For Flit: The Theory of Everything

>> Sunday, April 5, 2009

Picture from the Large Hadron Collider websiteFlit asked (on Rocket Scientist): Science fiction writers seem to be increasingly fond of the notion of worlds we don’t know about… not so much on other planets… one of the books we’ve read for class mentioned “brane phsyics” (as in membrane)…and of course, Sawyer’s parallax trilogy is all about crossing that type of barrier….

are there actual scientists who think it’s possible? And/or who are working on such things? Seems totally over the top to me, but what do I know :)

Oh, sure, pick something simple. OK, here’s what I can tell you.

Yes, there are real scientists that are seriously into the multidimensional stuff. Your question has stumbled on the holy grail of theoretical physics, The Theory of Everything (which has specialized other holy grails associated with it like the unified field theory ). In several of these incarnations of people trying to get a handle on one explanation to reconcile both classical and quantum physics, we find discussions of the multiverse or something similar.

I’ve mentioned before that my brand of physics is the applied kind so this theoretical high-brow thinking isn’t my cup of tea. I know just enough quantum physics to be dangerous to cats (just kidding, don’t send me your litterbox detrious!). What that means is I can tell you that real Nobel-prize-winning scientists buy the possibility of this notion (if not the notion outright), want to play with high energy particle physics like the Large Hadron Collider to test some of those theoretical notions, and fight over one theory over another when most are mental speculation on very limited amounts of data. That is what theoretical physics does (and has a surprisingly good success rate considering what data was available to start with).

Variations like M-Theory and Superstring Theory rub shoulders with such esoteric theories as Heim’s theory (and Burkhard Heim is a pretty interesting character in and of himself). But, since the physics I know and love is of the based-on-reality kind, I’m not in a position to differentiate the different theories. I know they involve some hairy math. My husband kind of favors Heim’s thoughts, but it’s hard for me to give you an explanation of a theory where the math is so complicated, his work can’t even be peer-reviewed. I get a headache just thinking about it.

So, I’ll point you to a bunch of different avenues you, as the student, are welcome to pursue and say, short answer, yes, many scientists buy this multiverse notion, even the most whacked out versions of it. Ironically, it’s not one of the things I use in my own science fiction, perhaps because I don’t understand it well enough.

Hope that helps you. DrBurst, I’ll be getting to your question later today.

7 Responses to “The Theory of Everything”

  1. Patriciaon 28 Mar 2009 at 10:01 am edit this

    Although I don’t really understand most of your answer (but I do appreciate your attempt to help me understand it), I recognize the reference to the Large Hadron Collider which figures prominently in Robert J. Sawyer’s book “Flash Foward.” (Flit recommended this book). It’s hard for me to decipher “real physics” (which I guess you are describing) from the fiction (in Sawyer’s novel) to the often hysteria one finds in media stories (I mean, the Collider does actually exist and they do conduct experiments which could go awry?). Add to that, all the hype over the approaching pole shift or Planet X or Mayan Calendar catastrophe in 2012 and I wonder how much of what we hear of potential or forthcoming astronomical calamities are actually predicted (or predictable) by physicists?

  2. fliton 28 Mar 2009 at 1:18 pm edit this

    Way cool….. can I quote you in my position paper?

    Thanks for the links and avenues to explore

  3. stephanieebarron 28 Mar 2009 at 2:12 pm edit this

    Knock yourself out

  4. new illumination 29 Mar 2009 at 3:50 am edit this

    You might also take a look at

  5. Bobon 29 Mar 2009 at 8:50 am edit this

    I love this type of outside the box thinking since I live outside the box. I’m hoping that the theorists will get what they need to answer some of the unknowns when the LHC finally gets up to speed so to speak.


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