An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

A friend showed me this article yesterday, and I was basically stunned.

Whether or not this guy's theory is true (the LHC will hopefully be able to test it), it demonstrates a few very interesting things (and I'm not even talking about the "surfer dude" angle).

First off, it's extremely elegant - or, in its author's words, "exceptionally simple." (That might be a bit of an overstatement, unless you're conversant in Lie algebras. But the title of the theory is actually a pun, because E8 is technically a "simple" and "exceptional" Lie group.)

In fact, elegance is the main thing it has going for it; even though some people criticize its scientific merits, a lot of people seem enamored with its beauty. One professor said, "Some incredibly beautiful stuff falls out of Lisi's theory, I think that this must be more than coincidence and he really is touching on something profound." Doesn't it sound like he's talking about a work of art instead of a scientific theory?

Paul Dirac
(an atheist) said, "God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world." What he meant was that he thought the fundamental physical and mathematical laws governing our reality were rational, simple, and elegant - beautiful.

I've often noticed this mystical (and even religious) devotion scientists and mathematicians have to their respective fields, and how they expect logical and elegant solutions to their problems. They expect the Theory of Everything to make sense, and even to be mathematically perfect. Notice what Lisi says about his theory: "This is an all-or-nothing kind of theory - it's either going to be exactly right, or spectacularly wrong. I'm the first to admit this is a long shot. But it ain't over till the LHC sings."

Why is it "all-or-nothing"? Because if it's off, just by a little, even if it explains gravity, it loses its symmetry. It loses its elegance. It ceases to be beautiful - and as Dirac noted, only beautiful mathematics were used in the creation of the world.

I wonder if he ever asked why this is the case...