Ask Ethan: How close are we to a Theory of Everything? (Synopsis)

"Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard." -Robert Jackson

Ever since we began uncovering the laws of nature, humanity has looked for a way to simplify them. We attempt to create an overarching framework that encapsulates all the different particles, interactions, forces, and concepts into a single, unified, simpler structure. From this, then, we can derive all the non-fundamental laws and rules, obtaining the complex Universe we see today.

The idea of unification holds that all three of the Standard Model forces, and perhaps even gravity at higher energies, are unified together in a single framework. Image credit: © ABCC Australia 2015

But this idea has its challenges: the complexity of what we know today requires that new symmetries must exist in order to create this unification we seek. And those symmetries, then, must be broken today, which predicts the existence of new particles and interactions in addition to the ones we already know. Yet we’ve searched for these with great rigor, and none of it has come to fruition. Still, the hope of unification exists.

When symmetries are restored (at the top of the potential), unification occurs. However, the breaking of symmetries, at the bottom of the hill, corresponds to the Universe we have today, complete with new species of massive particles. Image credit: Luis Álvarez-Gaumé & John Ellis, Nature Physics 7, 2–3 (2011).

What progress have we made towards unification, and what does our current knowledge mean for its existence (or non-existence)? Find out on this edition of Ask Ethan!


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“… the ultimate arbiter of what the Universe is like isn't our ideas about it, but rather the results of experiment and observations."


First scientists should discard Einstein's relativity - you cannot combine it with anything because there are idiocies in it. Just an example:

Thibault Damour: "The paradigm of the special relativistic upheaval of the usual concept of time is the twin paradox. Let us emphasize that this striking example of time dilation proves that time travel (towards the future) is possible. As a gedanken experiment (if we neglect practicalities such as the technology needed for reaching velocities comparable to the velocity of light, the cost of the fuel and the capacity of the traveller to sustain high accelerations), it shows that a sentient being can jump, "within a minute" (of his experienced time) arbitrarily far in the future, say sixty million years ahead, and see, and be part of, what (will) happen then on Earth. This is a clear way of realizing that the future "already exists" (as we can experience it "in a minute")."

After a century of brainwashing this jump in the future, sixty million years ahead, sounds science-like but I'm sure that even the most deranged Einsteinian feels some discomfort.

By Pentcho Valev (not verified) on 08 Jul 2017 #permalink

Paul Dirac I recall had once said: "One should conclude that pretty mathematics by itself is not an adequate reason for nature to have made use of a theory." He was speaking of magnetic monopoles in particular but I suppose that goes double for all of these other attempts to go beyond the Standard Model and General Relativity.

Besides proton decay (which is so far coming up empty), are there other low-energy consequences to GUTs and string theory and these other attempts to stretch the frontiers of physics? Only neutrino physics so far seems to be yielding any results that go beyond the Standard Model.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) on 08 Jul 2017 #permalink


There's a whole topic on Wikipedia discussing this issue:

There is also a great quote on that page:

"More recently (in 2005), Robert B. Laughlin (Physics Nobel Laureate, Stanford University), wrote about the nature of space:

"It is ironic that Einstein's most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed . . . The word 'ether' has extremely negative connotations in theoretical physics because of its past association with opposition to relativity. This is unfortunate because, stripped of these connotations, it rather nicely captures the way most physicists actually think about the vacuum. . . . Relativity actually says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of matter pervading the universe, only that any such matter must have relativistic symmetry." (i.e., as measured)."

Now luck will have it that I am almost finished with my Aether simulator out of which all the laws of nature should automatically emerge. So to answer the question 'How close are we to a Theory of Everything?' I would say we'll have it in September this year or at least the beginning of 2018. ?

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 08 Jul 2017 #permalink

If there was a GUT, it would need to actually include gravity (instead of ignoring it) and be markedly different than the standard model which has hand tuned parameters all over the place that the standard model does even pretend to explain, except to hand wave them away as being 'absurd'. Absurd in this case means: "We have no idea."
Theory of everything (TOE) mania was what superstrings were supposed to be for...that turned out worse than useless, as people who should know better started chasing their mathematical tails trying to get to the bottom of a figurative Mandelbrot set. While there is nothing wrong playing with yourself mathematically, it shouldn't be funded as physics or science.
Any language including math can be subverted to create meaningless fictions. It's called bullshitting, and humans excel at it.

The four forces (gravity, EM, weak, strong) evolved from one force?
I never heard of that before.

What did the one unifying force evolve from?


I don't understand this stuff nearly as well as you, but my compliments on your post!

Will GUTs and TOEs be resolved by P-branes?

Maybe unification is the wrong approach. The caption to the first graphic says it all "The idea that the forces, particles and interactions that we see today are all manifestations of a single, overarching theory is an attractive one, requiring extra dimensions and lots of new particles and interactions."

I actually believe that forces, particles and interactions that we see today are all manifestations of a single, overarching theory without requiring extra dimensions nor lots of new particles and interactions. It's called the electromagnetic field theory. This means that we have to express the nuclear forces and that of gravity as manifestations of the electromagnetic force.

This isn't possible using the current Standard Model because it assumes particles and interactions that probably don't exist; e.g. when quarks were invented in 1964 (to sort out the particle zoo), they made up 99% of the mass of the proton/neutron; at the turn of the 21st century, they contributed 10%; and now they contribute only 1%; the rest being made up by massless gluons.

In adddition to nucleons having 3 quarks and an innumerable number of gluons, they also contain other quark-antiquark particles and the 3 quarks have been relegated to valence quarks. My conclusion is that this is due to the fact that new evidence dosen't support the quark/gluon theory which means that the strong and weak nuclear interactions are fatally flawed.

However, if you consider that the nucleons are made of positrons in a nucleus orbited by electrons, you'll find that when they combine, they form nuclei by forming nuclear orbitals just like atoms form molecules by forming molecular orbitals. Hence, there's no need for a strong nuclear interaction. However, you can see that nuclear bond strength determines the strong force; and that the short range of the 'strong' force is because the nucleons have to be close enough for bonding to take place.

That means that gravity has to be explained in terms of the electromagnetic field theory. Although there's talk in the fringes of science about 'dipole gravity', I'm not fully aware or confident of this theory. But it's a step in the right direction as the dipoles are electric ones.

My tuppence worth is that atoms have very tiny nuclei with all the positive charge on them giving them very high charge densities; whereas all the negative charge is thinly spread over humongous areas of shells giving them very low charge densities. This disparity of charge densities and the separation between the positive and negative charges, gives rise to tidal forces that can explain the Kasimir effect better than QM as tidal forces can give rise to repulsion as well as attraction a phenomenon that has already been experienced but not explained by QM.

My theory of nucleonic structure can explain beta-, beta+, and electron capture better than the Standard Model: See for further details.

By Kasim Muflahi (not verified) on 08 Jul 2017 #permalink

CFT wrote: "Theory of everything (TOE) mania was what superstrings were supposed to be for…that turned out worse than useless, as people who should know better started chasing their mathematical tails..."

Soon theoretical physicists will be so discredited that Flat-Earthers will be more trustworthy and may even come to power in science. Flat-earth idiocies are more reasonable e.g. than this:

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, pp. 123-124: "If everyone, everywhere and at all times, is to measure the same speed for the beam from your imaginary spacecraft, a number of things have to happen. First of all, as the speed of your spacecraft increases, the length of everything - you, your measuring devices, your spacecraft - shortens in the direction of motion, as seen by everyone else. Furthermore, your own time slows down exactly enough so that when you haul out your newly shortened yardstick, you are guaranteed to be duped into measuring the same old constant value for the speed of light. What we have here is A COSMIC CONSPIRACY OF THE HIGHEST ORDER."

By Pentcho Valev (not verified) on 08 Jul 2017 #permalink

Magnetism and fermions have a special relationship. Electrons will absorb magnetic flux lines in order to reduce that energy that it takes for these electrons to move together. Magnetism can reduce the charge of an electron so that electrons can maintain their distance from each other together using less coulomb energy. This magnetic influence on the nature of the fermion is what the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect is all about.

The composite fermions is a pseudo particle concept that has been developed to explain how the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect influences the electron.

Quarks are fermions too. They also have a special relationship to magnetic field lines but not the same as that of the electrons. Quarks can change their nature when they encounter magnetic knots (AKA instantons) that develop inside the nucleon when these knots are formed in response to twisting of unequal magnetic field lines.

These knots are explained here

Magnetic nano knots evoke Lord Kelvin's vortex theory of atoms

How can the formation of these knots be controlled? I wonder what the nature of the magnetic lines must be like to from knots inside a nucleon. A gamma ray can come out of a nucleus and that EMF has a high frequency and extreme power…is that a clue? Does the magnetic knot localized inside a nucleon require magnetic field lines of extreme density in order for the magnetic flux to make an impact?

The change in nucleons do not show up in ordinary applications of magnetism, so what kinds of changes in magnetism produce nucleon effects? Protons and neutrons are each about 1.4*10e–15 m in diameter. A quark is smaller yet. It is, as one might expect, very small indeed. The data tell us that the radius of the quark is smaller than 43 billion-billionths of a centimeter (0.43 x 10e−16 cm). That’s 2000 times smaller than a proton radius, which is about 60,000 times smaller than the radius of a hydrogen atom.

The job that is needed to be done is to get enough magnetism inside the nucleon to make a difference. But the density of magnetic flux that is required to interact with a quark is truly huge. Everyday sources of magnetism cannot produce the density in the magnetic flux that is large enough for the quark to feel it.

The way to satisfy the high power requirement for magnetic flux is concentration of magnetic radiation similar to how light is concentrated by a laser. There are certain structures in nature that can convert, store, and focus spin, the fundamental basis of magnetism in open ended quantity. This structure operates on the Nano level which is close to the nucleons that are the target of this intense magnetism so that the inverse square law works to the advantage of magnetic amplification.

The feasibility of nucleon decay depends on the existence of proper nanoscale structures that are able to concentrate, amplify, and focus spin on the scale that can be meaningful and interactive with the various nuclear components. Another factor that makes the organization of spin more complicated is the effect of entanglement, coherence, condensation, and superconductivity on these nano-scale structures that might support super-strong magnetic flux projection. Here super-radiance becomes an issue where the power of the magnetic field is multiplied by the number of nano-scale structures in the condensate. This number in indeterminate and can conceivably be huge.

Metallic hydrogen forms a superconductive wire like nanostructure that can produce all the requirements necessary to produce huge highly focused and dense nano-scale magnetic field flux lines.


The influence of strong magnetic fields and instantons on the phase structure of the two-flavor NJL model.


Both in heavy-ion collisions as in magnetars very strong magnetic fields are produced, which has its influence on the phases of matter involved. In this paper we investigate the effect of strong magnetic fields (B _ 5m2_/e = 1.7×10e19G) on the chiral symmetry restoring phase transition using the Nambu-Jona-Lasinio model. It is observed that the pattern of phase transitions depends on the relative magnitude of the magnetic field and the instanton interaction strength. We study two specific regimes in the phase diagram, high chemical potential and zero temperature and vice versa, which are of relevance for neutron stars and heavy-ion collisions respectively. In order to shed light on the behavior of the phase transitions we study the dependence of the minima of the effective potential on the occupation of Landau levels. We observe a near-degeneracy of multiple minima with differing occupation numbers, of which some become the global minimum upon changing the magnetic field or the chemical potential. These minima differ considerably in the amount of chiral symmetry breaking and in some cases also of isospin breaking.

As explained in this reference, It has been experimentally shown in quark plasmas that the interaction between quarks (fermions) and magnetic field change the charge/spin, color, and mass of the quark. These changes affect the stability of the nucleon resulting in the disintegration of the nucleon into mesons.

Hi all,

There is a new science in development that postulates that the universe emerges from entanglement. I wrote a number of posts about this idea that I put together to provide background about this subject. This thread fits into this subject.

Coherence is fundamental

Throughout the vacuum, electromagnetic fluctuations are produced at a constant average rate under the purview of the uncertainty principle. The name that tags these fluctuations is virtual particle production. These fluctuations in the fabric of space-time are called “quantum spin liquid”. The string theory science name for the pure vacuum without mass floating around in it is de Sitter space. This space produces only dark energy and is there General relativity works best.

In this space, all the virtual particles are maximally entangled and the surface of space can describe what is going on inside since everything is connected to everything else by entanglement.

This space forms a quantum spin liquids. This space may be considered "quantum disordered" ground states of spin systems, in which zero point fluctuations are so strong that they prevent conventional magnetic long range order.

More interestingly, the vacuum as a quantum spin liquid is a prototypical example of ground state with massive many-body entanglement, of a degree sufficient to render these states distinct phases of matter.

The vacuum is completely entangled at long range as identical patterns of virtual particle emerge throughout the vacuum, with each pattern strongly entangling other identical patterns.

Just by chance, patterns of virtual particles come into existence at wide spread locations in the vacuum and become connected.

Quantum entanglement, a phenomenon in which virtual particles as fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, shed their separate identities and assume a shared existence, their properties becoming strongly correlated with one another. The virtual particles act identically no matter how far away they are separated. Normally physicists think of these correlations as spanning space, linking far-flung locations in a phenomenon that Albert Einstein famously described as “spooky action at a distance.”

Even harder to accept, there is a growing body of research investigating how these correlations can span time as well. What happens now can be correlated with what happens later, in ways that elude a simple mechanistic explanation. In effect, you can have spooky action at a delay.

These correlations seriously mess with our intuitions about time and space. Not only can two events be correlated, linking the earlier one to the later one, but two events can become correlated such that it becomes impossible to say which is earlier and which is later. Each of these events is the cause of the other, as if each were the first to occur.

But perhaps most important, researchers are working towards a new way to unify quantum theory with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes the structure of space-time. The world we experience in daily life, in which events occur in an order determined by their locations in space and time, is just a subset of the possibilities that quantum physics allows.

Some physicists take this as evidence for a profoundly non intuitive worldview, in which quantum correlations are more fundamental than spacetime, and space-time itself is somehow built up from correlations among events, in what might be called quantum relationalism. The argument updates Gottfried Leibniz and Ernst Mach’s idea that spacetime might not be a God-given backdrop to the world, but instead might derive from the material contents of the universe.

In this view quantum entanglement is more fundamental than spacetime because quantum entanglement generates spacetime. Quantum entanglement is not sensitive to the constraints of spacetime, that is, quantum entanglement connects events without regard to walls of matter, distance or the past and future.

The key to control spacetime and the forces that operate in spacetime is the control of entanglement and coherence. This is what LENR engineering is all about.

How coherence manipulation produces force.

In the EmDrive, microwaves set up standing electromagnetic waves inside the metal cone that disturbs the coherence in the vacuum so that virtual particle coherence is reduced. This application of energy to the vacuum is similar to inflating a balloon by increasing the air pressure inside the balloon. There is a unbalancing of the vacuum between the inside of the cone and the outside that remains neutral. This is like a balloon that has a higher air pressure on the inside of the balloon than the outside. An adiabatic inertial reaction force is produced to rebalance the imbalance setup in the vacuum generated by the microwaves. This inertial force attempts to rebalance the uneven vacuum energy distribution that exists between the inside and outside of the cone. The cone is configured to focus this adiabatic inertial reaction force in a desired direction.

In a balloon, the air pressure is equal throughout the volume of the balloon, but in a metal cone, the standing wave pattern of the standing waves produced by the magnetron are unequal throughout the volume of the cone so there will be less force generated in one given section of the volume than in another. The unequal distribution of vacuum energy will resolve into a force vector in a preferred direction. The key to optimizing the force produced by the cone is to maximize the imbalance in the emf standing wave distribution inside the cone.

One way to test this theory is to test the reduction of the half-life of an radioactive isotope in the regions of positive vacuum energy against the result produce in the regions of negative vacuum energy. The positive vacuum energy should produce a reduction in the half life in the radioactive isotope.

This experiment can be done in a home microwave with a turntable. Find the zone of maximum microwave resonance and place the isotope there. You should see a reduction of the half-life as a result in the amplified strength of the weak force at the point of maximum microwave strength.

By the way, this is how George Egely produces LENR in his microwave reactor.

Erik Verlinde not only postulates that gravity emerges from entropic forces, but also the other erstwhile fundamental forces such as the electroweak force. The electroweak force is what LENR revolves around.

Just like gravity can change in strength based on phase space imbalance, so too can the weak force change in strength by an imbalance in phase space. Entropy might turn out to be the primal mover in the cosmos from which all force emerges so that what we now consider as fundamental force emerges as a derivative reaction to minimize the entropic phase space imbalance between regions in space/time.

What is phase space imbalance? An example of phase space imbalance is an inflated balloon where the pressure inside the balloon is greater than the pressure outside the balloon. When the balloon is deflated, there is a force generated that pushes air out of the balloon to the outside so that the entropy of the air can be minimized.

In LENR, there is a phase space imbalance that increases the weak force. That phase space imbalance is produced by the existence of a Bose condensation or superconductive state that develops in which the incoherent outside environment seeks to destroy the coherent state though the minimization of entropy.

In the video below, Erik Verlinde identifies this type of entropic force as “Adiabatic reaction force”. This is the force that develops to minimize entropy when phase space becomes imbalanced.

In LENR, there are coherent processes that develop which enhance the strength of the weak force when the entropic imbalance is being stabilized.

Here below is Erik Verlinde’s name of the video that contains the explanation of phase space and the how force is produced from it. Sorry, for some reason the direct link does not work

Erik Verlinde - The Hidden Phase Space of Our Universe

Nice one, John (#8) :)
As for 9, 10, 11, seems they are hell bent on flogging their own ideas! :(

@John #8,

"Will GUTs and TOEs be resolved by P-branes?"

I don't think it will.

String theory started well with Kaluza–Klein theory and adding a 5th dimension to GR, but there it already stops. What needs to be done at this point is go back to what Maxwell did, and look at space as a medium and do as he did and work on a mechanical model, out of which his EM field equations flowed. That's in a part also how the theory of the Higgs Boson and Higds field was found, thinking of space full of small particles.

So IMO there is no use in digging deeper into all describing formulations, that's a dead end it does what it needs to do but that's it.

If we want to learn something new we need to try to simulate a medium with a 5th dimension. An example of such a medium is a foam, it has air-bubbles wich you can see as a kind of space filling particles and it has a 5th dimensional fluid running between those bubbles. Think of the example of an ant running along a wire he/she is in the 5th dimension, it's not at all difficult to understand.

Anyway when you simulate such a medium with the right dynamical interactions, then clusters will appear which are the 'particles' we talk about in physics, even Gravity will just emerge … and so you'll get a TOE.

What Einstein did with GR was perfect do describe the effects of gravity, the same for QM etc. but if we want to understand how the universe works we need to go back to Maxwell's time and how they thought about the Aether as a 'granular' medium. The cool thing is that we now have the CFD technology and power to simulate al kinds of mediums. That's why the future is in condensed matter and CFD research.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 08 Jul 2017 #permalink

@ elle

"What needs to be done at this point is go back to what Maxwell did, and look at space as a medium and do as he did and work on a mechanical model, out of which his EM field equations flowed. That’s in a part also how the theory of the Higgs Boson and Higds field was found, thinking of space full of small particles."

that's NOT how Higgs boson was found or proposed. There's plenty of info out there about masses of elementary particles, fields and symmetry breaking, so no need to invent fictional stories on what the theoretical models for it were or are. Space is space and fields are fields... don't mix the two

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 09 Jul 2017 #permalink

@ elle
re your #4

am not holding my breath for many reasons, but mainly for these ones:
- you seem to struggle with understanding physics that we already have sufficient theoretical and experimental knowledge with
- you so far haven't been able to explain anything, thus claiming to have an explanation of everything sounds ultra dubious
- if there's a grain of truth to your time schedule, then you already have a theory of half of everything or at least 20% of everything... yet haven't seen you publish anything or even come to same results as let's say QED or QCD
- if you at least had something, you wouldn't have been posting all the bs about CERN
- so how about giving at least a theory of SOMETHING instead of EVERYTHING.. that is testable.. that gives results to current experiments in line with our current theories.. and that makes a new prediction that current theory doesn't. That would be indeed something.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 09 Jul 2017 #permalink


Who are you to say:

" you seem to struggle with understanding physics that we already have sufficient theoretical and experimental knowledge with"

When I just proved you wrong in my previous post.

BTW regarding my simulator, I already posted a link to short simulation a week or so ago regarding a post on some artwork of the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) :

Also it's not like 20% of it gives already this or that. No, when simulator is ready that 'Everything' emerges by itself. Think of structures emerge in an automaton like Game of Life based on a basic set of rules.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 09 Jul 2017 #permalink

Here's a kind of timeline illustration of the evolution:

Regarding the LHC all I said was that there might be smaller undetectable vibrations - like sound waves- that could shake Protons to pieces due to a high frequency rate of collisions, that's no bs.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 09 Jul 2017 #permalink

"Also it’s not like 20% of it gives already this or that. No, when simulator is ready that ‘Everything’ emerges by itself."

oki doki... best of luck.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 09 Jul 2017 #permalink


"oki doki… best of luck."

Thanks. ?

BTW I doubt that my simulator will actually be the one that will generates the desired effect, it's more Sci-fi than real science, but the concept is to inspire and get people to think in different ways. Also as some have discussed before the scale is gigantic maybe a billion particles are needed to run something the size of a Proton. But you never know, it's just fun to think in a creative way and play with a couple ideas … and you never know what comes out of it.

By Elle H.C. (not verified) on 09 Jul 2017 #permalink

"... those symmetries, then, must be broken today, which predicts the existence of new particles and interactions in addition to the ones we know today." Let us assume that my basic theory (i.e. string theory with the finite nature hypothesis) is wrong. Could there be MOND-chameleon particles that have variable effective mass depending upon nearby gravitational acceleration? There might be a quantum theory of gravity in which pole masses in general relativity theory differ from running masses in the hypothetical quantum theory of gravity — the difference in pole masses and running masses might predict the existence of MOND-chameleon particles.
I conjecture that there might be a theorem that, under plausible hypotheses, the following three assumptions imply that MOND-chameleon particles exist.
ASSUMPTION 1. Milgrom’s MOND is approximately valid for a wide range of gravitational accelerations.
ASSUMPTION 2. Newton’s 3 laws of motion are (non-relativistically) correct, and supersymmetry needs to be replaced by MOND-compatible-supersymmetry.
ASSUMPTION 3. String theory with MOND-compatible-supersymmetry explains the empirical successes of MOND.

By David Brown (not verified) on 10 Jul 2017 #permalink