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Sabine Hossenfelder on the closest we have to a theory of everything


She argues that the principle of least action is the closest we have to a theory of everything but, of course, along comes quantum mechanics and…

What’s with quantum mechanics? In quantum mechanics, the principle of least action works somewhat differently. In this case a particle doesn’t just go one optimal path. It actually goes all paths. Each of these paths has its own action. It’s not only that the particle goes all paths, it also goes to all possible endpoints. But if you eventually measure the particle, the wave-function “collapses”, and the particle is only in one point. This means that these paths really only tell you probability for the particle to go one way or another. You calculate the probability for the particle to go to one point by summing over all paths that go there.

This interpretation of quantum mechanics was introduced by Richard Feynman and is therefore now called the Feynman path integral. What happens with the strange dependence on the future in the Feynman path integral? Well, technically it’s there in the mathematics. But to do the calculation you don’t need to know what happens in the future, because the particle goes to all points anyway.

Except, hmm, it doesn’t. In reality it goes to only one point. So maybe the reason we need the measurement postulate is that we don’t take this dependence on the future which we have in the path integral seriously enough.

Sabine Hossenfelder, “The closest we have to a Theory of Everything” at BackRe(Action) (May 21, 2022)

Quantum mechanics keeps the world interesting and reminds us that this is not a deterministic world after all.

You may also wish to read: Sabine Hossenfelder asks, did the W-boson break the Standard Model? Hossenfelder: Is it correct? I don’t know. It could be. But in all honesty, I am very skeptical that this result will hold up. More likely, they have underestimated the error and their result is actually compatible with the other measurements.


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