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The Mauitian Chronicles - An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Nov. 14th, 2007

02:47 pm - An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

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I'm not sure yet whether all the attention is good, or if all the hype will have a negative impact, but this has certainly been a strange week. The interest in my work among physicists has been building steadily over the past few months. I've been presenting at conferences, getting invited to cool places, and exchanging emails with some of the best people in physics. But things started getting a little out of control last week when I posted my paper to the physics archive:

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Yes, the title is a little much. Technically, a Grand Unified Theory in physics is a theory unifying the electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces as parts of a single Lie group. And if gravity is described in a unified framework like this, it's called a Theory of Everything, because that's all the forces we know of. The paper describes a new theory of how to do this, with all these forces (and all matter) as parts of the largest simple exceptional Lie group, E8 (which is very beautiful). So the title is technically accurate, but I probably should have made it less sensational. Especially since the paper does not include the details of a complete quantum description, which is really necessary for it to qualify as a successful ToE. (I'm counting on combining my work with that of the Loop Quantum Gravity community to build a full quantum E8 theory of everything.)

The physics arxiv has gotten more restrictive on how they accept and classify papers. I originally submitted this article under the general relativity classification, but they immediately moved it to high energy particle theory. Then, a day after it came out, it got unceremoniously booted to the general physics classification -- the cesspool the arxiv uses to collect non-string and/or whacky, overreaching papers. Then, the next day, it got reclassified back to high energy theory! (This never happens, and I was quite amused.)

The paper immediately precipitated a physics blogalanche:
Backreaction This was the first, and probably the best summary of the paper.
Physics Forums
The Reference Frame Can you tell he's a string theorist? I love this guy, almost everything he says is dead wrong, and he just makes me look better.
Hidden Variables
Not Even Wrong
Arcadian Functor
Freedom of Science This one cracks me up. Apparently I'm a media whore, and only doing physics for the money; but at least I'm in good company.
Theoreman Egregium
Science Forums
And at this point I've stopped being able to keep track, which I suppose means this is my fifteen minutes of fame.

Yesterday morning, I presented a talk to the
International Loop Quantum Gravity Seminar
which is a teleconferece among physicists at a consortium of fourteen universities around the world. That went very well. Some of the key players agree that this theory and LQG make a good match. (The (very technical) talk and slides are available from that page, but the first two minutes are cut off.)

Then, a few hours ago, the story hit the popular press:
The Telegraph (Apparently, I'm to be immortalized for the words "Holy crap!")
New Scientist Top story. I haven't been able to read this article yet, because I don't have a subscription.

All the attention has been fun, but a bit overwhelming, and I think I just want to go back to playing with equations for a few months. I hope people can keep in mind that this is just a theory, it has no experimental support, and it might be wrong. I think it's got a shot, which is why I work on it, but it's still just a developing theory. So don't go crazy, people; but yes, it is pretty damn cool.

Comments:

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[User Picture]
From:resipisco
Date:November 14th, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC)
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I can't tell if the Telegraph article is stunned at how young you are or how old you are.
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From:mauitian
Date:November 14th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)
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I think it was my good looks.
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From:jhogan
Date:November 15th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC)
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I haven't been reading your LJ for a while but just stumbled across your paper on Reddit, where it's ranked 40th or something. When I saw "Garrett" and "Incline Village, NV" at the top of the paper I was like "hey, wait a minute..."

Cool stuff, man!
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 15th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC)
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Hey, thanks, I didn't know I'd made Reddit.
[User Picture]
From:browascension
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC)
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See, you're not a slacker after all. You just know how to enjoy yourself while you're thinking.
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
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Don't write off the slacker theory.
[User Picture]
From:reverend_kate
Date:November 15th, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)

I just saw the telegraph one:

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Congratulations.

Now where's my list of required reading, Professor Surfer Dude?
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 15th, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)

Re: I just saw the telegraph one:

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Thanks. I think Penrose's "The Road to Reality" is probably the closest thing to a matrix-style download of the pre-reqs. But after that, some differential geometry, Lie groups, and particle physics wouldn't hurt... well, might hurt a little, but worth it. :)
[User Picture]
From:scriptum
Date:November 15th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
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Congratulations on a beautiful thing you discovered!

To put it simply: you found (by chance?) that your equations fit in some way the most of E8 pattern, and you are claiming that the parts are not covered correspond to yet undiscovered particles? What is special about E8 that makes it suitable for your ToE?

Thanks.
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
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Not a bad summary. E8 is the most beautiful Lie group there is, and the standard model and gravity appear to fit in it perfectly.
[User Picture]
From:distractme
Date:November 15th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
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This is all very exciting
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From:clevermynnie
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Congratulations on all this attention! I know it must be big news because my dad actually e-mailed me your paper this morning as a point of interest.
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. The attention is a bit much.
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From:mathemajician
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
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You are currently the number 2 story on digg.com

:-)
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 15th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Damn, I was number one an hour ago.
[User Picture]
From:scottsch
Date:November 15th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC)
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That's cool! I tried reading up on E8 on wikipedia (where, by the way, your paper is now the first external link). I get that a manifold is a a bunch of points, sort of like an N-dimensional volume; and a lie group is (approximately) a family of operations (like matrix operations of a certain size) with a number of values, and the set of all variable values is the set of points that is the lie group. I am trying to learn more about this, but I'm having trouble penetrating the connected manifold of terminology, which is not exceptionally simple or even abelian. What is a better angle of attack? Should I start with E6? F4 or G2?

It's too bad you're not coming down to SD for TG. (Or are you?) I'd like to understand more about E8 than that it is pretty.
[User Picture]
From:scottsch
Date:November 16th, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
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Ok, I grok the 240 roots of E8: in 8 dimensions, +/- 1 in 2 coordinates and 0 in the others (112 roots), and +1/2 in an even # of coordinates and -1/2 in the rest (128 roots). They have half-integral dot products with each other. If you reflect a root through the hyperplane of another root, you get a third root. Does your theory associate each particle with an E8 root?

What should I try to learn about E8 next? It looks like there are a jillion aspects and applications of this thing.
[User Picture]
From:kalistrya
Date:November 16th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)
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Heh. Now you're on /. too.
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From:mauitian
Date:November 16th, 2007 05:11 am (UTC)
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W00t!
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From:simonfunk
Date:November 16th, 2007 08:23 am (UTC)
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Apparently, I'm to be immortalized for the words "Holy crap!"

From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.1.35

Hollykrap \Ho"ly-crap\, [En. - Holy Crap, perfect indicative of Erureka.]
     The exclamation attributed to Lisi, who is said to have
     cried out "Holy Crap!  That's it!", when he noticed that some
     of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own.
     Hence, an expression of triumph concerning a discovery.

[User Picture]
From:simonfunk
Date:November 16th, 2007 08:26 am (UTC)
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Be sure to save a copy of The Reference Frame. It'll come in handy some day. :)
[User Picture]
From:rws1st
Date:November 16th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)

Fence or Orbit?

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The title is certainly swinging for the fence! Forget the fence, maybe orbit?

I wish I knew enough to comment on the actual content of the paper...But I wanted to make a comment this decade.

Rob Sperry

[User Picture]
From:wiredgirl2
Date:November 16th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)

You've been slashdoted!

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Congratulations on being Slashdotted!
[User Picture]
From:reddragdiva
Date:November 16th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I heard about the paper on Groklaw (?!) at 2am and was up until 4am reading it and about it. So I had to write this, which I hope will amuse.
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 17th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
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That is awesome.
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From:snarkyshark2
Date:November 16th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
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Jeeeez, spell out this simple "theory of everything" already! *congrats*
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From:shephi
Date:November 17th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
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read through the paper... looks like I need to take some more classes (Algebra, GR, Quantum Field Theory) to understand enough to critique. before that point, I'm curious if your work implies anything about dark matter?
[User Picture]
From:mr_squeaky
Date:November 19th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
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*patiently waits for you to feature on xkcd* ;)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 19th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)

E8 and Cl8

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Your paper motivated me to write up some stuff about E8 and its relation to Cl(8) etc,
and it is now on my dotMac site at

http://web.mac.com/t0ny5m17h/Site/E8Cl8phys.pdf

I will put it up on my regular web site over the next few days.

One thing that seems interesting to me is that
if you look at the 8-dim root vector space of E8 as Octonionic,
then there are 7 independent E8 lattices ("integral" octonion lattices)
each of which has a distinct 240-vertex polytope of nearest neighbors to the origin
so
it seems that there are in some sense 7 distinct E8s
and that they are related to each other sort of like the 7 octonion imaginaries.

Tony Smith
[User Picture]
From:agnosticessence
Date:November 21st, 2007 05:09 am (UTC)

An Exceptionally Simple Response to Everything

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Really, I'm not qualified to comment on your paper, but since I always wanted to discover the secrets to the universe, I'll just comment in your journal:

PENIS!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 23rd, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)

V

(Link)
Garrett, your paper at arXiv 0711.0770 shows "Submitted on 6 Nov 2007".
If arXiv posts papers the day after you send them there
does that mean that you wrote it and sent it in on 5 November 2007 ?
If so,
did you have in mind Guy Fawkes Day and V ?

Tony Smith
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 23rd, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)

Re: V

(Link)
Remember, remember the sixth of November...

I had some trouble with the TeX that hung me up a day.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 25th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)

E8(8) and Distler etc

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Garrett, this is a long comment (see my PS at the end),
but the short version is:

It seems to me that Jacques Distler did not refute your E8 model
(only a possible use of triality)
and
that his analysis, along with your comments,
show how the E8 model can be OK.

Here are details:

Distler said in his blog: "...
E8(8) includes Spin(16) as a maximal compact subgroup ...
In E8(8), the 248 decomposes as 248 = 120 + 128
...
We would like to find an embedding of
G = SL(2,C) x SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1)
in ... E8
...
SL(2,C) = Spin(3,1)o is the connected part of the Lorentz Group,
the "gauge group" in the MacDwoell-Mansouri formulation of gravity.
..."
and
you [Garrett] replied "... The G is embedded in a D4 x D4 subgroup of E8.
...
g = so(3,1) + su(2) + u(1) + su(3)
... is in a so(7,1) + so(8) of e8 via the Pati-Salam, left-right symmetric model,
g' = so(3,1) + su(2)_L + su(2)_R + su(4)
The so(3,1) + su(2)_L + su(2)_R is in so(7,1),
the su(4) is in so(8) ..."
and
Distler said "... Spin(7,1) x Spin(8) ... is a subgroup of E8(8) ...".

So, an E8(8) model should be OK with the following interpretation:

e8(8) = 120 + 128

120 = spin(16) = spin(8) + 64 + spin(7,1) = 28 + 64 + 28

128 = 64 + 64

where

gravity comes from spin(3,1) MacDowell-Mansouri
and
the Standard Model comes from Pati-Salam su(4)_c + su(2)_L + su(2)_R

spin(8) includes su(4) that reduces to su(3)_c

spin(7,1) includes so(3,1) + su(2)_L + su(2)_R

where the so(3,1) of MacDowell-Mansouri gravity is the little group,
or local isotropy group, of 4-dim spacetime M4 described
by the symmetric space G / Spin(3,1) where G can be anti-desitter or deSitter
and
where the su(2)_L + su(2)_R reduces to su(2)_L + u(1) which is the little group
of a 4-dim internal symmetry space CP2 = SU(3) / SU(2)xU(1)

NOTE that the Lie groups of the spin(7,1) Lie algebra form the little groups
of an 8-dim M4 x CP2 Kaluza-Klein space (as used by Batakis in his 1986 paper
Class. Quantum Grav. 3 (1986) L99-L105).

As to the global groups of M4 x CP2,
they are in the spin(8) that includes the su(4):
the su(3) gives the global group SU(3) in CP2 = SU(3) / SU(2)xU(1)
(as used by Batakis)
and
the 4-dimensional deSitter or anti-deSitter rotations of G / Spin(3,1)
should be a part of 6-dim twistor-related CP3 = SU(4) / SU(3)xU(1)

What about the one 64 in the 120 and the two 64 + 64 in the 128 of E8(8) ?

Each of the 64 should be of the form 8x8.
Generalizing the spacetime algebra approach of Hestenes, let, in each of
the three 64, one of the 8 represent 8 Dirac Gammas of the 8-dim K-K space.
Denote it by 8_G

Since the 64 in the 120 is in the adjoint of Spin(16),
its 8x8 should be correspond to the 8-dim vector K-K space,
so denote the 64 in 120 by 8_v x 8_G

Since the 64 + 64 in the 128 is in a spinor space of Spin(16),
its 8x8 + 8x8 should be correspond to fermions ( 8 particles and 8 antiparticles)
so denote the 128 64 + 64 in 128 by 8_f+ x 8_G and 8+f- x 8_G

There should be a Spin(8)-type triality among the three 64 things
8_v x 8_G
8_f+ x 8_G
8+f- x 8_G

The above E8(8) structure describes Gravity, the Standard Model,
4-dim physical spacetime, a 4-dim K-K space, and first-generation fermions,
as well as 8 Gammas of an 8-dim Dirac equation.

If the second and third generation fermions come from combinatorics of
fermions living partly in 4-dim physical spacetime and partly in 4-dim K-K space,
then you get all three generations.

My opinion is that:

a spin foam can be constructed by putting the 120 of E8(8) on links
and the 128 of E8(8) on vertices, and using Jordan algebra structure
related to the 27-dim exceptional Jordan algebra J3(O);
and
particle masses and force strengths come from ratios of geometric volumes
in the spirit of Armand Wyer;
neutrinos are tree-level massless, with masses coming from corrections;
Dark Energy : Dark Matter : Ordinary Matter ratio comes from the structure
of the twistor stuff in the spin(8) of the 120.

Tony Smith

PS - Sorry for the long post on mauitian.
If you want me to not put such stuff here, please just let me know.
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:November 25th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)

Re: E8(8) and Distler etc

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You are scaring my friends, but that's OK.

I know Jacques didn't refute it, in fact I think it's more interesting if it's in E8(8) than in E IX, because the representations are more involved.

But I am a little confused. My understanding of E8(8) is that the Killing form is such that the 120 have positive signature and the 128 have negative signature. So so(16) is a subalgebra. But Jacques said so(7,1)+so(8) is also a subalgebra... do you know how that works?
From:john_of_sparta
Date:November 27th, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)

Feynman's grandmother

(Link)
does E8/LIE/whatever have an explanation that will be able
to be explained to Richard Feynman's grandmother? or mine?
if so, what is it?
thanks.
[User Picture]
From:mauitian
Date:December 26th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Feynman's grandmother

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I put up some autobiographical information, and descriptions of the theory, here:

http://fqxi.org/community/forum.php?action=topic&id=108&PHPSESSID=a9fb11f849f829fafa0d32379f42a72f

http://fqxi.org/community/forum.php?action=topic&id=107&PHPSESSID=a9fb11f849f829fafa0d32379f42a72f

But, suitable for Feynman's grandmother? I dunno, maybe, I imagine Feynman's grandmother was pretty sharp.
[User Picture]
From:sylwia
Date:December 1st, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm an artist, and I don't understand the complex terms and math in your theory at all, hahaha. I do however, understand the elegance, and I think it's extraordinary. I've never heard of E8 before, but looking at the picture in the Telegraph article brought tears to my eyes. It's truly beautiful, which I can understand in a way I can't explain with math or words.

:)
[User Picture]
From:kkatie
Date:July 3rd, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
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(Deleted comment)
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From:mauitian
Date:December 7th, 2007 05:03 pm (UTC)
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Thanks Michael, good article.