The Non-Existent Theory of Everything
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1488
- Category: space
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In the past half of a century the Holy Grail of physics has been the search for a final Theory of Everything. I will argue that they have wasted their time on an impossible task. Although, we are constantly discovering new things, we can never know if we know if we actually know everything. Any theories we do discover cannot be fully tested and these theories have always fallen short of explaining the things we do know. This will always be the case as proven by Kurt Gödel with his Incomplete Theorem, as a Theory of Everything is quite frankly, impossible.
It is impossible for us to know we have a Theory of Everything (ToE) because we cannot ever know that we do know everything. Both our knowledge of the universe, and the universe are constantly changing, so a ToE could only tell us the known portions of the universe (Clayton 2). Throughout history we have developed certain constants. These involve units of length, mass, temperature, charge and more. According to Barrow, Physicists often assume these constants have the same values everywhere in space and time (7). Chemical elements in different regions of the universe could absorb things like light differently than the same elements on Earth (Barrow 7). Our constants could certainly vary in time and space, and if the extra dimensions of space were to change, our constants would change as well (Barrow 2).
Science must end before infinity because we are only capable of knowing space, time, energy, matter and mathematics. Anything beyond those is completely unfathomable for human kind (Aldworth 290). Helge Kragh a historian of Physics from Denmark suggested that even if we were to find a ToE that is a promising candidate that we had the capability of fully understanding, how would we know that it was the ‘end of the road?’ (Campbell 1). There are already so many physics questions we cannot answer, and even if an ultimate theory was able to answer some or even all of them, it is just as likely that the theory would present brand new questions we had never asked to begin with (Campbell 3). Michael Duff concedes that we cannot disagree with the assertion that our current understanding is only partial, and we have yet to uncover the ultimate truth (185). There is simply no formulas that can deliver total insight with a theory of everything, and any such theory would still only tell us about the known portions of the universe (Clayton 2).
Of course, until the day comes when we can figure out how to do the impossible of making infinite observations in a finite time frame, only then could we know if a ToE actually does explain everything. The truth is though that we can only verify theories a finite number of times, and the goal of scientific theory of making experimentally testable predictions could prove quite difficult (Duff 185). Another problem with testing ToE’s is we just don’t have the tools to test the them. Even the Hadron Collider, a 17 mile long giant tube, the largest machine of science, is not capable of testing a ToE (Kaku 1). Another issue is the discovery by George Cantor that there is more than one kind of infinity, and even larger infinite sets can be generated with no limit to the escalation (Aldworth 287). With all of these infinite universes in play, a ToE could only tell us about the portion of the universe that we actually know, which is actually incredibly little making it impossible to have a formula that is capable of delivering all truth (Clayton 2). Because ToE’s have not been able to be proven, they are all based on circumstantial evidence, so we do not even know if the unproven is even provable to begin with (Duff 186). Most theories, like the M-Theory for example, are incomplete and given we don’t have the tools to test and confirm it, it must remain incomplete (Bochynski 2).
Theories are exactly as the name says, they are just theories. All existing proposed theories do not explain everything even when limited to just the things we do know. Because of this a ToE is only able to explain remarkably little making them far from sufficient for explaining the whole of our infinite universe (Clayton 1). There are four fundamental forces that explain all physical phenomena; Gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force (Campbell 1). Some great minds have attempted to create a theory that encompasses all of these forces, but they have failed (Kaku 1). Einstein’s theory of general relativity failed to comply with the quantum rules by which the behavior of elementary particles are governed (Duff 183). His theory, one of the modern pillars od physics, describes how gravity sculpts the universe and the other pillar, quantum mechanics describes the behavior of subatomic particles (Gefter 1). They are incompatible with each other based on different physical pictures, different assumptions and different mathematics (Kaku 1). This incompatibility leaves researchers still looking for a theory that would unify the two pillars (Gefter 1).
The M-Theory and the String theories both try to unify the two pillars, but they present problems of their own. According to Bochynski, the Multiverse or M-Theory predicts the probability that there are an unlimited number of life supporting universes that arise spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations (2). The M-Theory admits that it has more different solutions than the string theory does and we have no idea which, if any, we would select to describe our universe, and just as we cannot prove the theory, we also cannot experimentally verify it as false (Duff 185). If the case of the multiverse theory is correct we would have to assume that some things about our universe are nothing more than a random accident (Ananthaswamy 2). The leading theory to describe a quantum theory of gravity is the string theory. The string theory says that all particles found in nature are nothing more than vibrations on a microscopic string (Kaku 1). The major issue here is that a string is smaller than ‘a trillionth of a trillionth on an atom’ meaning it is impossible to directly test, even with the world’s strongest microscopes (Gefter 1). Another issue is the fact that there is not one, but there are five mathematically consistent string theories. All 5 are competing for the coveted title of The Theory of Everything, but some string theories state our universe has only ten dimensions, while others say there are 11 (Duff 3). Even if one of these theories were to answer some, or even all of the outstanding physics questions about our universe, this ultimate theory would more than likely present us with more questions than we thought to ask in the first place (Campbell 3).
Incidentally in 1931 an Austrian mathematician was able to prove a theory of everything is impossible, and his work cannot be disproven so it is often hidden away. According to Freeman Dyson, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem proves that the whole of mathematics can never be encompassed by any finite set of axioms and rules of inference, and given any finite set of axioms there would still be unanswerable meaningful mathematical questions (Aldworth 286). The basis of Gödel’s work is that we can neither prove or disprove perfectly reasonable mathematical statements about whole numbers (Cubitt 3), and that there is truth beyond which mathematics could ever prove. This is the same as saying that one thing math does prove is that there is truth beyond its ability to prove (Aldworth 287). According to Cubitt, Alan Turing, a computer scientist, proved that no general algorithm can exists that decided whether mathematical statements are true or false therefore proving Gödel correct (4). Alonzo Church did prove this first before Alan Turing, but Turing’s proof was more significant as the more important part of a result is often the proof of it rather than the actual result itself (Cubitt 4). Anyone can have a theory they think is the final one, but proving that the theory is an actual Theory of Everything is simply impossible.
I have argued that those searching for a Theory of Everything have wasted their time on an impossible task. It is impossible for us to know that we know everything, even though we are constantly discovering new things we can never know if we know everything. We cannot fully test any theories we do discover and all of these theories always fall short of explaining what we do already know. Kurt Gödel was able to prove this will always be the case with his Incomplete Theorem. In conclusion, it is simply impossible to have a Theory of Everything, and although many have tried and failed, many more will follow in their footsteps and waste their entire lives chasing something that doesn’t exist.