From simple rules, complex structures and relationships are well-known to emerge, something that... [+] predated Stephen Wolfram by many years. The notion that all of fundamental physics can be derived from such an approach is speculative, at best, today.
Every once in a while, a revolutionary idea comes along that has the potential to supersede our best scientific ideas of the day. This happened numerous times in theoretical physics during the 20th century, as Einstein's General Relativity replaced Newtonian gravity, quantum physics replaced our classical view of the Universe, and the quantum field theory-based Standard Model superseded the early-20th century version of our quantum Universe.
Over the past half-century, many novel ideas have sought to surpass the current limitations plaguing theoretical physics, from supersymmetry to extra dimensions to grand unification to quantum gravity to string theory. The ultimate idea of many is to arrive at one unified theory of everything: where one framework elegantly encompasses the entirety of nature's laws. The latest contender is Stephen Wolfram's new approach to a theory of everything, heavily publicized last month. But not only isn't it particularly compelling, it isn't even science at this point. Here's why.
Countless scientific tests of Einstein's general theory of relativity have been performed,... [+] subjecting the idea to some of the most stringent constraints ever obtained by humanity. The presence of matter and energy in space tells spacetime how to curve, and that curved spacetime tells matter and energy how to move. But there's a free parameter as well: the zero-point energy of space, which enters General Relativity as a cosmological constant. This accurately describes the dark energy we observe, but does not explain its value.
When we use the word "theory" in a conventional sense, we talk about it the same way we'd talk about the word "idea" or "hypothesis." We mean that sure, we have our conventional way of thinking about things that we generally accept, but maybe things are actually this other way instead.
To a scientist, though, a theory is a far more powerful thing than that. It's a self-consistent framework that has the quantitative power to predict the outcomes (or sets of probable outcomes) of a large set of systems under a wide variety of conditions.
A successful, established theory goes even farther. It contains a large suite of predictions that agree with established experiments and/or observations. It's been tested in a large number of independent ways, and has passed every test thus far. It has a range of validity that's well-understood, and it's also understood that the theory may not be valid outside of that particular range.
A Universe with dark energy (red), a Universe with large inhomogeneity energy (blue), and a... [+] critical, dark-energy-free Universe (green). Note that the blue line behaves differently from dark energy. New ideas should make different, observably testable predictions from the other leading ideas. And ideas which have failed those observational tests should be abandoned once they reach the point of absurdity.
Which means, if you want to surpass that theory in a scientific sense, you have a tall order ahead of you. You have to do better than the old theory that you're seeking to replace with your new idea, and that means you have to take these three very difficult steps.
This is asking a lot, and most new ideas never make it this far.
An early photographic plate of stars (circled) identified during a solar eclipse all the way back in... [+] 1900. While it's remarkable that not only the Sun's corona but also stars can be identified, the precision of the stellar positions is insufficient to test the predictions of General Relativity.
When Einstein concocted the general theory of relativity, it took many years for him to understand how to take the weak-field limit of the theory: at large distances from point-like masses, which allowed him to recover Newton's old theory of gravity. When you got too close to a large mass, however, the predictions differed. This allowed for a successful explanation for Mercury's orbit (which Newton's theory couldn't account for), as well as a new prediction about light deflection near the limb of the Sun (confirmed years later by the 1919 solar eclipse).
Einstein's General Relativity is a standout example of a successful scientific theory on all three of these fronts, but things don't always go in order the way you'd hope they would. Still, you have to clear all three of these hurdles if your goal is to push our understanding of the Universe forward in some fundamental way.
The quantum fluctuations that occur during inflation get stretched across the Universe, and when... [+] inflation ends, they become density fluctuations. This leads, over time, to the large-scale structure in the Universe today, as well as the fluctuations in temperature observed in the CMB. New predictions like these are essential for demonstrating the validity of a proposed fine-tuning mechanism.
General Relativity succeeded everywhere that Newtonian gravity does, but also where it does not. It has a larger range of validity. Relativistic quantum mechanics superseded the version developed by Bohr, Pauli, Heisenberg and Schrodinger, only to later be superseded itself by quantum field theory and the eventual arrival of the Standard Model. The Big Bang won out because its predictions were borne out by the Universe; inflation superseded the idea of a singular origin because it cleared those three critical hurdles (despite doing so out of order).
But many great ideas haven't been met with successful predictions, and they can only be considered speculative theories at best. Supersymmetry, extra dimensions, supergravity, grand unification, and many other ideas have produced a large number of predictive ideas, but none of them have been observationally or experimentally confirmed. General Relativity and the Standard Model, wherever we've challenged them, have always emerged victorious.
The Standard Model particles and their supersymmetric counterparts. Slightly under 50% of these... [+] particles have been discovered, and just over 50% have never showed a trace that they exist. Supersymmetry is an idea that hopes to improve on the Standard Model, but it has yet to make successful predictions about the Universe in attempting to supplant the prevailing theory. If there is no supersymmetry at all energies, string theory must be wrong.
Still, many hope that we'll discover a more fundamental set of laws that encompass all the successes of General Relativity and the Standard Model, while explaining the puzzles like dark matter, dark energy, the values of the fundamental constants, quantum gravity or black hole paradoxes, etc. that they cannot yet fully account for.
The most popular candidate for such a "theory of everything" is string theory, which at least has been demonstrated to contain all of General Relativity and the Standard Model within it. Yes, it also contains much more (extra dimensions, extra free parameters, extra couplings, extra particles, etc.) that don't appear to be present in nature, as well as ambiguous-at-best predictions that have not been borne out by experiment.
For Wolfram's novel idea, however, the same cannot be said.
Although the mathematical structures one can arrive at are beautiful and intricate by many metrics,... [+] their connection with the physical laws and rules governing our Universe remains speculative at best.
There are all sorts of mathematical structures that one can develop or concoct that have interesting properties, as well as simple rules from which complex structures emerge. Wolfram takes the latter approach, something he's been toying with for decades (including in his book, A New Kind of Science), and is clearly enamored with it.
But can he get known physics out of it? The answer appears to be "not yet," as he himself points out:
"...there is much left to explore in the potential correspondence between our models and physics, and what will be said here is merely an indication and sometimes a speculative one of how this might turn out."
He does not recover all of General Relativity; he does not get the Standard Model or Quantum Field Theory out of it. He has not progressed to the point of making predictions, much less novel ones that differ from what we already have.
An example of how a series of binary but indeterminate events can lead to many possible outcomes may... [+] have shades of probabilistic quantum mechanics in it, but the correspondence between Wolfram's approach and actual, reality-reflecting quantum physics has not been established.
He's only playing a game of applying rules to make structures, then attempting to find analogies between those structures and the actual physics of our Universe. This is a popular route (one taken by Verlinde, among others) when you're in the early stages of a new idea, butnot one that's been fruitful. None of the three critical criteria have been met so far, and what's more troubling is thatWolfram does not appear to believe his idea needs to. As he publicly stated:
"In the end, if were going to have a complete fundamental theory of physics, were going to have to find the specific rule for our universe. And I dont know how hard thats going to be. I dont know if its going to take a month, a year, a decade or a century. A few months ago I would also have said that I dont even know if weve got the right framework for finding it.
But I wouldnt say that anymore. Too much has worked. Too many things have fallen into place. We dont know if the precise details of how our rules are set up are correct, or how simple or not the final rules may be. But at this point I am certain that the basic framework we have is telling us fundamentally how physics works."
A visual summary of Stephen Wolfram's new 'path to a fundamental theory' that he published in April... [+] of 2020. At this point in time, his idea has failed to meet any of the three criteria necessary for a scientific theory to supersede the pre-existing one.
These are not words that carry any legitimate scientific weight behind them. Wolfram a former physicist who's been scientifically trained is going off of what he feels. Deep in his gut, he knows that he's embarked down a road that must lead to the ultimate destination: a fundamental theory of everything. Whereas an objective observer would see ambiguous signposts with no clear indication of what lies farther down the road ahead, Wolfram unshakably believes he's on the path to Victory Road.
And that's the problem: you need to know those precise details (the ones he's glossing over) in order to evaluate your idea in a scientific manner. The only way to know the scientific value of an idea is to confront it with reality, and ask to what precision both your established and novel predictions agree and disagree with the prevailing theory it's trying to supersede. If you cannot quantify your predictions, and then (at least in principle) go out and test them, you do not yet have a scientific theory.
The idea that the forces, particles and interactions that we see today are all manifestations of a... [+] single, overarching theory is an attractive one, requiring extra dimensions and lots of new particles and interactions. The lack of even a single verified prediction in string theory, combined with its inability to even give the right answer for parameters whose value is already known, is an enormous drawback of this brilliant idea.
Which isn't to say that Wolfram's new idea is wrong, or that his approach will never bear any fruit. It's very hard to have a new idea in physics, and it's even more difficult for that new idea to actually be any good. Wolfram's general approach to physics is not new in and of itself, but his specific angle is novel and isn't obviously wrong. But what he's presented to the world isn't fully-baked or even half-baked; it's an early-stage idea that's still not ready to leave the sandbox.
Much like String Theory, we won't know whether this path is the road to a new fundamental theory of everything or whether it's a blind alley irrelevant for our reality until we get to the end. But unlike String Theory, it is not yet clear that all of General Relativity or Quantum Field Theory can even be extracted from this approach. Until this (or any) new idea can reproduce all of the successes of our pre-existing leading theories, solve problems they cannot solve, and make novel-but-testable predictions, it will not meet the necessary criteria of a scientific theory.
Go here to see the original:
- If Wormholes Are Lurking in Our Universe, This Is How We Could Find Them - ScienceAlert - January 17th, 2021
- New quantum particle may have been accidentally discovered - New Atlas - January 13th, 2021
- Exploring the unanswered questions of our universe with quantum technologies - University of Birmingham - January 13th, 2021
- Wormholes may be lurking in the universe and new studies are proposing ways of finding them - The Conversation UK - January 13th, 2021
- Surprising Discovery of Unexpected Quantum Behavior in Insulators Suggests Existence of Entirely New Type of Particle - SciTechDaily - January 13th, 2021
- New quantum technology projects to solve mysteries of the universe - Open Access Government - January 13th, 2021
- University of Sheffield to lead multi-million pound project which could open up a new frontier in physics - University of Sheffield News - January 13th, 2021
- The Greatest: Four Legends Gather in One Night in Miami - Memphis Flyer - January 13th, 2021
- Raytheon UK part of team transforming the Royal Navy's technology, training and learning solutions - PRNewswire - January 13th, 2021
- Optical selection and sorting of nanoparticles according to quantum mechanical properties - Science Advances - January 13th, 2021
- Birds Have a Mysterious 'Quantum Sense'. For The First Time, Scientists Saw It in Action - ScienceAlert - January 9th, 2021
- The unhackable computers that could revolutionize the future - CNN - January 9th, 2021
- How understanding light has led to a hundred years of bright ideas - The Economist - January 9th, 2021
- Quantum Nanodevice Can Be Both a Heat Engine and Refrigerator at the Same Time - SciTechDaily - January 9th, 2021
- Illumination at the limits of knowledge - The Economist - January 9th, 2021
- Detective Work in Theoretical Physics: Comprehensive Review of Physics of Interacting Particles - SciTechDaily - January 5th, 2021
- The 10 biggest physics stories of 2020 - Livescience.com - January 5th, 2021
- The Schrodinger Equation appears in Criminal Minds - Looper - January 5th, 2021
- Op-Ed: The universe is just a thought, says new theory Or maybe not - Digital Journal - December 26th, 2020
- Here's Why Quantum Computing Will Not Break Cryptocurrencies - Forbes - December 26th, 2020
- Quantum Superposition Evidenced by Measuring Interaction of Light with Vibration - AZoQuantum - December 26th, 2020
- A state of vibration that exists simultaneously at two different times - Tech Explorist - December 26th, 2020
- The Secret Science of Santa - ZME Science - December 26th, 2020
- Matter Deconstructed: The Observer Effect and Photography - PetaPixel - December 26th, 2020
- MIT's quantum entangled atomic clock could still be ticking after billions of years - SYFY WIRE - December 26th, 2020
- If the multiverse exists, are there infinite copies of me? - New Scientist - December 12th, 2020
- What We Are Reading Today: Understanding Quantum Mechanics by Roland Omnes - Arab News - December 12th, 2020
- The Upcoming Women In Quantum Summit III And Its Secret 70 Year-Old Legacy - Forbes - December 12th, 2020
- International Relations goes quantum - News - The University of Sydney - December 12th, 2020
- Scientists just engineered the perfect friction-less fluid and here's what it sounds like! - SYFY WIRE - December 12th, 2020
- MIT Physicists Created a Perfect Fluid and Captured the Sound Listen Here - SciTechDaily - December 12th, 2020
- How Could Quantum Sensing Transform Industries and our Society? - AZoSensors - December 12th, 2020
- The Unbroken Story Birth of the Universe to the Big Bang & Beyond - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel - December 12th, 2020
- Combining Quantum Physics and the Theory of Relativity: Sound-Waves From a Quantum Vacuum at the Black Hole Laboratory - SciTechDaily - November 29th, 2020
- Direct Visualization of Quantum Dots Reveals Shape of Quantum Wave Function of the Trapped Electrons - SciTechDaily - November 29th, 2020
- Quantum Mechanics and the Upholding Power of God - National Catholic Register - November 29th, 2020
- Physicists introduced the notion of the quantum magic square - Tech Explorist - November 29th, 2020
- This physicist keeps the science in Marvel's movies accurate (ish) - Wired.co.uk - November 29th, 2020
- Quantum Time Twist Offers a Way to Create Schrdinger's Clock - Scientific American - October 25th, 2020
- Quantum Tunnels Show How Particles Can Break the Speed of Light - Quanta Magazine - October 25th, 2020
- The Importance of Funding Quantum Physics, Even in a Pandemic - Inside Philanthropy - October 25th, 2020
- Quantum Physics and Early Death | Dan Peterson - Patheos - October 25th, 2020
- A New Timekeeping Theory Reconciles Einstein's Relativity and Quantum Clocks - Science Times - October 25th, 2020
- Archer Materials well-aligned with strategic direction of the US in quantum computing - Proactive Investors Australia - October 25th, 2020
- Could Schrdingers cat exist in real life? We propose an experiment to find out - Scroll.in - October 25th, 2020
- Every Thing You Need to Know About Quantum Computers - Analytics Insight - October 25th, 2020
- Physicists clock the fastest possible speed of sound - Live Science - October 25th, 2020
- Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Physics job with THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG | 230760 - Times Higher Education (THE) - October 25th, 2020
- Diamonds Are a Quantum Scientist's Best Friend: Discovery May Revolutionize the High-Tech Industry - SciTechDaily - October 25th, 2020
- Sumit Das to Deliver 2019-20 A&S Distinguished Professor Lecture on 'Deconstructing Space-Time' - UKNow - October 25th, 2020
- Column: A new era of electric vehicles could be on the way - Gainesville Times - October 25th, 2020
- The TRP turf - The Times of India Blog - October 25th, 2020
- Beyond Homo Sapiens A Slightly Different Roll of the Darwinian Dice (Weekend Feature) - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel - October 25th, 2020
- Quantum and classical computers handle time differently. What does that mean for AI? - The Next Web - September 18th, 2020
- The Fate of Schrdinger's Cat Probably Isn't in The Hands of Gravity, Experiment Finds - ScienceAlert - September 18th, 2020
- Hybrid lightmatter particles offer tantalising new way to control chemistry - Chemistry World - September 18th, 2020
- Scientists Have Shown There's No 'Butterfly Effect' in the Quantum World - VICE - August 19th, 2020
- How Physics Erases The Beginning Of The Universe - Forbes - August 19th, 2020
- Does the Butterfly Effect Exist? Maybe, But Not in the Quantum Realm - Discover Magazine - August 19th, 2020
- Dismantling disciplinary boundaries and decolonizing young India: Decoding the National Educational Policy (20 - The Times of India Blog - August 19th, 2020
- The spread of 'stranger than we can think' - Yahoo Lifestyle - August 19th, 2020
- Raytheon Technologies invests in new transformational STEM high school - PRNewswire - August 19th, 2020
- The Wheel of Time and the Storytelling Problem in the Concept of a Binary - tor.com - August 19th, 2020
- Physicists witness time crystals interacting for the first time ever - New Atlas - August 19th, 2020
- Quantum mechanics is immune to the butterfly effect - The Economist - August 17th, 2020
- Major quantum computational breakthrough is shaking up physics and maths - The Conversation UK - August 17th, 2020
- Physicists watch quantum particles tunnel through solid barriers. Here's what they found. - Space.com - August 17th, 2020
- The science of marketing: taking inspiration from quantum physics - The Drum - August 17th, 2020
- Here's why we need to build a quantum security coalition - World Economic Forum - August 17th, 2020
- The Spread of 'Stranger Than We Can Think' - SFGate - August 17th, 2020
- Nuh Gedik and Pablo Jarillo-Herrero are 2020 Moore Experimental Investigators in Quantum Materials - MIT News - August 17th, 2020
- Students in the news | Announcements - Indiana Gazette - August 17th, 2020
- Indian American Engineer Develops Parachute That Helped Curiosity Land on Mars - India West - August 17th, 2020
- How Quantum Mechanics will Change the Tech Industry - Unite.AI - July 21st, 2020
- Money & Markets: After the virus, make sure you've read the inflationary playbook - E&T Magazine - July 21st, 2020
- Bruce Lee: Inside the mind of the martial arts icon - CNN - July 21st, 2020
- Read Before Pontificating on Quantum Technology - War on the Rocks - July 13th, 2020
- The universe's clock might have bigger ticks than we imagine - Livescience.com - July 13th, 2020
- Testing Einstein's theory of relativity | OUPblog - OUPblog - July 13th, 2020
- Scientists Say This Is the Smallest Unit of Time That Could Exist - lintelligencer - July 13th, 2020