Friday, November 16, 2007

Garrett Lisi's Theory of Everything

From at least the time of Pythagoras, great thinkers have been fascinated by circles. This diagram resembles the Daoist Bagua or a spherical Universe, but is part of the interesting work of Garrett Lisi. Garrett is already known for an unconventional career. After receiving his PhD, he found that all the postdoc jobs involved worshipping strings. Rather than follow this paper chase, he spends Winter snowboarding near Lake Tahoe and Summer windsurfing in Maui, much better uses of time. After some years work, he has introduced An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.

E8 is an intriguing and well-studied mathematical pattern with 248 points. In Garrett's theory, each vertex corresponds to an elementary particle field. Some of these points correspond to the known particles, and others would indicate particles yet to be found. The undiscovered particles are testable predictions which may someday be found in accelerators. His theory requires only the four dimensions of Space/Time, and doesn't use strings.

Kea, Tony Smith and Carl Brannen have kept us updated on Garrett's progress. In October he was able to present his ideas at the Perimeter Institute, to very good reaction. Lee Smolin was particularly excited by the possibilities. In reaction Garrett's paper was unceremoniously removed from hep-th and moved to gen-ph, considered a graveyard for papers. (Though it was originally intended as a free forum, the arxiv has become quite corrupted.) Fortunately Garrett's paper has been restored and is receiving significant attention from the press. Hopefully he will get a journal publication too.

Garrett says his theory is far from complete. Despite the paper's title, the E8 pattern can be quite complex. Reducing it to the standard model of particle physics with gravity requires making assumptions that not all will agree with. Predictions of undiscovered particles need to be verified. Nevertheless, original work like Garrett's should be encouraged. His colourful visualisations of E8 are quite pretty, hinting at some fundamental symnetry.

Garrett also dreams about a Science Hostel, where theorists could work in peace. He would prefer somewhere in the mountains. I would humbly suggest Volcano Village on Kilauea, which has great hiking and is a natural spot for a forest retreat. The lower slopes of Mauna Kea would be another possible site, where one could snowboard and view the stars. Could anyone else nominate a location?



Blogger nige said...

The Science Hostel is a great idea. I'm not too excited about Garrett's theory because it's so abstract and isn't actually a theory of the mechanisms for fundamental forces and the big bang. Garrett's work is mainstream in the sense that it relies on a mathematical explanation to everything, but in my view it's really not that much more exciting than string theory. Where are the quantitative predictions and the resolutions to existing anomalies, where are the explanations for existing interactionstrengths (couplings) and particle masses?

However, maybe he is on to something and more progress will flow from it. I can see why Lee Smolin is excited about it (Lee supports serious independent thinkers with PhD's).

9:55 AM  
Blogger nige said...

Louise, have you considered doing a PhD? Some places will take PhD students without an MSc, but for theoretical physics things are difficult because of prejudice.

Probably the best thing to do is a PhD in spacesuit design or something. I may go back to uni some time when I sort out personal problems and have finished my MCSE program. It may be the only way to get papers out, whether or not Distler and others at arXiv still block preprints.

I uploaded a very brief paper to arXiv in Dec 2002 using my student email address at university of gloucestershire (before ad hominem prejudice required endorsers etc.), and it was simply deleted a few seconds later unread, and another was put in its place. My plan had been to just have one paper on arXiv and update it as progress came in. The fact they delete stuff willy nilly doesn't encourage me to try putting my work there again. It contains so much mainstream stringy, abject speculation now (mainly since 2002) that it's no longer something I want to be part of.

10:08 AM  
Blogger nige said...

The New Scientist editor Jeremy Webb (a former BBC engineer) is just interested in selling his magazine. He wants crazy ideas that attract the type of readers who like science fiction. Until string theory ceases to be the only really reputable theory with the editors or rather "peer" reviewers of Institute of Physics's Classical and Quantum Gravity, there is no hope for informed debate.

I don't think people like Dr Smolin are exceptionally competent at evaluating very simple ideas in physics anyway. They probably passed the elementary physics exams by revising five minutes before sitting the papers, then forgot it straight afterwards and since then have spent years on abstract stuff. There's a cultural block in the way between the kind of ideas that can make progress, and the kind that those people classify as being "serious physics". There is just too much prejudice and evaluation of ideas based on the author's CV, instead of the facts about the idea.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Yeah, near the mountains! How about New Zealand? We have everything from volcanoes to glaciers.

10:27 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

HI nige. Garrett's idea is far from complete, but it is promising when newe ideas are considered. I hope your work gets the attention it deserves.

Though progress is slow, I've been working on what you mention.

For Kea: I love your idea about meeting in NZ. Soon I will be posting candidate locations for a Hostel, including the Pacific.

10:51 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thinking about nige's cojment, it can bve frustrating when physicists shy away from a simple testable prediction like G or c changing. They seem to prefer ideas that are unprovable, like inflation or strings.

The situation with G is similiar to the speed of light. It is impossible to prove experimentally that G is constant, because a better measuremenht could prove that foolish.

To gain acceptance (and restoration to hep-th) took Bee's interest, an invite to talk at Perimeter, and Lee Smolin's enthsiasm. It can be done.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No place better than the Colorado Rockies for that hostel...

Gotta like that Garrett fellow for not kissing the ring of string theory...

And I'm front and center for any space suit fashion show Rio is modeling in...

UFOs anyone?

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi babe!

Lee Smolin, Peter Woit, Bert Schroer, Tony Smith, Sabine Hossenfelder, and Garrett Lisi agreed to join my American Physical Society of UFO Abductees. Will you join us, too? Nigel is invited, too.

Jack Sarfatti

4:38 AM  
Blogger artikcat said...

nige comments are so typical of today human-science-predicament as reflected in the recent release of the IPCC synthesis report that summarizes our footprint only when we leave the faustian bargain behind and grow real cojones-i mean mentally and metaphorically-as lisi has, judged by info available, will difference make the cosmos smile, have cheese, wine, a baby in the universe nige and write some equations if you can i mean.

5:58 AM  
Blogger nige said...

Louise, please check the IP address of the comments above if blogger emailed you them, by "Jack Sarfatti" which really looks like a fake (although it might be genuine), also by "alberto...".

The "Society of UFO Abductees" trash sounds synonymous to the "Society of 10/11 dimensional stringers", something that might be started by the likes of someone from arXiv like Professor Lubos or Jacques Distler, or Edward Witten maybe. Someone who religiously believes without evidence that there is an extradimensional cosmic landscape of 10^500 universes, etc.

There's no need to allow these mainstream dictators, who run arXiv, to anonymously post trash elsewhere in their pathetic efforts to attack or ridicule other people...

8:56 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

I've neither been anonymous nor abducted by UFO's so I would not qualify.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garrett's paper motivated me to write up some stuff about E8 and its relation to Cl(8) etc,
and it is now on my dotMac site at
I will put it up on my regular web site over the next few days.

As to nige's question "... have you considered doing a PhD? ...".
Not having a PhD ( I failed the comprehensive exam at Georgia Tech physics - it was 3 days closed book when I was about 50 years old, and I couldn't remember enough of the formulas ), my opinion may be biased, but here is an anecdote:
Early (1980s) in my work on my physics model, Yuval Ne'eman agreed to meet me at U. Texas Austin. He had some criticism of my model as it was then, but said (IIRC)
"If your ideas are wrong, no matter how many PhDs you have, it is still wrong,
if your ideas are right, then they are so important that a PhD is irrelevant."

Of course, a concrete example of that is Freeman Dyson, who reconciled and popularized Feynman/Schwinger QED without a PhD.

As to "Anonymous" signing the name "Jack Sarfatti" to a comment about UFO abductees, it might be useful to contact the real Jack Sarfatti who has a blog at
which blog shows publicly his email address as
sarfatti AT pacbell DOT net
In his blog, Jack describes some of the personal attacks by Lubos Motl against Jack and others ( including Garrett and me )
Jack also refers to the fact that Lubos has a web page at
in which he represents himself as being
"Abbe Hyupsing Qong ... from the planet called Zetor ... whenever you meet me at the Department of Physics and Astronomy in New Jersey or at NASA or our spaceship, you will see a person looking precisely as the terresterial human beings ...".

Tony Smith

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rio, I apologize to you for making a comment which some juvenile would turn into an opportunity to attack you personally. I publish The Keyhoe Report for fun, but I also take that stuff seriously for good philosophical reasons which I am always happy to debate with those who fancy themselves the defenders of reason for ignoring.

Personally, I could not possibly care less what anyone thinks of me for publishing that material. If the mere fact that I actually do look at what evidence exists bothers some, then their opinion is not so valuable for me to care about. But I do regret being an occasion for someone to direct such nonsense at you which you did not merit receiving, and that is due to my own impulsive lack of foresight.


And so you are clear, I did try to log in as dmduncan, but for some reason what I thought was my password wasn't working, and I was pressed for time. If I am ever anonymous, it is not because I am hiding.

Life is not just about reason and rationality, it's also about taking risks and doing irrational things, things for fun. Jumping from an airplane at 14000 feet and praying your chute opens just right is hardly rational, is it? But it is fun. Too many people behave as if reason and the scientific method are the only things, even though they themselves are unable to avoid behaving irrationally, which makes them as interesting as cardboard.

You are much more interesting than cardboard, and you are not afraid to be interesting, and I pray that infantile comments posted by such self-unaware people never influence you to be otherwise.

I admire you for your courage to stand for something not popular in your own field of expertise. It is the wild card that changes history, not the follower who can ever and only seem to muster a sneering disrespect for original thinking that does not dissolve in a few moments like a puff of smoke.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delighted that Lisi's work is getting such public scrutiny because it relates to the molimentum theory covered in the novel 'shooting curves'. Besides the beauty of molimentum, this is the first confirmation in years that my intuition to work on unification was right. Are there any homes for independent thinkers without Phds please? Scilly Isles for the hostel?

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For more then 30 years physicists failed to make a TOE. Therefore something must be terrible wrong with physics. The physics of today has to be shaken till the bones. And whatever the idea's of mister Lisi is right or wrong it's a Krakatau-like shake and I like it. In my view physics has to be rebuild from the beginning (Kepler?). Who know what el.charge is and why so different particles like electron's and proton's have the same charge? Perhaps only "The forgotten physics" can explain that. Go on mister Lisi and good luck.

2:05 PM  
Blogger makesense said...


In order to cover for all situations for space and time, imagine an infintely large cube where the axis are made up of inifinitely small/particular points, and that there is a single 3 dimensional point of intersection of the three infinite axis, where this infinitely large cube is the expression of the 'ideal' relationship between these three infinite axis. This same point divides this cube into six equal pyramids where this point is the common apex of all six pyramids.

Would not this the perspective from this point (of view), the point of intersection, be the only point of view that is an integrated point of view.

I choose this to display it as the fourth point of view, which owes its existence to being the fourth of four universal priciples, where the first three are the differentiated principles concerning cause = x axis, means = y axis and ends/effects = z axis and where 0 for all three axis is the point of intersection as well as the only true point from which to represent the fourth principle of use/appropriateness, which is the integrated balanced sum of the first three principles much like perfect white is the balanced/integrated sum of the three primary colours: red, yellow and blue.

I would like to declare that it is a self evident truth that "A person is justified in saying anything provided that they can show just cause for saying it."

I am well aware of the unpopularity of believeing in God, not because it doesn't make sense, but because most people choose to be ruled by inclination as opposed to moral principles that ensure that all attitudes and behaviour of human beings is devoid of breaking the golden rule, and of giving due homage to infinite justice, as the ruling and empowering factor in their lives this abolishing both misery and death.

If we analyse the mathematical priciples upon which our world or perception is based, arithmetic, as in 1+1=2, as on a ruler, being a linear concept, compared to our mental world which being a reflection of our pysical has a Pattern that is geometric, instead of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,... is now 1,4,8,16,32,64,128,...Now this means that if one did not miss any opportunities, where guilt is only possible through missed opportunities, then that person's life would mentally have a mental age twice that of their physical age, such that their life would be in accord with the inverse square law, Which is for example: If a man were to live 100 years and instead, lived that 100 years mentally in 50 years then his mental age at 5o is exactly twice that of his physical age, but that at that rate of accelerated learning which is natural to the mental world if one is not making mistakes or missing opportunities, then he will now live the next 100 years in 12.5 years, and the nest 100 years in 6,25 years and so on always appearing to be approaching death at 100 years pysical, but really "walking" parallel to his death. There is two records of this happening, the first with Enoch and the second with Elijah, and mathematically one can see why, for a thoroughly righteous person this is so, even though it has only happened twice.
It is because this singular point of view is part of the verbal point of view because it is in space and time but no of it, that we can see verbally how that if a man were to take two equal steps back from a wall and then took an exact step bak toward the wall so that his second step toward the wall was exactly half of the first step, we could say that with each step he was moving half as close and half as far away every time, no matter how many steps he takes so long as he always halves his steps as can be seen by the inverse square law of one walking paralell to the wall and shrinking as the distance increases (in proportion).
There is much to all of this, but suffice it to say, all I want to establish at this stage is to point out the futility of seriously hoping to fathom anything worthwhile about the origins of the universe until the adequate mentality attutude and level of responsibility is reached for the world of healthy functional human beings that can choose to be fully developed if they are prepared to pay the price, there is in fact four types, the first two ruled by bodily inclination and the secon by moral principles, where morals are 100% about relationships and justice.

The lowest of the classes of these humans are those that are wise as doves and harmless as serpents, nest those that are wise as serpents and harmless as serpents, then those that are wise as doves and harmless as doves and finally the only acceptable level the highest, those who are wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Only this class can tell if there is any higher order of life above them.



2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He needs to apply more dimensions to his model to understand it's true shape - which is spherical.

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