The Theory of Everything

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The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 2:52 pm 

I thought it might be of interest to announce that The Great Courses company just released a 12 hour video course by me on the subject of a Theory of Everything.

It's a birds eye view of a vast field. When you finish, you'll have the big picture. Digging into the details will require a different resource.

You can find it here: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-theory-of-everything-the-quest-to-explain-all-reality.html

Note that it goes on sale periodically and you can typically get it for about $70 or $80.

If you buy it, please comment on it here.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Braininvat on March 7th, 2017, 4:56 pm 

You can't accuse Don of spamming. One, it's on topic. Two, and the more important reason, is that he has a large particle accelerator handy and can fire protons at you if you make him cross.*



* in fact, I live near a neutrino detector in the Black Hills of South Dakota and IIRC, Fermilab once fired a whole slew of very soft bullets in our direction. People here hardly felt a thing.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 5:03 pm 

Well, it's semi-spamming. But it really is pretty good. It's amazing what a good producer can do.

And we do have that neutrino beam, which can punch through the Earth with ease. Dr. Evil has nothing on me....

Bwahahaha....
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Forest_Dump on March 7th, 2017, 5:34 pm 

I actually have a question that I hope is on topic and that I had been hoping Lincoln would answer. Back when I learned what little physics I know, pretty much the entire metaphor used to translate the "math" of discovery was still as particles represented as little "balls" very much like planets in a solar system. There was a lot of empty space but all the "properties" of the particles were neatly contained in discrete little packages and even when these were busted up, the result was (metaphoicly) just smaller but still discrete packages (called dinguses or dingi of various kinds) neatly containing their various properties. This was also the way it was being taught when I monitored introductory university physics just to steal ideas on teaching style (and at a top level university at that). So now, following what I interpret to be results from all this busting up of the smaller packages and the Higg Boson stuff, it is my understanding that there are no particles or "packages", just "waves". (I am sure a lot of this stuff is covered by the physics club buffs here but I find a lot of it is also designed more for obfuscation than elluciation of each other so I avoid it.) So, my question:

Assuming my characterization of the very recent physics is more or less correct, do you foresee any kind of paradigmatic change in how this stuff will be thought about, how it will be taught, what different kinds of metaphor or translation will be used (i.e., different than the solar system image of particles orbiting a centre, etc.)? Has any kind of change happened already or do you think there will be change in the future? (I note that even our conception of DNA is as a bunch of balls linked together into the familiar double helix but even that now seems potentially antiquated and obsolete). Or is this covered in your lecture series?
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Forest_Dump on March 7th, 2017, 6:34 pm 

I am still rolling some of this around and don't want to get too bogged down with all of the technical details (so please overlook if I get some of this wrong) but I am aware that most people including me, when you translate some of this stuff, prefer to think in terms of discrete objects with clearly defined boundaries that help keep things in place. So I might be asked something about ancient Mayans, Romans or Paleoindians, etc., which could include something like is this a typical Mayan pyramid or piece of pottery, etc., and have to consider what is or how do you identify the boundary between Mayan vs. non Mayan pottery or pyramids (or US vs. Canadian politics or health care, etc.) even when at different levels such boundaries may be meaningless (to at least some).

In your area of physics I suspect that most of your "meaning" comes from squiggles on a blackboard calibrated with machines that go beep, lights that flash and numbers on a computer screen. You only go to the solar system models to communicate with us knuckle draggers and the less bright physics undergrads until they learn to toss that aside for the squiggles on a blackboard. I may have picked up the odd little bit about the waves, etc., from Higgs Boson videos but when I go to a science center and compare the weights of equal size balls of lead vs iron or uranium I think in terms of discrete packages with a clear defined boundary containing the properties of colour, mass, hardness, etc., and thinking of those balls of metal as being without "particles" is quite a mental stretch and does not become intuitively obvious. Do you see this changing and how? What might be similar changes do to people's thinking higher up in the relevant intellectual fields (other than the wacky stuff having different directions to drift off into)?
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 11:30 pm 

Models are good in a reason of applicability. Those ball and stick models of organic molecules have value. They are wrong in detail, mind you; but they have value.

The solar system atom has value. Again, wrong. But there's a reason we teach it.

At the deepest and most fundamental level, at least at the leading edge of knowledge, the smallest particles are localized vibrations...what used to be called wavicles. Essentially, they are quantized vibrations of fields. And, if you want the most modern paradigm, there are no solid things. Everything is vibrational energy. The different vibrating fields can talk to other vibrating fields, which is how an electron transfers energy to a photon and so forth.

Mind you, those of us on the hairy edge of knowledge know that these models are themselves imperfect. What seem to be the smallest particles are actually probably a composite of smaller vibrations of constituent fields. And it may be that we will get to a size scale where we have to chuck these ideas for something else. Current thinking (and don't believe this) is that we will eventually find that the universe consists of quanta of space or time.

And there are ideas where space and time are emergent properties from even more abstract ideas.

So we don't know where we'll end up. But we can talk about the mindset of the current theories.

This is probably my best simple explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBeALt3rxEA
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 7th, 2017, 11:32 pm 

This doesn't cover the wave nature, but does cover the idea of how we view atomic matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt8-ndOGSUk
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Forest_Dump on March 7th, 2017, 11:55 pm 

I will be giving these a go, possibly tomorrow, so thanks. I knew the wave would come up but of course I visualize that in terms of water where my mind's eye sees the boundary of surface of water rising. In that model a thing with a defined boundary. Vibrations I can get but again it is someTHING that vibrates. Even air is rationalized in my mind as molecules, being tiny objects, vibrating (although I have difficulty imagining a case where the ground is not also vibrating). While sure I can also see translating and stepping beyond those kinds of models and metaphors I have to admit that I also wonder to what extent we are hard-wired, perhaps by biophysics to some degree, to require some conception of solid, bounded objects. And I wonder what will happen if someone over the next 10 or 100 years does come up with a real paradigmatic shift in how this stuff is conceptualized.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on March 8th, 2017, 10:24 am 

Perhaps I focused on the wrong facets of your question.

Regarding boundaries, it's easy to think of examples that are a little less cut and dried. For instance. What is the boundary of the Earth? It's tempting to think of the Earth's surface, but there is also the atmosphere. And, as you know, the atmosphere grows less dense with altitude. You can't draw a boundary, except arbitrarily.

Maybe another option is the idea of atoms as a solar system. Where does the solar system end? The Kuiper belt? The Oort cloud? And then when? You could imagine the heliopause, but that is arbitrary too.

If you look at solar systems from the point of view of the galaxy, each solar system can be imagined as a point, yet as one gets closer, each of them gain fuzzier boundaries.

On the scale of the universe, each galaxy can be thought of as a point...or at least a ball. In this image, each little dot is a galaxy (and big dots are clusters of galaxies). Yet we know of each galaxy as an object with an ill defined boundary. And even at these large scales, we see filaments, nexuses and voids.

In short, the idea of little hard objects with boundaries is really wrong all levels of the universe. Even the smoothest mirror has surface imperfections that are small.

Maybe this helps?

Note here that I avoided all of the wave thing. That's an entirely different kettle of fish.


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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby hyksos on November 22nd, 2017, 6:30 am 

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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby hyksos on November 22nd, 2017, 7:11 am 

Lincoln » March 8th, 2017, 7:30 am wrote:Models are good in a reason of applicability. Those ball and stick models of organic molecules have value. They are wrong in detail, mind you; but they have value.

The solar system atom has value. Again, wrong. But there's a reason we teach it.

Despite electron's otherwise inexplicable quantum behavior, they do act in such a way that they conserve orbital angular momentum. In other words, in certain contexts we can pretend that electrons are actually revolving in a circular orbit around the nucleus. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hb ... rbmag.html
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on November 22nd, 2017, 10:44 am 

Sort of. It's a model with some applicability. But electrons are most certainly not orbiting the nucleus. Take a look at the Schroedinger orbitals shapes. They aren't planetary-like in nature.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Watson on November 23rd, 2017, 6:01 pm 

Mind you, those of us on the hairy edge of knowledge know that these models are themselves imperfect. What seem to be the smallest particles are actually probably a composite of smaller vibrations of constituent fields. And it may be that we will get to a size scale where we have to chuck these ideas for something else. Current thinking (and don't believe this) is that we will eventually find that the universe consists of quanta of space or time.


How many levels below Quarks are these smaller vibrations of constituent field? It does beg the question, What is the cause or components of the vibrating constituent fields?

Could it be the fundamentals of matter/energy is going to be conjunctive variable of time and energy creating that which matter is ultimately built of?

At some point, be it quark bits or smaller, matter must become less tangible and less physically identifiable, and more ethereal, and whimsical. Sounds like fields of bits of energies forming temporarily in time and coagulating at the right frequencies to form the various particles of the fundamental matter.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby mitchellmckain on November 23rd, 2017, 6:42 pm 

Lincoln » March 7th, 2017, 10:30 pm wrote:What seem to be the smallest particles are actually probably a composite of smaller vibrations of constituent fields.

No. I judge this to be very unlikely. String theory works well enough to show this. All the fundamental particles look like the vibrational modes of strings/branes. Even if M/string theory is ultimately incorrect, this strongly suggests that the one thing we should not expect is that these fundamental particles are composite.

And that is not the only reason. We have reach the point where pulling the particles (quarks) away from each other requires enough energy to create more partlcles (quarks). That I believe is another strong indicator that we have reach the end of reductionism in physics.

Lincoln » March 7th, 2017, 10:30 pm wrote:Current thinking (and don't believe this) is that we will eventually find that the universe consists of quanta of space or time.

If you mean it is all pointing towards a purely geometric theory, where the fundamental particles are the vibrational modes of space-time itself, then yes I think that is exactly where this is all headed and whether you believe in it or not is hardly relevant. But what could possibly be your problem with this, I cannot imagine.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby mitchellmckain on November 23rd, 2017, 6:47 pm 

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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on November 24th, 2017, 12:33 am 

Hi guys...

We don't know how many levels of structure there are below quarks. There may be but one, or there may be many. I'd bet on many, but I wouldn't bet much. The short answer is nobody knows and anybody who makes confident assertions on this topic is either a fool or a liar.

The characteristic scale of superstrings is of order 10-35 meters, while the smallest thing we can currently resolve is of order 5 x 10-20 meters. Round numbers, that's 15 orders of magnitude. That's the difference between the size of a proton and you. Think about how many different structures occur over that particular range of scales. It seems highly improbable that nothing happens between the minimum current size measurement and the Planck/string scale.

This isn't to say that we know that strings aren't the final answer. We actually know precisely zero about this, but it might be true. But I would bet that there are a few levels of matter between quarks and strings.

And the issue with the energy of removing two mutually-interacting quarks is a red herring. This is a consequence of the nature of the binding force and not sizes. QCD is an abelian (e.g. self interaction) theory/force, while non-abelian theories (e.g. electromagnetism) don't experience this phenomenon.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby mitchellmckain on November 24th, 2017, 3:58 am 

Lincoln » November 23rd, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote:We don't know how many levels of structure there are below quarks. There may be but one, or there may be many. I'd bet on many, but I wouldn't bet much. The short answer is nobody knows and anybody who makes confident assertions on this topic is either a fool or a liar.

We can suppose anything. We can suppose the universe began yesterday with all our memories the way they are. The question is whether we have one single reason to suppose the thing? Do we have one single reason to believe that electrons and quarks are composite? We do not.

Lincoln » November 23rd, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote:The characteristic scale of superstrings is of order 10-35 meters, while the smallest thing we can currently resolve is of order 5 x 10-20 meters. Round numbers, that's 15 orders of magnitude. That's the difference between the size of a proton and you. Think about how many different structures occur over that particular range of scales. It seems highly improbable that nothing happens between the minimum current size measurement and the Planck/string scale.

Yes and 10-35 meters is infinitely bigger than point particles, which is what electrons and other fundamental particles look like as far as we can tell.

Lincoln » November 23rd, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote:This isn't to say that we know that strings aren't the final answer.

No, we do not know either way. Supersymmetry in particular may be wrong and without this the outlook for string theory as we currently understand it is a bit dim. It is looking a lot like we are missing a big piece of the puzzle.

Lincoln » November 23rd, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote: We actually know precisely zero about this, but it might be true.

That we do not know if string theory is correct does not mean we know nothing. It does not mean string theory tells us nothing about these fundamental particles. And seeing all the fundamental particles line up as the vibrational modes of strings does not look like a coincidence. It has fundamental rather than composite written all over it, at least it does to me.

Lincoln » November 23rd, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote: But I would bet that there are a few levels of matter between quarks and strings.

And I would not. I think that is a poor bet.
More physics beyond the Standard Model? Yeah I would bet on that one.
But not levels of matter smaller than electrons and "quarks."
I would not bet on something for which we have no evidence whatsoever.
Furthermore, it makes me uncomfortable how much this looks like rooting around in the refuse pile of old ideas and trying to use them again. I think it is more likely that if we will find the answer then it will be based on completely new ideas never considered before.

Lincoln » November 23rd, 2017, 11:33 pm wrote:And the issue with the energy of removing two mutually-interacting quarks is a red herring. This is a consequence of the nature of the binding force and not sizes. QCD is an abelian (e.g. self interaction) theory/force, while non-abelian theories (e.g. electromagnetism) don't experience this phenomenon.

This is true and yet the problem with this is that it looks like an excuse for why we should say quarks even exist when the fact is that we cannot get them alone. When we pull a proton apart, we do not get quarks. That is a fact. So my point is that we have reached a point where even saying that things like protons and pions are composed of quarks has a different meaning -- a little bit more abstract than what we meant by this before with atoms composed of protons, neutrons and electrons.

So in opposition to your "levels of matter between quarks and strings" supposition I propose an alternative which I see as being just as possible if not more so. This is that we have already gone too far and invented "levels of matter" that are not even real but simply artifacts of our mathematical representations and useful tools for explanation but not things which actually exist an any substantial way. Notice that I am not actually proposing this. In other places I defend the theory of quarks. But this still looks just as possible to me as your "levels of matter between quarks and strings" idea.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on November 24th, 2017, 10:16 am 

Quarks are real. I discovered one of them in 1995. (Well, me and 800 of my closest friends.) And there is really no doubt about the existence of quarks. Although the person who proposed them (Gell Man) thought of them as a mathematical constructs, the experimental community established that they exist in the 1970s. The fact that protons consisted of something predates that by at least a decade. And the discovery of the gluon in 1979 bolstered the theory of QCD to the point where it is not argued by any expert.

There absolutely IS reason to presuppose a substructure to quarks and leptons and that is called the flavor problem or generation problem. Hell, even the idea of superstrings presupposes a substructure, at least in a manner of speaking. In any event, the experimental community thinks the substructure hypothesis to be of sufficient merit as to explore it. Hundreds of papers have been published using Tevatron and LHC data on the hypothesis, including many dozens which I co-authored. These are in respected journals such as Physical Review Letters and Physics Letters B. I even wrote a cover article in Scientific American on the subject in 2012. The preon idea is not well regarded by the community, but it is a credible one.

Nobody...even me...should believe that quarks and leptons have substructure. There is zero experimental evidence for that hypothesis to be correct. However, the Standard Model is sufficiently robust that there is very little experimental evidence for any extension. That's why the research community is rummaging around in the data looking for clues. The one possible real clue is in the g-2 data and we'll get a better handle on that in 2020 when it starts taking data for real. And, at least for me, the clues inherent in the existence of three generations of matter is compelling enough for me to spend my research time looking into that, rather than other attractive questions.

I looked you up...the internet is good for that sort of thing. Congratulations on your book. Have you considered using a publisher for future efforts rather than self-publishing? Your paper of 2000 seemed reasonable. I presume that this was your MA work? Your coauthor continues to generate an ongoing body of work. I was unable to find any additional published work of yours to better evaluate your credentials.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Braininvat on November 24th, 2017, 3:04 pm 

So glad you kids found each other.
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Re: The Theory of Everything

Postby Lincoln on November 24th, 2017, 3:43 pm 

My stay here will be brief. I wouldn't have seen it except that the "auto notify" told me someone posted on this thread.
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