Thirty-nine year old surfer dude Garrett Lisi, who holds a doctorate in theoretical physics but is not affiliated with any university, made waves among the Theoretical Physics crowd on November 6 by publishing An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.
The theory, according to its fans, interweaves the current Standard Model — which attempts to explain three of the four fundamental forces of nature: the electromagnetic force; the strong force, which binds quarks together in atomic nuclei; and the weak force, which controls radioactive decay — with gravity, the (so far) unexplained fourth force of nature.
Lisi's theory does this, believers say, with a minimum of mathematics, explaining Everything in terms of E8, an eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887. The Universe, I think he's saying, is 248-dimensional.
Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."
Lisi's theory apparently does what String Theory can't: make predictions about the nature of the Universe that can be tested. Lisi's theory may just leave String Theory in knots.
Physicists, it seems, either love Lisi's theory, or think it's "hogwash" born of "crackpot physics."
Georgia Institute of Technology physicist David Ritz Finkelstein was quoted as saying, "Some incredibly beautiful stuff falls out of Lisi's theory. This must be more than coincidence and he really is touching on something profound."
Self-described "conservative physicist" Luboš Motl (who has been called an "unpleasant troll" by writer Pozorvlak) of Pilsen, Czech Republic wrote on his blog The Reference Frame that Lisi's theory is a "huge joke" that caused him to explode in laughter.
"There is not a glimpse of physics in that paper," writes Motl, a string theory enthusiast. He tosses around words like "silly" and "kindergarten physics," and seems especially fond of calling every physicist he disagrees with a "crackpot."
"Every high school senior excited about physics should be able to see that the paper is just a long sequence of childish misunderstandings," says Motl.
Who is right? Is Lisi the next Einstein, surfing instead of working in a patent office? I don't know.
I'm just an observer, and I remain uncertain, thanks to Werner Heisenberg.
And what I do observe with interest is how the "conservative" status quo, the physics "establishment," has quickly moved to cast aspersions on the out-of-the-mainstream-but-qualified physicist Garrett Lisi. It reminds me of the online battle of words and ideas between young, "upstart" Freemasons with fresh ideas and mainstream, toe-the-line, conservative grand lodge-loving Masonic bloggers who decry innovation and a return to true education.
"You're unmasonic! Obey the Grand Lodge! Don't think for yourself!" sounds very much to me like Motl's warning against "the recent fashionable trend [of accepting] an ever broader set of passionate amateurs and undereducated, intellectually challenged loons into the physics circles."
It's always entertaining and interesting to observe when youthful brashness, optimism and new opinions smash and collide against staid, indoctrinated and firmly entrenched "leaders" who call others crackpots (or the Tin Foil Brigade) and support their worldview by dismissing dissension with "everyone knows...."
Read Lisi's An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything and decide for yourself.
Or just watch the movie.
Masons | Garrett Lisi | Theoretical Physics | Freemasonry | E8 | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com