The Theory of Everything

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.”

WHAT IS UNIFICATION?

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.

WILL TOE BE THE END OF PHYSICS?

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.”

THE TEN DIMENSIONAL UNIVERSE

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.

WHERE DOES GOD FIT IN?

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.

CONCLUSIONS

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.

NOTES

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.”

REFERENCES

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”,
theory.Caltech.edu/people/jhs/strings/str143.
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.