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The Theory of Everything

Mohammad Akram Gill

Discussing the Theory of Everything (TOE), John Schwarz (10) stated,

“In the euphoria following the first super-string revolution in 1985, some of the less experienced participants in the enterprise thought that we were on the verge of constructing a complete fundamental theory of the physical world… In this setting, the phrase ‘Theory of Everything’ was introduced and propagated by the public media.”

Lederman (6) wrote in his book, The God Particle, under the sub-heading of Super-strings,

“I believe it was Time magazine that for ever embellished the lexicon of particle physics by trumpeting this as the Theory of Everything (TOE)…. String theory promises a unified description of all forces, even gravity, all particles, space and time, free of arbitrary parameters and infinities. In short: every thing.”

According to Kaku and Thompson (5),

“Even Science magazine, always careful not to exaggerate the claims of scientists, compared the birth of the super-string theory to the discovery of the Holy Grail… Two of the theory’s creators, John Schwarz of the California Institute of Technology and Michael Green of Queen Mary College in London call it – a bit puckishly – a Theory of Everything.” 

Whoever suggested this catchy and hyperbolic title or whatever way it may have gained currency, is probably not so important nor relevant now; the point is that it has become stuck. The Theory of Everything will probably dominate the world of physics in the twenty first century. Kaku and Thompson further asserted “…that super-strings may provide a comprehensive theory that can explain all known physical phenomena – everything from the motion of galaxies down to the dynamics within the nucleus of the atom. The theory even makes the startling predictions concerning the origin of the universe, the beginning of time, and the existence of the multi-dimensional universes.”


It is commonly believed by many physicists that all the different forces of nature have a common origin and hence it is possible, at least in principle, that they can be integrated together and described by one unified theory, the so called theory of everything. Before Clerk Maxwell, in the nineteenth century, electric and magnetic forces were recognized  as two different forces and theoretically described by two different laws. Clerk Maxwell formulated a theory which integrated these two forces and showed that these forces were two faces of the same coin – the so called electro-magnetic force. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Einstein formulated his theory of relativity and showed that Newton’s theory of gravitation was embedded somehow in his theory and was a special case of the theory of general relativity. The dawn of the twentieth century, in one way, simplified physics a great deal in as much as Newton’s theory was provided with a much broader and logically more sophisticated base by theory of relativity.  In another way, it also muddled the world of physics. The development of quantum mechanics, which was made possible by Max Planck’s somewhat tentative ideas, but which later proved to be an epochal contribution, introduced new questions and excitement which might now lead to the formulation of TOE. Two new nuclear forces, the weak and strong, came to the fore-front together with a panoramic world of sub-atomic particles. The particles of matter which were originally believed to be elementary were no longer elementary. One small particle of matter consisted of several other exceedingly smaller particles. Entirely new nomenclature describing these particles was introduced. Nobody had heard about quarks, bosons, pions, etc.,  before the first half of the twentieth century. The material particles could disappear in the form of energy and new matter could emerge from energy. The string theory has assigned new meanings to the elementary particles. According to Lindley (7), “..elementary particles are not particles at all but vibrations of tiny loops of quantum mechanical string.” At another place, he states, “The ripples are fundamental string vibrations, that in the quantum theory, become the elementary particles of the string theory.” And wonder of wonders, anti-matter and vacuum energy were discovered in the 1930’s.

Even though the quantum mechanics is vastly different from the classical mechanics of Newton and Einstein in as much as the quantum mechanics is statistical and the classical mechanics is deterministic in character, the physicists believed and are now optimistic that these two branches of physics can be unified and described by one theory. Einstein devoted the last thirty years of his life to achieve this goal, but failed.

However, hopes of such an integration were raised sky high when Steven Weinberg and Abdus Salam independently developed a theory which unified Maxwell’s electro-magnetic force with the weak force around the end of the 1960s. Their theory was placed on a very sound footing by t’Hooft who showed in the 1970’s that the Salam-Weinberg theory was indeed renormalizable (free of irksome infinities). Experimental validation came later in the 1980’s. Encouraged by this achievement, efforts were renewed to unify the strong force with the electroweak force. This was done through a number of different versions of string theory. This unification  has been called the Grand Unification and such theories are called ‘Grand Unification Theories’ (GUT’s). The last hurdle is to unify the theory of gravitation with an appropriate GUT. And the world of theoretical physics is saturated with optimism that such unification is just around the corner.

In his inaugural lecture, on assuming Lucasion chair at the Cambridge University, Stephen Hawkings (4) said on April 29, 1980, “…we have made a lot of progress in recent years and …. [t]here are some grounds for cautious optimism in that we may see a complete theory within the life time of some of those present here.” He is also reported to have predicted that the complete theory will have been developed before the end of the twentieth century but this prediction did not come to pass.


Crease and Mann (1) have captioned the last chapter of their book, The Second Creation, as the “End of Physics”. David Lindley (7) has written a whole book with a title of “The End of Physics”. This is curiously reminiscent of a similar situation that existed towards the end of the nineteenth century when many physicists had believed that all that was worth discovering in physics had already been discovered with a couple of loose ends which will be properly sorted out in due time. Those loose ends led to the discovery of the theory of general relativity and the quantum mechanics that has ushered a revolution in the world of physics. According to Lindley (7), who asserted, “Lately there have been intimations that fundamental physics is nearing that desirable day when all is understood, when all the elementary particles of the world and all the forces and inter-actions that affect them will have been compiled into a single catalog, logically set out, with a place for every thing and every thing in its place. This can realistically be called the end of physics.” However there are others who are not so euphoric, nor so sure, and many of them are at the fore-front of the unifying efforts. For instance, John Schwarz (10) remarked, “The TOE phrase is very misleading on several counts. First of all, the theory is not yet fully formulated and when it is (which might still take decades), it is still not entirely clear that it will be the last word in fundamental physics.” According to Steven Weinberg (11), “Let me also say that I don’t mean that other branches of physics are in danger of being replaced by some ultimate version of elementary particle physics. I think the example of thermodynamics is helpful here… thermodynamics is derived in some sense from deeper underlying principles of physics. Yet it continues, and will continue to go on forever, as a science in its own right. The same is true of other sciences that are most lively today and in a greater state of excitement than thermodynamics, sciences like condensed matter physics and the study of chaos…. It’s even more true of sciences outside the area of physics like astronomy and biology.” He (12) has also quoted Popper in his book, Dreams of a Final Theory, according to whom “every explanation may be further explained, by a theory or conjecture of a higher degree of universality. There can be no explanation which is not in need of a further explanation.”


Ever since Theodore Franz Kaluza had proposed a five dimensional unified field theory to combine Einstein’s theory of relativity with Maxwell’s electro-magnetic theory around 1920, the physicists have been inspired to consider theories which attempt at unifying the fundamental forces in multi-dimensional universes. There is a great deal of excitement at present about superstring theories which can possibly unify all of the fundamental forces into the TOE. A somewhat detailed excerpt from Kaku and Thompson may be helpful here to explain which way the cosmologic theorization and speculation is proceeding at the present time. According to them (5), “..there were many gaps in Einstein’s theory. Why did the universe explode? What happened before the Big Bang? Theologians as well as scientists have for years realized the incompleteness of the Big Bang theory, because it fails to explain the origin and the nature of the Big Bang itself. Incredibly, the superstring theory predicts what happened before the Big Bang. According to superstrings, the universe originally existed in ten dimensions…. However, because the universe was unstable in ten dimensions, it ‘cracked’ into two pieces, with a small, four dimensional universe peeling off from the rest of the universe… If the theory is true, it means that our universe actually has a ‘sister universe’ that co-exists with our universe. It also means that the original fissioning of our universe was so violent that it created the explosion that we know as Big Bang.” Well the new superstring theory which may ultimately take the shape of TOE has indeed opened up a Pandora Box of new questions. It was believed till recently that the universe came into existence through the big bang. It was na've to ask what was there before the big bang because there was no before. Time, space, and matter were created simultaneously by the big bang. The laws of nature were also believed to have come into existence simultaneously with the big bang. According to Davies (2), “The picture that we then obtain of the universe is a remarkable one. At some finite instant in the past the universe of space, time, and matter is bounded by a space-time singularity. The coming into being of the universe is therefore represented not only by the abrupt appearance of matter, but of space and time as well.” It was believed that the universe exploded into existence some 15-20 billions years ago. Now probably that is the time when the big bang occurred and our universe separated from the mother universe of ten dimensions. That means that not only time but space and matter also existed before the big bang together with the TOE. Now it is no longer na've to ask how long before the big bang did the ten dimensional universe actually exist? What is happening to the sister universe? Can it be suggested that a super duper mathematician is out there somewhere who created the laws of nature (n.1). If He is there, can He be called God? But before we discuss God, I would like to quote from Dirac (3) here. According to Dirac, “one field of work in which there has been too much speculation is cosmology. There are very few hard facts to go on but theoretical workers have been busy constructing various models for the universe based on any assumptions that they fancy. These models are probably all wrong. It is usually assumed that the laws of nature have always been the same as they are now. There is no justification for this. The laws may be changing, and in particular, quantities which are considered to be constants of nature may be varying with cosmological time. Such variations would completely upset the model makers.” Whether the fundamental laws of nature are changing in cosmological time is another issue which can not be adequately discussed here. However Weinberg believes that if the constants of nature were even slightly different from what they are, our universe could not have come into existence.


An interesting anecdote about Pierre Simon Laplace is reported in the history books of science which is appropriate to be mentioned in the context of the discussion here. Laplace is reported to have presented a copy of his book ‘Mechanique Celeste’ to the emperor, Napoleon Bonaporte. Napoleon had been informed that Laplace’s book contained no mention of God. Napoleon asked Laplace, “They tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe and have never even mentioned its creator.” “I had no need of that hypothesis,” said Laplace. Later, when told by Napoleon about this incident, Lagrange commented , “Ah, but that is a fine hypothesis. It explains so many things.” The situation at present is not very different. There are Laplaces and Lagranges among the modern scientists also and God, per se, has still not been included in the scientific schemes of cosmology. There is no chapter on God in any standard textbook of physics. Apparently, there is simply no need. And there is not a single equation in physics which includes a parameter for God. The reasons for exclusion of God from the physics and celestial mechanics are simple yet very complex at the same time. Physics deals with mathematical relationships about the dynamics of the material objects and their energies. God has not been described in sufficiently clear terms so that it is not possible to set up mathematical relationships which could describe explicitly how God plays a role in the universe. Nobody even knows if God has a material existence. God means different things to different people. The traits that are ascribed to God to define Him such as omnipotent, omniscient, absolutely just, absolutely fair, etc. are so vague that they can not be used in any mathematical analysis. Such characteristics inevitably define an infinite being. Physics can not deal with infinities. Curiously this problem arose in 1930’s. The physicists were sorely dismayed and frustrated when infinities started appearing in the quantum mechanical equations that were constructed to unify quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity. It became a big challenge to deal with infinities and save the theory. Richard Feynman found a way to get rid of the infinities through renormalization for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Now we are told that the superstring theories have gotten rid of the infinities without using renormalization. The fundamental laws of physics deal with finite entities; they can not be used to describe God nor discover Him because He is believed to be infinite in many, if not every, respects. We are looking for God in the wrong place. Mathematical Physics is incapable of describing God directly. It is a futile search. However that does not mean that the verdict of physics is the last word on the existence of God.

Maybe God is just a concept that exists in the human mind. For this reason, it is perhaps more appropriate to search God in meta-physics, religion, and mysticism. Those who have had mystical experiences feel fulfilled in some ways and spiritually uplifted. Many of them have the feeling of unity with the Absolute One (n.2). Before closing this discussion, I would like to quote from Barry Parker (8) as follows:

Why does a book on the creation of the universe have no mention of God? Scientists do, indeed, rarely mention God when they talk about creation. Furthermore, they are sometimes accused of trying to do away with the need for a God by attempting to explain creation in scientific terms. And it is true: scientists would prefer a purely scientific explanation of the beginning of the universe. That is not to say, though, that all scientists are atheists (few are). Furthermore, there is no fear that scientists will ever eliminate the need for a God. If we look back at the early universe we see that regardless of how far things are pushed – even if we were some day able to explain creation itself in an entirely satisfactory scientific way – there is still some thing that is unexplained. Creation depends on the basic laws of nature – without them it would not be possible. Who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed.

Be that as it may. Most probably, the kind of God that Parker is talking about is not the God of Gospels and Scriptures.


There is optimistic anticipation among the physicists that the Theory of Everything is on the verge of discovery and development. All the fundamental forces of nature, i.e., electroweak, strong nuclear, and gravity, will be unified. This unification is possible in a universe of ten dimensions. The big bang is the event which separated our four dimensional universe from the mother universe of ten dimensions and is not the birth of the whole universe together with time, space, and matter as was commonly believed by the majority of the scientists till recently. The 15-20 billions years is the age of our universe but the parent universe of ten dimensions has to be older. The TOE has thus raised a new question: what is the age of the parent universe?  The physicists also seem to believe that the universe is bounded both in time and space; it is finite in other words. The concept of an infinite universe cannot be totally ruled out of consideration  although if the universe is infinite indeed, its essence cannot be wholly grasped through material science which deals with only finite entities. The dawn of the twentieth century had given birth to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Two new fundamental forces were discovered. There is no guarantee that a similar situation may not arise with the discovery of TOE in the twenty-first century. If one or more new forces are discovered, the physicists may find new challenges to deal with in spite of the vain vaunts of TOE. A whole new branch of physical science may come to light.


1. According to Rucker (9), “.. Augustine argues that God must already know each and every natural number and that he even knows ‘infiniteness’ in the form of all the natural numbers taken at once – for otherwise the set of natural numbers would exhaust his abilities. God, according to Augustine, must lie beyond the set of natural numbers.”

2. Rucker (9) suggests, “In more familiar terms, it is not hard to prove that God is infinite – but if you don’t believe that God exists? It may seem hard to doubt that the more impersonal Absolutes – such as ‘everything’, or the ‘Mindscape’ exist, but there are those who doubt this. The issue under consideration is a version of the old philosophical problem of One and the Many. What is being asked is whether cosmos exists as an organic One, or merely as a Many with no essential coherence. It is certainly true that the Mindscape, for instance, does not exist as a single rational thought. For if the Mindscape is a One, then it is a member of itself, and thus can only be known through a flash of mystical vision. No rational thought is a member of itself, so no rational thought could tie the Mindscape into a One.”


1. Crease, R, Mann, C., “The Second Creation”, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1986.
2. Davies, P., “The Mind of God”, Simon and Schuster, New york, 1992, p. 50.
3. Dirac, P.A.M., “Methods in theoretical Physics”, included in ‘Unification of Fundamental Forces, The 1988 Dirac Memorial Lectures’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990, p. 128.
4. Hawkings, S., “Is the End in Sight for Theoretical Physics”, in ‘Boslough, J. Stephen Hawkings’ Universe’, Morrow, New York, 1985, quoted by Robert R. Crease and Charles C, Mann in ‘ Second Creation’, Macmillan Publishing company, New York, 1986, p. 410.
5. Kaku, M, and Thompson, J., “Beyond Einstein”, Anchor Books, Doubleday, New York, 1995, pp. 4, 11-12.
6. Lederman, L., “The God particle”, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1993, p. 193.
7. Lindley, D., “The End of Physics”, Basic Books, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, 1993, pp. 18, 224.
8. Parker, B., “Creation: The Story of the Origin and the Evolution of the Universe”, Plenum Press, New York, 1988, p. 282.
9. Rucker, R., “Infinity and the Mind”, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1995, pp. 48, 51.
10. Schwarz, J., “A Theory Of Everything”,
11. Weinberg, S., “Towards the Final Laws of Physics”, in ‘Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics’, The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, pp. 64-65.
12. Weinberg, S., “Dreams of a Final Theory”, Pantheon Books, New York, p. 230.



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