The Quest for a Theory of Everything
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StoryShot #1: There May Not Be a Single Unifying Theory
Almost all famous physicists have tried to find the unifying theory of the world. This is called the theory of everything. Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking have all searched for this one theory. Kaku is another physicist who is fascinated by this search, but he is also open to the possibility that there may not be a single unifying theory. It might be impossible to encode the whole of the universe’s physics into a single tidy equation.
The four fundamentals of nature, and physics, are what physicists have tried to unify. These are gravity, electromagnetism, the “weak force” responsible for radioactive decay of some nuclei and the “strong force” binding atomic nuclei together. Newton discovered the laws of gravity, which meant he connected the celestial and terrestrial with a universal theory of gravitation. The God equation seeks to go a few steps further and create a universal theory of everything. Hawking has previously described this potential discovery as the ultimate triumph of human reason (if it is possible).
StoryShot #2: Discoveries in Physics Revolutionize Society
Physics helps us to understand the laws of nature that govern our universe. But Kaku points out that physics has done much more than that for society. He believes that discoveries about the laws of nature have the potential to revolutionize society. Newton’s laws of gravity were integral in the invention of the steam engine. This engine was so influential that it kickstarted the Industrial Revolution which has such a huge influence on our modern society.
After this influential discovery, Faraday theorized the laws of electric and magnetic fields. These theories set the foundation for the technology that powered the electrical age. This started with revolutionary inventors like Edison and modern day innovators like Tesla still rely on the unifying theories of Michael Faraday.
The most recent developments in physics have been associated with quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics attempts to explain the properties of matter on the smallest scale. The quantum revolution helped usher in the innovation of transistors and lasers. A combination of the electrical age and the quantum age will drive many of our future technological advances.
StoryShot #3: Controversies Have Slowed the Quest For a Unified Theory
Despite the vast amount of physicists seeking to find a unifying theory, the search still continues. This search for The God Equation hasn’t been helped by the behavior of many of the physicists from the past, though. Controversies and failures have slowed the advancements of the unified theory project from the start. Faraday was the first to propose a unification of gravity and electromagnetism. He conducted a set of experiments in 1832 from London’s Waterloo Bridge. In these experiments he dropped magnets, hoping to find some quantifiable effect of gravity. The experiment failed but he remained convinced that the effect existed, perhaps at an undetectable level. This is just one example of failures by physicists that have led to the unsolved mystery we still have today.
As well as failures, certain physicists have offered false promises. Erwin Schrödinger is one of the founders of quantum mechanics. In 1947, he decided to hold a large press conference. In this press conference he claims to have found the unified field theory. The theory fell apart soon after receiving scrutiny. The reality was that this theory couldn’t even explain the nature of electrons and the atom. So, it certainly couldn’t explain all of the physical realm. Similar claimed victories were shown by Werner Heisenber and Wolfgang Pauli. Their theories also showed cracks upon any interrogation.
StoryShot #4: Our Most Recent Developments in Quantum Theory
Our most recent steps toward the possibility of finding a God Equation are the discovery of quantum electrodynamics and quantum chromodynamics. The former provides a connection between the quantum theories of electrons and light. The latter offers a connection between that connection and strong nuclear forces. The combination offered a standard model of particle physics that helped us reinforce our knowledge of the zoo of subatomic particles. This has since been called the theory of almost everything. The developments have stalled after these discoveries, but the search continues.
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The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking