Our World: Good science doesn’t have to be true

By Lance Braud.
“Everything’s connected, man,” is a statement hippies and physicists can both agree on. Physicists, however, try to figure out how it’s all connected.
We’ve come a long way from thinking atoms were the fundamental particles of nature, but we’ve seem to hit a brick wall when it comes to connecting the forces of nature together. One part of the puzzle is called “The Standard Model,” a theory which explains and predicts how the forces of magnetism and electricity are related. Unfortunately, it doesn’t explain how these forces relate to gravity.
Fancy theories such as string theory and loop quantum gravity have been proposed as answers, but this space does not allow a meaningful description of either in the space available here. It took NOVA, the television science program, three hours of special effects to explain the problem of quantum mechanics and the possible solution of string theory to a general audience.
But this space does allow a demonstration of what makes “good science,” even when the science has little chance of being true.
There is another theory out there, a competitor of these other theories, that might explain how electricity, magnetism and gravity are connected. Known as “An exceptionally simple theory of everything,” it comes down to just one geometrical shape known as E8, whose symmetries predict the formation of the most basic particles of physics, including a few that have yet to be discovered.
Understanding how these particles are formed are the key to unlocking the working of the Universe, because these particles form all the atoms, and in turn, all of existence.
The theory’s name is actually a pun: the “exceptionally simple” refers to the branch of mathematics that it uses, and not to how easy it is to understand. Can I explain how this shape creates new particles out of neutrons and gluons? No. Do I understand it? No. Is it even true? By the theorist’s own admission

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply