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At Mind Matters News: Why did Stephen Hawking give up on a Theory of Everything?


Daniel Díaz and Ola Hössjer continue their discussion of the fine tuning of the universal constants of nature with Robert J. Marks

In a continuing conversation with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz on the fine-tuning of the universe — and Earth — for life, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks asks them about why a Theory of Everything eludes us and about the life-permitting interval — the narrow window for life that the constants of the universe permit.

News, “Why did Stephen Hawking give up on a Theory of Everything?” at Mind Matters News

Robert J. Marks: In fact, I think it was Stephen Hawking who gave up pursuing the Theory of Everything. He appealed to Gödel: No matter what you did, there would be stuff that was true in the universe that you still needed to prove …

Note: Mathematical logician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) is best known for eliminating the idea that there is a simple Answer to Everything: “In an exceptionally elegant essay, science writer Ashutosh Jogalekar (no stranger to controversy) talks about the huge difference Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) made by eliminating the idea that some single, simple explanation would put an end to all questioning about the nature of the universe in favor of some simple materialism.” – Mind Matters News

Robert J. Marks: So are there numerous constants that are finely tuned?

Daniel Díaz: That’s what we want to observe. So what follows is that we develop the theoretical way to measure those qualities for the cosmological and particle model.

What we expect is to find that some of them — maybe most of them — are going to be finely tuned. But again, if there is only one that is finely tuned, then that would be enough to say that the universe is finely tuned.

Note: At Forbes, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel has said that “It takes 26 fundamental constants to give us our universe, but they still don’t give everything” (August 22, 2015)

Robert J. Marks: But again, Stephen Hawking also said that nothing is ever proved in physics, you just accumulate evidence. So if you have one that is not finely tuned, that’s evidence. But if you have a bunch of them that are required to be finely tuned, that’s really evidence that something is going on. And as Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) said, somebody has been monkeying with the universe, so very interesting.

Ola, one of the terms that you use in your papers is LPI. What’s an LPI? What does it mean? And how do we measure it? …

Takehome: The probability, they calculate, that the fine tuning of our universe is simply random is down to 10 to the minus sixty — a very small number.

Here are the previous instalments:

The first episode:

Ours is a finely tuned — and No Free Lunch — universe. Mathematician Ola Hössjer and biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón explain to Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks why nature works so seamlessly. A “life-permitting interval” makes it all possible — but is that really an accident?


Fine-tuning? How Bayesian statistics could help break a deadlock Bayesian statistics are used, for example, in spam filter technology, identifying probable spam by examining vast masses of previous messages. The frequentist approach assesses the probability of future events but the Bayesian approach assesses the probability of events that have already occurred.

The second episode:

Life is so wonderfully finely tuned that it’s frighteningA mathematician who uses statistical methods to model the fine tuning of molecular machines and systems in cells reflects…
Every single cell is like a city that cannot function without a complex network of services that must all work together to maintain life.


Can there be a general theory for fine-tuning? If you make a bowl of alphabet soup and the letters arrange themselves and say, good morning, that is specified. What are the probabilities? Ola Hössjer sees the beauty of mathematics in the fact that seemingly unrelated features in cosmology and biology can be modeled using similar concepts.

The first part of the third episode:

Was the universe created for life forms to live in? How would we know? We can begin by looking at the fundamental constants that underlie the universe. The constants of the universe — gravitational constant, entropy, and cosmological constant — must be finely tuned for life to exist.

You may also wish to read: No Free Lunches: Robert J. Marks: What the Big Bang teaches us about nothing. Bernoulli is right and Keynes is Wrong. Critics of Bernoulli don’t appreciate the definition of “knowing nothing.” The concept of “knowing nothing” can be tricky.


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