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Lack of a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) leaves physicists frustrated

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
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From The Economist:

Persistence in the face of adversity is a virtue, of course. And, as all this effort shows, physicists have been nothing if not persistent. Yet it is an uncomfortable fact that the relentless pursuit of ever bigger and better experiments in their field is driven as much by belief as by evidence.

The core of this belief is that Nature’s rules should be mathematically elegant. So far, they have been, so it is not a belief without foundation. But the conviction that the truth must be mathematically elegant can easily lead to a false obverse: that what is mathematically elegant must be true. Hence the unwillingness to give up on GUTs and supersymmetry. New theories have been made by weaving together aspects of older ones. Flipped SU(5), for example, combines GUT with supersymmetry to explain the Higgs mass, the hierarchy problem and matter-antimatter asymmetry—and provides dark-matter candidates to boot. With every fudge applied, though, what were once elegant theories get less so. Some researchers are therefore becoming open to the possibility that the truth-is-beauty argument is a trap, and that the universe is, in fact, fundamentally messy.

That fundamental physics has got as far as it has is, essentially, a legacy of its delivery to political leaders of the mid-20th century of the atom and hydrogen bombs. The consequence of this was that physicists were able to ask for expensive toys—for who knew what else they might come up with. That legacy has now been spent, though, and any privilege physics once had has evaporated. This risks leaving in permanent limbo not only the GUTs and their brethren, but also the sceptical idea of Dr Hossenfelder that the Standard Model really is all there is. And that would surely be the most depressing result of all. More.

Of course, the anonymous Economist is airbrushing a problem. In addition to things that physicists want to believe, there are things they do not wish to consider, for example, that the Big Bang and the fine-tuning of the universe are real.

There are things that they would prefer to consider, such as the multiverse and consciousness as an illusion, which I to say, intellectual suicide.

Their choice.

See also: The Big Bang: Put simply, the facts are wrong.

What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide

and

The illusion of consciousness sees through itself.

3 Replies to “Lack of a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) leaves physicists frustrated

  1. 1
    Mark from CO says:

    Though I have a BS Math degree, I know essentially nothing of the underlying mathematics that undergird cosmology. I keep hearing about this idea of elegance. Isn’t the word ‘elegance’ quite subjective?

    What is meant by elegance with respect to cosmology? Reading Peter Woit’s blog and book, cosmology has readily been willing to incorporate new and obscure mathematical approaches into supersymmetry and strings theory. Is that really elegant?

    I understand that string theory has 10 dimensions and has many possible solutions. Is that really elegant?

    I understand that quantum physics tells us that you’ll get different test results depending on whether you are an observer or not. Is that elegant?

    I’m told that only a handful of people really understand the math behind supersymmetry and strings theory. Is that really elegant?

    Perhaps I’m too old fashion or illiterate, but to me elegant would suggest an easy and understandable solution to a problem.

    Perhaps these top scientists are really trying to fool us with a word play game. Perhaps these scientist are fooling themselves with word play games because they are indeed trying not to consider the implications of what the Standard Model tells us about ourselves, our world and our origins.

    Mark from CO

  2. 2
    PaV says:

    IMHO, the quandry HEP (High Energy Physics = Particle Physics) finds itself is of its own making. They have denied the existence of the ether, and will have to rediscover it in order to ‘unify’ forces.

    That the “ether” doesn’t exist, is an idea which focuses on the famous Michelson-Morley experiment of the 1880’s, and its negative finding, but then further buttressed by Einstein’s notion of Special Relativity (SR). Einstein, though, would later revise his understanding of the ‘ether,’ recognizing that his ‘general theory of relativity’ (GR) required some kind of property of space which could ’cause’ curving, and be ‘curved.’ However, he still insisted that this was not the ‘ether’ of SR. QED, quantum electrodynamics, arising in the later half of the 1920’s under the influence of Paul Dirac, took a very different, almost inverted, view of space, and defined each point of space as a carrier of ‘fields’. (Hence, QED becomes QFT=quantum field theory) In QED, there is no need of an ‘ether.’

    It is possible, however, that the Michelson-Morley experiment has not been satisfactorily understood. For the time being, I demur on this point.

    Nevertheless, what I have found so interesting in my reading is that Einstein revisited and revised his view of the ‘ether,’ admitting that some kind of an ‘ether’ is needed for GR, coupled to my most recent reading of the papers of Herman Minkowski, whose formulations do, in no way, exclude the “aether.”

    I have always found it strange that what passes itself off as SR has almost nothing to do with Einstein’s 1905 paper. (Oh, yes, fundamental equations of this paper continue to apply; however, they are reformulated by Minkowski, and his equations take precedence.)

    The SR students study comes directly from Minkowski’s 1908 paper on ‘space and time’. The drawings and presentations of a typical SR class derive wholly from this 1908 paper.

    How ironic is it, then, that the ‘author’ of Special Relativity, who formulated its consequences and fundamental notions to a greater degree than even Einstein, should continue to hold onto the view of an “aether” which SR supposedly denies and demolishes. If he had not died the following year, I believe that Minkowski would have pointed out the importance of the ‘ether’ and have changed the course of physics. Alas.

    My feeling remains that unless the scientific community seriously reconsiders–and tests– the notion of the ‘ether’, it will not be possible to move beyond the Standard Model.

    As to the article, it is well-written and well put together. I recommend your reading it.

  3. 3
    Pearlman says:

    based on the strongest available science a big bang, not the big bang, is real.
    so if adding in the non-existent missing dark energy and matter one is precluding the actuality.
    reference SPIRAL cosmological redshift hypothesis and cosmological model.

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