A number of different models can explain the universe, says Armani-Hamed, but how to choose:

It seems inconceivable that this intricate web of perfect mathematical descriptions is random or happenstance. This mystery must have an explanation. But what might such an explanation look like? One common conception of physics is that its laws are like a machine that humans are building in order to predict what will happen in the future. The “theory of everything” is like the ultimate prediction machine—a single equation from which everything follows. But this outlook ignores the existence of the many different machines, built in all manner of ingenious ways, that give us equivalent predictions. …

To Arkani-Hamed, the multifariousness of the laws suggests a different conception of what physics is all about. We’re not building a machine that calculates answers, he says; instead, we’re discovering questions. Nature’s shape-shifting laws seem to be the answer to an unknown mathematical question. This is why Arkani-Hamed and his colleagues find their studies of the amplituhedron so promising. Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron is a question in geometry—one that mathematicians might have pondered, had they discovered the object first. Somehow, the answer to the question of the amplituhedron’s volume describes the behavior of particles—and that answer, in turn, can be rewritten in terms of space and time.

Natalie Wolchover, “A different kind of theory of everything” atThe New Yorker

The amplituhedron? “a jewel-shaped geometric object that challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental constituents of nature.” More from the American Mathematical Society. Peter Woit’s take at *Not Even Wrong* is worth noting. He sees it as more hopeful than much string theory stuff. But Arkani-Hamed, it seems, says all kinds of things.

Rightly or otherwise, this all reminds some of us of Eugene Wigner’s The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

*See also:* The ongoing failure of supersymmetry

and

String theory defeated but never wrong

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