    Whatever 'less than nothing' is, it is not impossible to imagine that, for some reason, the simplest way to make sense of less than nothing is to equate it with the crossing switches of featureless strands. So what is the reason?

    Well, everybody knows, tangles tend to persist. And everybody knows, tangles have a tendency to get bigger. Persistence is a very basic quality of whatever the universe is. If tangles of featureless strands are the simplest way to capture the qualities of persistence, that could be part of the answer.

    I suppose that if you could really have less than nothing, you would still have persistence; less than nothing would have to persist -- even if it was some kind of timeless persistence.

    So persistence is the only given -- timeless or otherwise. There is no way to conceive of anything less than it. Postulate that tangles of featureless strands capture the fundamental essence of persistence, and there you go: Strands are the simplest way to make sense of less than nothing because the only given (even of less than nothing) is persistence (temporal or otherwise), and strands are postulated to be the simplest model of it.

    That makes me think 'Could it be shown that atemporal persistence is just a special case of persistence in general?'. Then the Strand Model, instead of having to assume a background that includes time, could claim it -- because it followed necessarily from the only given (of even less than nothing): persistence.

  6. As a fan of strands, I do not worry about perturbation theory: it is an approximation to the strand model. If the strand model is correct, it described the world (almost?) completely.

    Of course, I assume that you are the same Anonymous as the previous one. Still, I do not understand what your last post has to do with the previous one, nor with my answer.

    Alcohol and similar stuff is bad for the brain, and is also bad for the topics we are discussing here.

  7. It is simple really: you cannot imagine that the universe is actually somehow made out of a tangled featureless strand. That would be silly (or do you disagree). No, the tangled featureless strand is a model -- a model that appears to capture something truly essential about the universe. I was trying to guess what that was.

    I guessed that it was persistence. Think about it. Even if there was nothing at all, you still would have to have persistence -- persistence of nothing at all. But then that presupposes the existence of time. Ideally you don't want to presuppose anything. That's why I brought up the notion of timeless persistence (which does sound daft, I admit). Well, what persists even in the absence of time? Whatever it is, if you can show it is just a special case of persistence in general, then what you have shown is that the notion of persistence is even more fundamental than time is.

    That would be interesting if it were true. We probably haved assumed that time is more fundamental than persistence. We might have our concept of persistence defined in terms of time when it could be that time is defined in terms of persistence.

    Anyway, if persistence was so fundamental -- even more fundamental than time -- and there was no way to eliminate it, even if the universe was nothing (or even if the universe was somehow less than nothing), and if tangles of featureless strands were the simplest way to model persistence, then there you have it: the reason for the Strand Model.

    Christoph Schiller says, 'Look at my Strand Model! It is simple, resolves all these open issues, and looks capable of explaining the elementary particle masses.' Everybody else thinks, 'Why should it be a featureless strand that gives all the answers? Sounds a bit quirky to me.' Well I'm just trying to answer the 'why' question.

    So here is the answer again. Imagine there were nothing. So we do away with space. We do away with time. We do away with everything we can think of. Now try to do away with persistence. You can't. How can you do away with anything if it doesn't persist in being done away with? OK then, we can do away with everything but persistence. So postulate that featureless strands are the simplest way to capture and model persistence, and there you have it: their raison d'etre.

    Then everyone would say, 'Ah... that sort of makes sense. Strands don't seem so quirky now' -- in my dream land. No, people say, 'This anonymous talks drivel. Maybe he has a problem with alcohol.' Well the former is a matter of opinion, and the latter is a matter of fact (er, maybe that didn't come out how I meant it).

  8. Anonymous,

    in his book, Schiller cheats. He always assumes background time. This might be what you call persistence. Without time, as you write, it is hard to talk or think. Schiller also says that strands have infinite lifetime; so they also have persistence.

    Anyway, this is all too philosophical. We need more details on the standard model parameters. I guess we have to wait for that to happen.

  9. Thank you, Clara.

    Yes, Christoph Schiller assumes
    1) A background of space and time -- because it's impossible to think without them (which doesn't seem too unreasonable).
    2) The only observables are crossing switches of featureless strands.
    3) Those minimal observables are the origin of the corrected Planck units (Christoph Schiller's ones).

    Einstein only assumed
    1) There is no spooky action at a distance.
    2) The quantum mechanical version of 'the moon is still there when you are not looking at it'.

    Yet Bell's inequality combined with Aspect's experiments demonstrated that at least one of his assumptions couldn't be correct. If Einstein could not safely make just two assumptions, then nobody can.

    Even reasonable-sounding assumptions are best avoided then, if possible.

    Well maybe we have an alternative:
    1) If anyone succeeds in deducing quantities for the elementary particle masses (quantities that are in the correct ratios), and those quantities are expressed in the units of crossing switches (since they are the only observable), then the size of the units in kilograms will be self-evident just by dividing the observed masses in kilograms by the deduced masses in crossing switches, and assumption 3 can be eliminated.

    2) By following the argument above where we try to eliminate everything from the universe (and anything that is left when we have eliminated everything we can must be what is most essential), if we find that we cannot eliminate persistence, then we don't have to assume persistence. It is an unavoidable given. Then if a clever argument can be found that shows that timeless persistence (whatever it is) is just a special case of persistence and that therefore time is just a category of persistence (rather than something in its own right), then the assumption of the time part of the background becomes redundant and can be eliminated.

    3) Now to introduce strands (and the space they necessarily occupy, by definition), all we have to show is that they are a model that captures all aspects of persistence. It doesn't even have to be shown that they are the only such model. Mathematicians keep discovering new duals, so who knows if they are or not. But it is irrelevant -- all that matters is that strands are up to the job of capturing all aspects of persistence. So if we have strands, the assumption of a background of space becomes redundant (because space is already a part of the strands we are using to model persistence. So we have made assumption 1 redundant now and can eliminate it.

    3) That would just leave assumption 2, which basically asserts what aspect of persistence (since it is persistence we are modelling with strands) is observable, as opposed to unobservable. Presumably timeless persistence (whatever it is) isn't observable per se. So this assumption is just a restatement that the strand model captures all aspects of persistence, so it is redundant and can be eliminated.

    So at best, all three assumptions could be shown to be unnecessary, allowing them to be deleted. At worst you would be left just having to postulate that the tangling of a featureless strand adequately captures all there is to know about persistence -- so just one assumption.

    (Yeah it's philosophical, but imagine how quickly those particle masses could be calculated if it encouraged the mathematical community to come on board. They are pretty much the smartest people on the planet, there are lots of them, and I bet they are getting a bit bored now with those mathematical investigations inspired by string theory.)

  10. Anonymous,

    yes, let us hope that mathematicians can help.

  11. Clara,

    About the mass ratios of the quarks. In Schiller's book, he has a diagram showing the tails of the tangles forming the skeleton of a tetrahedron. Well I just noticed something: the down quark's tetrahedron isn't like the tetrahedrons of all the other ones -- you can rotate it some ways, and it doesn't look any different.

    Could that explain its anomalous mass ratio?

  12. Anonymous,

    indeed. But can a symmetry make a tangle heavier? I do not know.

  13. 'The mass of each tangle will be determined by the frequency of the belt trick.' -- Motion Mountain, vol.6, p325

    Could symmetry make the belt trick more likely and hence more frequent (and so higher frequency, higher mass)?