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CATEGORY: What's Ultimately Possible in Physics? Essay Contest (2009) [back]
TOPIC: The fairness principle and the ultimate theory of not everything by Giovanni Amelino-Camelia [refresh]
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Author Giovanni Amelino-Camelia wrote on Sep. 17, 2009 @ 10:20 GMT
Essay Abstract

I build a ``case for noteverything", with 3 levels of analysis. I first contemplate the complementary realms of ``faith" and ``science" and place the concept of ``theory of everything" firmly in the faith category. I then consider how ``mindsets of faith" affect scientific work, and compare the vast emptyness produced by the last few decades of the theory-of-everything fashion to the long list of wonderful discoveries produced by the ``noteverything mindset", which I illustrate through the examples of Planck's description of blackbody radiation, Einsten-deBroglie wave-particle duality and Fermi's powerful rudimentary theory of weak interactions. Finally I argue, of course less objectively, that even as a choice of faith the ``theory of everything" is rather awkward. A natural alternative is faith in a ``fairness principle", here proposed as a modern version of a principle first formulated by Kepler, which would imply that our journey of discovery of more and more things will not end or saturate.

Author Bio

born in Napoli, Italia Undergraduate studies: univ of Napoli PhD studies: Boston University postdocs: MIT, Oxford, Neuchatel, CERN presently: tenured researcher at the Univ "La Sapienza" in Roma, Italy FQXi member (selected for a Large Grant in august 2008)

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Uncle Al wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 01:38 GMT
The universe is causal. Demanding causality cannot be wholly encapsulated within a self-consistent mathematical model is indefensible. Proclaiming deities and paranormal cobwebs is frank cowardice. Human understanding isonly limited only by committees and their peer votes.

The singular biblical sin is knowledge: the tree of Knowledge, Gomorrah being burned from history for sins of the mind, the Vatican refusing to look through Galileo's telescope, the Flintstones as a documentary. You walk in others' small footprints and bask in their big noises. Important people work to create the future, not gather to mourn it.

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J.C.N. Smith wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 02:23 GMT
Mr. Amelino-Camelia,

Thank you for a well written and thought provoking essay. I believe that we need have no fear of ever encountering a point in history when there will be no more mysteries of the universe to discover, no more puzzles to solve. I base this belief on the observation that the more we learn about the universe, the more we realize how little we really know about it and the more we realize how little we truly understand it.

I further base my belief on the scientific fact of evolution. By the process of natural selection, our brains gradually have become better adapted to making new discoveries about our natural environment, which has so far worked to our advantage in terms of survival. If we succeed in navigating the precarious phase of evolution in which we currently find ourselves (i.e., having brains ideally suited by evolution for survival in a hunter-gatherer society, but armed with weapons of mass destruction), then our further outlook on the far side of these precarious evolutionary waters should be promising indeed, hopefully finding us a race of beings whose knowledge of science will be tempered by an equal or greater degree of wisdom.

"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is its comprehensibility." -- A. Einstein

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 04:28 GMT
I also have another argument against TOE. I optical fibers the pulse propagation is described by the nonlinear Schrodinger equation (NLSE) which has famous solitonic solutions. Now the NLSE is derivable in certain anharmonic region from Maxwell’s equations. You can consider Maxwell’s equations as the TOE of light, and still, NLSE has very different characteristics and uses inverse scattering (a completely different math) for solving it.

Similarly in medicine we fully understand now the circulatory system, the bones, etc, but we are still battling cancer. The point is that even after a TOE, emergent phenomena will keep physicists employed. Mathematics is infinite and so are the physical phenomena.

Still, the case for and against a TOE is open and I am not sure either way, what I do know is that physics axiomatization (Hilbert’s sixth problem) is mathematically feasible and this may one day be what people will understand by a TOE.

On a separate issue, I was wondering what would your response be to the claims of Nosratollah Jafari, Ahmad Shariati in gr-qc/0602075? Thanks.

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Sascha Vongehr wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 06:29 GMT
Dear Giovanni Amelino-Camelia!

Thank you for having the guts to point to the fact that faith is a big and largely detrimental factor in the scientific community. This is one of my main points, and I will just add that it is not “even nowadays”, but especially nowadays, and not in spite of, but not surprisingly at all accompanied by vehemently denying any similarity with...

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 09:47 GMT
Hi Mr Giovanni Amelino-Camelia,Mr Vongehr,all ,

Interesting essay .

I agree too Mr Vongehr,Your analyse is pragamatic.

we are babies of the Universe still and the pleasure to learn and to always search the truth is essential ,fundamental ,basic ,rational ,logic,systematic .

A fundamenatl theory evolves too ,improves itself by complementarity .

I d like insist on...

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Owen Cunningham wrote on Sep. 18, 2009 @ 19:19 GMT
Ultimately this topic hinges on what it means to understand something. The two folk definitions of understanding I'm familiar with are: "If you can explain something simply, then you understand it" and "If you can predict how something will behave, then you understand it." I think it will ultimately be possible to achieve the first type of understanding with respect to the universe, but I don't think the second will ever happen. Science has trained us to equate predictive power with explanatory power. We should be prepared for the possibility that 100% explanatory power still translates to some amount of predictive power that, while nonzero, is still less than 100%.

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Ben Baten wrote on Sep. 19, 2009 @ 01:36 GMT
Hi Giovanni-

I think that the fairness principle is interesting from a philosophical perspective. However, an unlimited number of reasonable principles can be imagined. For example, the principle of parsimony, symmetry principles, the beauty principle (beautiful must be good), etc.

In my opinion, absolutely fundamental characteristics of nature should be used to guide us to a unified theory of physics. In my essay "Ultimate Possibilities of Physics", I explain that this is possible and results in a coherent theory, which explains and predicts many features observed in nature.


Ben Baten

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 20, 2009 @ 10:13 GMT
Hello all ,

I agree Mr Baten ,indeed the nature shows us the fundamenatls .

I am horticulteur too ,botanist and ecologist .It's a passion in fact ,I like plant and cultivate flowers ,vegetables ,trees....The nature and its splendids creations show us the truths ,the truth .

All has a spherical comportments without any doubt .All is correlated with these spheres...

view entire post

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amrit wrote on Sep. 21, 2009 @ 15:12 GMT
Dear Dr. Giovanni Amelino-Camelia!

Conscious observer has no faith. He is aware of consciousness itself. He is not a believer he is a knower.

yours amrit

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Peter Jackson wrote on Sep. 21, 2009 @ 16:45 GMT
Dear Giovanni

Excellent Essay. I have discovered that finding and opening that sought after door, or reaching that mountain peak, can only ever give us a new horizon. It opens up to view areas of nature far greater than that we knew before, but it also gives us far more to explore. Amost unfairly more! as we've been trapped with no way ahead for some time now.

I was stopped in my tracks by your comments on nesting dolls, and a new theory of noteverything, perhaps with " realm of applicability and lacking mathematical rigor." to " a key role in changing a fundamental paradigm." as Fermi's theory.

I've become convinced, and think I've now largely proven, that such a theory, even a beautiful one, cannot now do that. Please view my own essay, ('Perfect Symmetry') and article link hidden in the posts under, that achieves this. It's fields within fields, from a galaxy cluster down to a single accellered proton, and Doppler provides the only maths needed for unification without paradox. It's an almost 'naive' unification model it's so simple, but you are absolutely right, it only brings us a slightly clearer view of the distant past and the origin of the universe.

But to change a ruling paradigm? Not with our current half closed eyes and minds. J.C.N.Smith above amplified my point well. Our brains simply haven't evolved enough and aren't ready for it yet. Or please tell me you think I'm wrong?!

Peter Jackson

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Sep. 22, 2009 @ 13:31 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

I agree with you on your main point about *theory* of everything, but I do not quite agree with the “case for noteverything”.

Thus, although the main reason why the term ‘theory of everything’ appeared, as I see it, is the dominant pyramidal view of the organization of *natural sciences* (with physics at the bottom), the more interesting question about ‘everything’ is this. Do we need the *representational formalism* for everything, i.e. the universal form of data representation?

Interestingly, so far, we have actually relied on such representational formalism for everything, the numeric formalism: the number is the universal currency in science. So the answer to the question is ‘yes’.

However, as I discuss it in my essay, the more fundamental question about ‘everything’ has to do with whether we need to replace the numeric representational formalism for everything with another one.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 22, 2009 @ 17:13 GMT
That could be well if the name "evolutive "was inserted in the name ?



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Juan Ramos wrote on Sep. 23, 2009 @ 23:16 GMT

I agree, the Universe is far more complex and full of information to put it in a single theory of everything.

On my essay (which should be available soon) I posulate only the UNIVERSE itself can contain all the rules we are looking for.

For us, there will allways be things to discover, and new theories to postulate, each of them a little better than the other ones, but never, ever complete.

Uncle Al:

Even if the universe is causal (which I might agree), who says the rules that govern it are finite?

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Juan Ramos wrote on Sep. 23, 2009 @ 23:22 GMT

I just found the theory of everything.

For any given event or succes in the universe:

If it can be explained completly using quantum physics use quantum physics.

if it can be explained completly using general relativity use general relativity

else just say it works as you saw it.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 19:19 GMT
Hi Juan Ramos ,

It's well that ,I suppose what the name is the Theory of Spherisation ,a GUT of Rotating Spheres ,here is the ultim Gauge my friends and thus this theory will rest and will evolve .

Thus EUREKA hihihihiihi don't be frustrated we can all work together ....if you want of course dear friends .

I am too arrogant ,I am going to have still people against me but it's like that when you find something important and revolutionnary .

The jealousy is human like the vanity but we evolve hihihi fortunally

I have read your essay dear Juan ,verry funny to read .A good humor ,well placed with pragamatism .



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Juan Enrique Ramos Beraud wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 13:53 GMT
Faith is one of many things that keep us from watching things as they are, so I try to be allways open and respectful to anyones beliefs. Most beliefs have a reasonable part in them. --as long they don't make people kill each other --

the quest to produce a TOE will surelly lead us to some good conclusions even if it does not produce a TOE.

I think there is enogh of us to walk the different paths.

But each of us has to take a position.

It's a great thing most essays do take a position

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 17:16 GMT
One of my friend says always that .

It's better to include ....never to exclude's fundamental for the real respect .

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 23:57 GMT
I agree mostly with your assessment about TOE's. First off a TOE about quantum supergravity is not likely to tell us that much about how to predict hurricanes. I tend to prefer TODOE, "Theory OF Domains Of Experience." Given certain aspects of physics which appear incommensurate a unification amounts to some physical recognition about how these separate domains are in fact equivalent in some scheme.

Even string theory, if for now we assume this works at some foundations, is really an effective theory. It valences chaotic quantum foam or fluctuations from the lower energy world. The string world sheet in a sense "covers" them. So there is admitedly some domain of ignorance, which in principle could be open to investigation. I think that strings are Skymrion field effects from quantum codes and Planck sphere packings. This might take physics a bit closer to the absolute Planck scale. A closer theory might be mathematically codified by the "monster group."

The "end of physics" is probably coming whether we like it or not. I hope that we can arrive at a reasonable effective theory of quantum cosmology. We might push further if we are lucky to deeper underlying structure to that. I also hold out some hope for some body of empirical data which will support this. Yet we might find in time that we are in a sense lost and can't access data. It is my dread that we might already be there are near there with regards to quantum gravity.

I also suspect that physics might become a sort of applied service science tied to other areas of science, say biophysics. Even more we might find that the biggest area of late 21st century physics will be health physics or Earth physics. We might be forced before terribly long to get serious about cleaning up our mess here.

Cheers LC

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 26, 2009 @ 00:40 GMT
Interesting approach ,

"I also suspect that physics might become a sort of applied service science tied to other areas of science, say biophysics"

Personnally I also suspect that physics become a kind of mathematical extrapolations without a real physical sense .

I name that the imaginaries .I prefer the reals .

The sciences are all linked ,even the math must be fundamentals .

A biological system is a pure creation of physics ....


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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 26, 2009 @ 09:32 GMT
Hope what the physics shall help this planet ,it's essential in my opinion .

I imagine the collaboration focus on priorities for our fellow man .

Let's imagine ,Lawrence ,Florin ,Dr. Giovanni Amelino-Camelia,Super Dr Cosmic Ray,Jason the creative ,Georgina ,Dr Corda ,Mr Smith ,Mr Johnstone,Brian ,Amrit,Ben Baten ,...I am persuaded what we can invent many concrete systems to improve the quality of life towards a prosperity .

They need helps .....and the scientists are so so important .

I wouldn't hurt anybody ,just catalyze a little .Sorry if I have been too arrogant .

I respect all of you ,be sure ,I am always impressioned by your capacities and potentials .

Take care all



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Member Louis Crane wrote on Sep. 26, 2009 @ 19:10 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

I do not think faith has anything at all to do with the motivation for looking for a unified theory. The reason I continue to look for it is that the theories of fundamental Physics as we know it are very similar to one another, all of them are classically just differential geometry, and curvature is always the fundamental variable. The three branches of theoretical Physics, relativity, gauge theory and dirac theory of fermions correspond to the tangent bundles of manifolds, abstract bundles, and spin bundles. This is such a strong formal coincidence that looking for a common unifying structure is natural.

In his infamous book on gravity, Feynman said it was a miracle Einstein found the exact lagrangian, then went on to say the similar methods couldnt possibly apply to matter. The advent of Yang Mills theory was only a few years away when he said this. So fancy schmancy mathematics isnt such a bad idea after all.

Having a TOE doesnt make the world less full of mystery. Complex systems have emergent phenomena which cannot be deduced from the underlying physical laws.

For many purposes Faraday's "electric theory of matter" is already a unified theory. Does the fact that lightning and chemistry have the same underlying force mean the world is any simpler?

So no, I dont think Physicists are motivated by faith at all.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 27, 2009 @ 12:02 GMT
Hello Mr Crane and Dr. Giovanni Amelino-Camelia,

I agree Mr Crane ,it's well said and well resumed.All fundamenatls Theories shall rest ,are unified and shall evolve too towards this ultim unification with our evolution time of course.



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Narendra Nath wrote on Sep. 28, 2009 @ 06:36 GMT
Faith is funadamental to science as to any other human activity. Tying to religion is just a matter of mind for some who may have developed allergy to religions as these were considered opposed to science. it is not true in Asian continent where the religions never oppesed search for truth by any means, science was lauded and encouraged. Faith boosts the energy and consciousness leevls of any individual and provides one enthusiasm and vigour to persue the search for truth. Personally i rate the developments in Physics to be dependent on three pillars, concepts/precepts,experimetal observations and mathematical theory. The latter two are mere tools while the first provides the basic ground work for the understanding. It comes out of a discerning mind that is disciplined and unbiased, capable of independent thinking. It is here that consciousness gets involved too.

May we all ma

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Sep. 29, 2009 @ 04:20 GMT
‘ … The outside world is something independent from man, something absolute …’

If the universe creates itself out of nothing and continues to do so, then the sum of everything inside of it, including spacetime itself has somehow to remain nil, so things certainly do not have an absolute kind of existence, a reality outside the universe –the ‘somehow’ being the main subject of...

view entire post

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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 10:37 GMT

A well written essay. But there is a well known syndrome in history. When war breaks out the generals tend to refight the previous war; i.e. the war they experienced first hand as junior commanders in the front line. The war that is over.

While I agree that there are always individuals with the Alexander/Caesar/Napoleon complex who believe they can conquer the whole universe, the TOE war ended a long time ago. Hawking surrendered many years ago. Weinberg has (almost) faded gracefully from the scene. Davies, who through his popularisations did more to promote the concept than any other individual, has Talleyrand like emerged unscathed. Having a good nose for where the action is, he has moved on - beyond physics.

You are refighting a war that is over while the new war thunders around our ears. The front line is Emergence versus Reductionism. Old war horses like Weinberg are urging on the reductionists. Emergentists such as Laughlin are posing challenges that threaten to overwhelm them. If they do and if Biologists or Cognitive Scientists get the upper hand in the Consciousness battle, then physics as the fundamental science, with or without the Higgs will, have to surrender its sovereign power. It will become a backwater of science.

University enrolments already confirm this. Apart from emphasisng a basic fact of human psychology that some of us have delusions of grandeur, your essay is about the recent past of physics; not its ultimate future.

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Bee wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 13:52 GMT
Hi Giovanni,

A very interesting and well written essay, though it meanders around the actual answer to the question what is possible in physics. If I apply some good will, what you are arguing could be summarized as since we'll never know whether a "TOE" is really a theory of everything, we can't conclude from it what's possible or not, even if we had it. Which is basically what I said in my essay :-)

Anyway, what is more in the focus of your essay is the accusation that those researchers who strive to find a theory of everything are lead by faith and not by rationality. Well, I can't exclude that this is indeed the case for some physicists, but it doesn't match with my experience. There are just researchers who think mathematical consistency is the better guide, and there are researchers that believe testability is the better guide. And there have to be people of both kinds. You write

"Over the last decade a small community of quantum-gravity phenomenologists has found ways to devise data analyses that provide genuine Planck-scale sensitivity, at least for a few effects that could plausibly characterize the quantum gravity realm."

Yet, you are just hiding your own "faith" in the word "plausible," which expresses your own "believe". I am very sure the the majority of our colleagues would disagree on the "plausibility of this Planck-scale sensitivity". And why is that? Because the approaches you are referring to lack mathematical consistency, but let's not dwell too much on that here. Research being what it is, we don't know which criterion is eventually the more useful one. It might very well be that your colleagues are right and once they have sorted out the maths, they will be able to make a strikingly correct prediction. It might very well be you are right and it's more useful to demand predictions first, even on the expenses of mathematical consistency. But neither of both is more than an expression of personal opinion, possibly spiced up with anecdotes from the history of science.

And as Louis said above, even if there was a TOE as in a final fundamental theory (though we could never prove it is), this wouldn't mean the end of physics, since it is far from clear - in fact even doubtful - we would be able to derive all emergent features we observe from that theory. I commented on that in my essay. It would just mean that the "frontier of knowledge" shifts elsewhere and physics recalibrates its direction, and many other fields of science have done throughout the centuries. Best,


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Bee wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 14:06 GMT
Oh, forgot: your mentioning of an "ultimate theory of not everything" with the infinite series of nesting dolls is the same as Paul Davies' infinite tower of turtles (as in contrast to the levitating superturtle). I commented on that in my post Turtles all the way up.

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NN wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 14:43 GMT
May be my Sept 28 post is not worth any significance to to the author of thr essay. i need be responded to in that case. My apologies.the end part of that posting seems to have gotten erased and i have no way to reconstruct it now.

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 19:02 GMT
Dear Giovanni Amelino-Camelia,

In my understanding that the formalisation of TOE is the ultimate evolutionary probabilities of physics, in that all theories of not everything to be generalised in fairness principles, is the objective you have described in this article, am I right. I fully agree that there is no end for ultimate physics as there is major constrains on quantification of gravity for the interpolation of scale transformation in renormalization.

The Coherent-cyclic cluster-matter universe model also have fine structure constant problem same as in Lambda-CDM model of cosmology. The inability of this model to describe the origin of dynamics of the universe is also states the same that there is no end for ultimate physics. Thank you..

With best wishes,


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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 19:17 GMT
Fortunally Mr Crane arranges the squarisation ...

"Having a TOE doesnt make the world less full of mystery. Complex systems have emergent phenomena which cannot be deduced from the underlying physical laws."

Always full of mysteries due to our EVOLUTION ....bzzzzzzzzz the fly of the bee without name .Apis vulgaris thus hihihihi let's smile a little .

I repeat too a fundamenatl theory evolves and rest .....never confound ...

Steve vespa spherica ,hymenoptera in spherisation hihihi

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Philip Vos Fellman wrote on Oct. 7, 2009 @ 21:29 GMT

Thank you for a fine paper, relating your key points with superb clarity. I have long felt that the most ill-informed statement a physicist could make in front of virtually any audience (and I have seen this more times than I can count, particularly when someone announces a result which is relatively singular in nature anyway) is "of course, once we have a complete picture of nature..." (usually implying that this is just over the horizon).

I also felt that you raised some key epistemological issues, and that particularly from the standpoint of category theory, there are deep flaws in the "theory of everything" approach which lend it the flavor, ab initio, of an impossible enterprise. Not only is there the whole compass of the Hilbert/Gödel debate here, but I like the way your paper reveals the hidden infinite regress in the theory of everything approach. T.O.E.'s contain far too many assumptions about mapable, known and knowable categories, most of which, as you so succinctly point out are either unnecessary for the enterprise of scientific discovery, or are downright inimical to it. The TOE approach is also one which if I might verge on the self-referential, "promiscuously mixes language and meta-language" and by extension improperly mixes or creates ill-defined relationships between scientific method or framework and results.



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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 11:18 GMT
Hi all ,

When I read the essay on this thread ,I was happy to see in fact the sense of this work .Never a theory is finished ,it's a good analyze indeed because we are youngs at the universal scale .Thus I agree.

On the other side this kind of essay is a little too personal and a lack of universality is present .

I think what like in all centers of interest ,a balance is necessary for a whole point of vue evidently .

The quest of the truth isn't a play but a real work where all is balanced in correlation with our 3D laws and the time constant .

The faith is an universality and permits to encircle our rule of human like catalyzers of our ecosystems .I insist on the difference about the human inventions and the universal creations and fundamentals .Our eyes show us the reality which evolves like all .

In the research of the truth ,many theories are falses but some are trues ,there the difference with the reals and imaginaries are essentials .

The philosophy is an universality where ineteracts the fundamentals .

Kinds Regards


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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 18:41 GMT
hihihi I know now ,it's sabine ,the bee ,hihihi ,mu curiosity helped me a little .It's a bad habit for me ,it's not a bad habit in fact ,it's well to be curious I think ,without that we know nothing in fact hihih

I am going to read your paper ,I am nice you know ,bizare sometimes but pragmatic and nice hihihi

Hope I will be quiet ,I take my medicaments you know ,let's go stevi some neuroleptic to stabilize your hormons hihihih

Let's laugh a little dear friends ,it's good for health ,sciences ,faith ,universality and laughs = eureka



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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 23:58 GMT
Fundamental sciences should have reached maturity. Thomas Eagar listed all novelties in his discipline for intervals of five years each. After a period of acceleration, the number of essential contributions reached a climax and fell to zero while simultaneously the number of conferences, publications etc. continued to grow.

Let's hope for revealing very basic mistakes. I consider the chance pretty high. Why? I do not hate but I love contradictions, ambiguities, non-causalities, and signs of arbitrary instead of natural decisions.

Given, mathematics will abandon Cantor's aleph_2. The world would certainly not immediately benefit much from such overdue correction. Bad ghosts and white holes are likewise irrelevant. After how many years can the presumably negative outcome of LHC's search for SUSY be judged? I do not suspect a flaw of everything, just an almost ubiquitous trifle.

I agree with Uncle Al: Any science has to be based on the traditional concept of causality while, in particular, rigorous mathematical formalism can be unfair.


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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Oct. 10, 2009 @ 04:14 GMT
Greetings Giovanni,

I enjoyed your essay and have quite a few points of agreement in my own contest essay. I argue that instead of looking for a single theory to knit our world-view together, we should be looking for a broader framework, and using as connecting pieces many bits of knowledge we already have.

A lot of people feel it's important to find that one theory which, by its rightness, excludes the possibility for any other theory to be correct. I am instead of the opinion that; if there are a number of well-framed theories, all pointing to a similar result, this is compelling evidence that what they point at is something important to examine or investigate. I am at a loss to see why people would want just one working description. I explore the opposite extreme in my paper.

I think each step in the ladder of theoretical understanding is important, as your essay also indicates. But my essay stresses that we should be attentive to developing broader frameworks for our knowledge, instead of looking for TOEs prematurely. My idea is that the search for Quantum Gravity has been too driven by what you refer to as the TOE mentality, and preventing us from discovering the road to ultimate unification. I based my essay on a couple of articles I'd written more than 10 years ago, and it appeared that not much had changed since then.

I'm glad to hear that there is some progress on testable Quantum Gravity formulations. Are you familiar with the Relativistic QM experiments being conducted with Graphene? I can look up a reference.

I may have a few more comments or questions, but that's all I have time for now.

All the Best,

Jonathan J. Dickau

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Oct. 10, 2009 @ 06:33 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

While insisting that the end of fundamental physics is nowhere in sight, you do acknowledge the "recent standstill", ie, the lack of new discoveries. If, as I believe will be the case, there will be neither Higgs nor new particles found at the LHC, then the end may be closer than you think. I am assuming that by fundamental physics you mean particle physics, and that a TOE...

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nnath wrote on Oct. 11, 2009 @ 06:25 GMT
i tend to agree with the brief comment of Edwin Klingman. The simpler the theory the more likely it will enhance Physics, provided the concepts/ precepts have been chosen in consistency with the study of Nature done thus far.

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Aaron P wrote on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 01:54 GMT
A nice bit of fun Giovanni, some light relief, but well expressed. I really can't see us running out of mountains to climb. Especially with a complete new range now in sight. You really must go to the 'Perfect Symmetry' essay by Peter Jackson and do some exploration through the layers and links. Very few have seen it so far but there's a well of holy grail hidden there. I think you may be the man to find it.

To the future


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Don Limuti ( wrote on Oct. 24, 2009 @ 06:59 GMT

A very good treatment of the wider aspects of a TOE. I liked its combination of science and humanism with both taken to a deep level.

Have some fun and take a look at this effort at extending the wonderfully ugly "old quantum theory" at:

This theory will definitely not bring an end to physics :)

Wishing you the best in this contest,

Don L.

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 09:08 GMT
There are people who enjoy chasing mysteries, and there are people who defend the mysteries. The two categories are not disjoint: you may want to defend a mystery because you like to explore it. When we read a joke, or a detective novel, we keep ourselves away for reading the last line before reading the whole story.

I enjoyed reading this essay, because it was well written and the arguments were as good as they can be. The essay attacks the idea of a theory of everything along three lines: 1) that searching a TOE is based on an unjustified faith, and not on science, 2) that this research was sterile for physics, 3) that the objective should not be the TOE, but the fairness principle.

I will try to explain now why I think that the main idea of the essay is not very correct, and not entirely healthy for science.

I am forced to split my comment, because of its length.

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 09:17 GMT
Claim 1: Searching a TOE is based on an unjustified faith, and not on science

The "faith" behind the idea of unification is that:

a) nature obeys a set of laws

b) these laws are consistent one another

Clearly, any attempt of doing science is based on the idea that there are laws to be discovered. And when we test the candidate laws, we opposed them to the experiments,...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 09:24 GMT
Claim 2: the research of TOE was sterile for physics

Let's say that there are two problems under research, a simple one, and a complicated one. In general, simpler problem are solved easily, with less resources, in less time, than the difficult ones. The difficult problems may remain unsolved for years, for generations, and even forever. Should we try to solve only the simple problems?...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 09:29 GMT
Claim 3: the objective should not be the TOE, but the fairness principle.

Who, if would find the TOE, would keep it secret, to let the other the pleasure of discovery? Who, when will see an article describing the true TOE, will avoid reading it, to have the pleasure of solving himself the puzzle?

"A theory of everything would endow us with God-like powers, masters of the laws of the...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 09:52 GMT

I tried to explain that the essay above fails to show that

1) searching a TOE is more "faith-based" than doing physics in general

2) searching universal laws is more sterile than solving easier problems

Yet, I agree that the third claim

3) all generations will have an equal share of doing fundamental physics research

may be useful, although...

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Narendra Nath wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 14:35 GMT
i see that the author has attempted the essay text to be factual and has expressed that the end of Physics is far away. He is right when we examine the way Physics ahs developed over the years. lately it finds itself devoid of new ideas/concepts and that is why it is presently limited mostly to new mathematical corallories of earlier research and experiments are becoming increasingly dependent on technological developments that are becoming increasingly costly. What is lacking is the novelty or innovative aspects by way of fresh ideas/ concepts. Only the later aspect requires a freshness of approach. tejindre's essay provide one such ray of hope by way of mesomorphic regionn of physics taht lies in between classical and quantum mechanical. thus providig smoothness to the two extremes of appraoch made like classical and quantum. There are difficulties in looking at problems that may require such an approach where neither h can be taken as zero or what its value is. The early universe in my view provides such a scenario because of the extreme conditions prevailing then. The stars were emerging from cosmic dust which itself took a long time to generate from the nucleons, nuclei and atome/molecules. One ne3eds massive single structures that are in between atoms and macroscopic matter. may be large nanostructured crystals of heavier elements than carbon may be attempted. It is the technique of preparation that is needed to evolve such structures and the today's experimentalists have a challenge before them, where Physicists and chemists need to work in close collaboration with life scientists to plsn innovative approaches towards such an objective. i wish i could be more specific but i hope some intelligent and imaginative young scientist w2ill come with freshness and free approach for such innovativeness.

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Author Giovanni Amelino-Camelia wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 17:57 GMT
dear all

I have just found out that there are already some comments to my essay. Perhaps it is best if I start by just making a few remarks that appear to be relevant for common features of several comments.

A general observation is that it seems that some of the aspects of the essay which I considered more marginal actually end up being of particular interest for several readers,...

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Author Giovanni Amelino-Camelia wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 18:34 GMT
PART 2: I would say that it is only a marginal aspect of the perspective I propose the one that concerns trying to characterize how our human nature ends up so frequently leading us to the assumption that

- Nature is "elegant" (and by the way we of course have a very good sense of what is elegant)

- what we have seen is all there is

I do believe strongly that when a discovery fits well with our perception of "elegance", then it means the discovery is not that big after all. I much prefer discoveries that force us to rethink our entire worldview and forcefully (better yet, unpleasantly) impose upon us the need to acquire a new "sense of elegance". And we have had some. Fortunately our views concerning "elegance" have evolved quite a bit from the times of Aristotle's Earth-surrounding crystalline spheres....and I am ready to bet they will keep evolving, mostly following (rather than driving) the experimental discoveries

From the posts I also see that, as a result of the clumsy wording I found, readers end up attaching more meaning than intended to my brief remarks on a mathematical toy model with structure resembling the one of nesting dolls. The essay emphasizes that I fortunately have no idea what is ahead of us, not even behind the next corner, so with the nesting dolls I was definitely not trying to propose some sort of actual model. It was the best way I found for giving some structure to my amusement with the idea of a toy model that could be used to illustrate the concept of "fundamentally noteverything". In a certain sense my essay is about "de facto noteverything" and all I care about is the "de facto level" ( in an appropriate sense, I would reserve the label "exists" only to the "de facto level") but it was amusing to contemplate the possibility of finding a formalization of "fundamentally noteverything"

many thanks to all readers, and particularly those who choose to offer criticism or encouragement. Hopefully using this feedback and getting myself more educated on some relevant subjects I might at some point be in a position to strengthen my "case for noteverything". After finishing the essay I find myself subtracting time from my "number-crunching day job" to really study (rather than glance at) the works of some of those who have thought most carefully about the scientific method and the "demarcation problem"....I am starting to get the impression that these challenges are not easier than quantum gravity...and it appears hard (though, intriguingly, perhaps not absolutely impossible) to develop a "phenomenological approach" or even just a "perturbative approach" to these subjects...



Narendra Nath wrote on Oct. 27, 2009 @ 03:31 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

Your response is long enough to satisfy the commentators on your post. You are correct when you say that the limitation of language and expression cause misunderstandings, specially in website discussions. Face to face meetings are the best to reduce such distractions, as we have in workshops/conferences,etc. In fact my own essay on this forum puts similar emphasis, being myself an experimentalist. You are already on top in the competition and certainly wish you to continue your outstanding achievement till the end of this healthy competition.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 27, 2009 @ 12:44 GMT
Dear Giovani ,

Happy to see your answers .It was time hihihi

I try to encircle your aim in physics ,

I d like say one thing very important .When a theory is fundamental ,it hasn't any strategy .Like in our Universe ,any strategy is real .

A fundamental theory and its equations evolves,it is a process of rationality .

Any words or laguages are necessary to encircle the music of our Universe and its laws .

I agree what many theories are ironics but don't confound .

The imaginaries and reals ,all is there ,pragmatism or ...

All fundamentasl equations and theories are in complemenatrity because they superimpose themselves very simply .

Like a beautiful puzzle .It exists virtual puzzles and real puzzles .The most important is to make the correct balance ,pragmatically and with rationality .

Our physicality is our physicality ,some models thus are on the good road if the border is created .



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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Oct. 27, 2009 @ 13:50 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

Admittedly I feel unable to learn anything from your musing. I explain the high ranking of your essay to very appealing words in your abstract: " I ... place the concept of ``theory of everything" firmly in the faith category."

While I vote for a return to science instead of faith-based rigorous science fiction, you did not tackle what I consider a possible reason why science putatively made a jump in the early 20th century but seems to make not much fundamental progress now. Those who intend applying for a patent have to criticize the belonging state of the art first. New ideas arise from analysis of deficits. Why not look for possibly overlooked or ignored fundamental mistakes first? Was Hermann Weyl the last one who admitted: "We are less certain about the ultimate foundations of mathematics"?



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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 20:49 GMT
Hello Dear Eckard,

I have some difficulties to encircle why people confound all in fact .

I admit wht the actual sciences are like sciences fictions but not all .I don't like in fact the generalization .Always in all extrapolations of the mind ,a pragmatic balance is necessary .

It's the same when you say about the faith .What is the faith ,it's not a play ,a dream .No it's personnal .There where that becomes relevant ,it's about the universality .Let's admit dear Eckard that we aren't fate .The supranatural doesn't exist .But there is a reality which we can't ignorate.

Personally I think what our Universe is a fantastic equation in evolution towards the perfect harmony between mass systems(spheres) and their creations .

We can't ignorate our evolutive past which shows us the evolution and the improvement .When a mind is open to the universe ,it's faith is universal ,it's totaly different than a human invention .

The sciences show us the musics of properties ,the fact to be catalyzers if we want is a proof of the equation like a cause of this Universe .The things are well organized .How do the elemenatry particles know how they must become in fact ,the fact to have a code in a space in evolution and in a constant of time is too a proof of this ultim equation of building .We are a results dear Eckard ,and all results have a cause .I d like have your point of vue about that .Can we consider the sciences without any universality ,I think no .

I am sometimes desesperated to see so many confusions about sciences ,it's simple in fact ,I beleive too much confusions exist at this moment .

Reals or imaginaries ....



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Nick Mann wrote on Oct. 31, 2009 @ 23:13 GMT
Dr. Amelino-Camelia,

Very interesting paper. You haven't achieved your community ranking for nothing.

Out of curiosity, would you characterize superdeterminism as faith-based?

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Author Giovanni Amelino-Camelia wrote on Nov. 1, 2009 @ 01:52 GMT
dear Nick

thanks for the encouragement and for a stimulating question.

It seems to me that there are many versions of superdeterminism in the literature, but let me focus on the term "superdeterminism" as used to describe certain attempts to reformulate quantum mechanics with a local hidden-variable theory.

In this respect I can comment that according to my ultra-old-fashioned ultra-narrow definition of science two theories with the same set of observable predictions are strictly equivalent scientifically.

So the academic study of the strutural differences between two theories with the same observable predictions would be a study of "not science" (which a provocatively like to call "faith")

But let me stress that finding equivalent reformulations of a known theory can be a key resource for science if used as part of a strategy to describe new phenomena. The fact that two theories are scientifically equivalent does not imply that they are equally powerful from the perspective of looking for deformations or generalizations of the (single) theory in question.

Let me take the liberty to illustrate this also making some publicity to the work of Antony Valentiny, a friend who has also benefited from FQXi support. A particularly interesting part of Antony's research takes off from the de Broglie-Bohm pilot-wave equivalent reformulation of quantum theory. But Antony's path led him to investigate a modification of the pilot-wave formulation of quantum mechanics (involving nonequilibrium distributions in Antony's framework) which are outside the domain of standard quantum physics. Antony has a new scientific theory, which in principle (and hopefully also in practice) is falsifiable.



Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Nov. 2, 2009 @ 02:32 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

Your key argument seems to be that "a theory of everything" is a drawback and a hindrance to the honest pursuit of physics, and also offends your sense of "how things should be". But as I indicated in a previous comment, many physicists are inspired to understand the universe, not merely to collect data endlessly.

You say that the only thing that can be verified...

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Paul N. Butler wrote on Nov. 2, 2009 @ 18:23 GMT

You are right that searching for a Theory of Everything is no more based on faith than doing physics in general. The thing that is often not realized is that all science is based on faith. Man’s current scientific method generally begins with the creation of a hypothesis, which is nothing more than a belief of how you think something works in reality when the way that it...

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NN wrote on Nov. 6, 2009 @ 10:21 GMT
The curser came to clear the format written by me, beware!

The competition is soon to end. This essay emphasized the singificance of experimental approach. Let us hope some innovative ideas get implemented to raise the level of Physics soon, e.g. the reported attempt of a Vienna group to test the varaitionalness of Planck's constant in between 0 and h, say for nanostructured heavy samples involving the mesomorphic region of Physics proposed by Tejinder in this forum. Experimentalists have not been keen on FQXI forum. May be the Organisation of FQXI has theoretical dominance. Such biases may not result in upgrading the broader picture of Physics involving all the aspects like, conceptual, empirical, experimental and theoretical. Dominance of mathematics in Physics may not help Physics grow, but it does help

in formating the conceptaul ideas.

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Author Giovanni Amelino-Camelia wrote on Nov. 6, 2009 @ 21:37 GMT
dear Edwin and Paul

your posts appear to adopt perspectives that are very significantly different from mine, but my essay is not really about priority/supremacy among perspectives. It is perhaps about the survival of one of the possible perspectives. I felt compelled to write an essay because I find that the type of narrow view of science I could discuss is gradually disappearing from the...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Nov. 7, 2009 @ 03:02 GMT
Dear Paul, dear Giovanni,

Paul, you developed and explained well my affirmation that "searching a TOE is no more "faith-based" than doing physics in general", and you provided in the mean time your own interesting view.

You said:

"The main problem with current searches for the Theory of Everything is that one must have a sufficient base of observational data to allow such a...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Nov. 7, 2009 @ 04:54 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

You note that "understand the universe" is a very general term, yet agree that it's in common use. I don't subscribe to the belief that a theory of everything will confer "God-like" powers, or that we'll ever have a theory compatible with all known data but not subject to future revision.

But clearly a correct theory of physics aids "understanding the universe". For example, I received my 16 Oct 2009 issue of Physical Review Letters in the mail yesterday and noted a paper (162001) concerning a "hadron molecule" interpretation of X(3872). The idea is that the X(3872) particle is a hadron molecule formed from the D-zero and anti-D-zero particles. The problem is that the binding is so weak, approximately 0.25 MeV, that no one can understand how the X can appear so promptly in the high energy collision environment. The data is there, we just don't understand it.

Think of a snowflake in a welding torch flame.

The Standard Model assumes the D-zeros, produced in a 1.76 TeV proton-anti-proton collision, are created separately, then must somehow bind weakly into a "molecule", almost immediately.

My theory's particle creation model, based on the C-field vortex has the X(3872) being created in the weakly coupled state in an intuitively simple fashion.

Phys Rev Letters often reports results that don't make sense in the Standard Model but that are easily interpreted in my model, at least qualitatively. I can't calculate the X(3872) cross section, but the PRL paper only uses SM Monte Carlo programs "tuned" to match the data.

There are many particle physics, cosmological, and biological mysteries that I believe are due to our current theories. A "theory of everything" should resolve these mysteries. This is the type of understanding I aspire to, and the broader the theory and the farther its reach, the happier I am. But there will always be mystery.

Congratulations on your top ranking.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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NN wrote on Nov. 7, 2009 @ 18:03 GMT
i agree with Edwin that the broader the theory, the more likely stand the test of time. Rge author,Giovanni is also right when he emphasis the block by block approach and testing with experiment, to derive furhter theories with greater and greater blocks. This way also we do get to a broader theory. Besides, there can be path breaking concepts that can bring revolutionary change suddenly. The last has not happened for several decades, help me envisage that the intuitional/conceptual appraoch has its own advantages, provided it takes note of all the unsolved problems/mysteries that require a homogeneous way towards solution/resolution. What one needs to under the circumstances, depends on individual knowledge, temperament and training. The latter vary widely and thus let us all best whar we can and leave the rest for time to judge! Be happy and loving towards one and all, even if we differ madly over our approaches towards the solution.

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Paul N. Butler wrote on Nov. 7, 2009 @ 20:55 GMT

I think that our approaches to science may not be as different as you think. If my understanding of your concept is right (you can tell me if I am wrong) we both believe that in order for science to stay connected to reality it must be based on observation rather than man made math models, etc. without observational input and confirmation. We seem to both believe that...

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Paul N. Butler wrote on Nov. 7, 2009 @ 21:08 GMT

I believe it probably is possible to completely describe the world using math, but the end result would be well beyond the ability of any man to follow and completely understand because of the limitations of the math subset of language. As an example, you could probably completely describe a car with a series of math formulas that would give all of the details of the size,...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Nov. 7, 2009 @ 23:21 GMT
Dear Paul,

I understand your viewpoint and explanation of the difficulties, which we encounter when we try to describe the world. I will rephrase the idea, since I think that I can do this in a way which avoids the discussions about math and new hidden levels of complexity.

The idea is that at any time t we have a set of experimental data, say Dt (I will use such symbols...

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NN wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 12:07 GMT
Paul has elaborated in detail that some of us mentioned briefly about the methodology followed in sciences. There is hardly any further need to discuss the issue as he has been very realistic in his detailed elaboration.

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 16:19 GMT
This is true.

I referred to rephrasing the idea I presented in the previous comment, not Paul's explanation.

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 19:53 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

The voting has closed, but better late than never. I do have some questions about your essay.

First about the fairness principle. Mathematics is infinite and we are always being intrigued and challenged by math. Because of emergent phenomena, the same will be true for physics even if a TOE is found. Here is an example. Maxwell’s equations are the TOE of electromagnetism. Still, light propagation in optical fibers is described in a certain approximation by qualitatively different math which by now has a domain of its own.

Linking the lack of progress with the pursuit of a TOE. Define progress. Is it experimentally verifiable predictions? If yes, due to the energies involved, there are none, but this is not because of the TOE pursuit, but because of the out of reach energy scale, and this is an unfair criteria. Do we know more now than 25 years ago? Yes, and the progress was significant. However, the rate of progress was unsatisfactory. I will argue that not the TOE mindset prevented progress, but the resource monopoly and clout string theory inherited from particle physics is to be blamed for starving alternative approaches. When no genuine predictions are offered, the research program should wait in line with other research programs for funding.

Not even wrong, not even fair, not even fun.

Not even wrong: This is derogatory and only fans the flames of Lubos’ rhetoric.

Not even fair: Is it not fair that Einstein already discovered relativity, or that Maxwell discovered his equations? What is the difference between those 2 examples and the hypothetical TOE?

Not even fun: After the invention of automobile, the world lost the fun in making horse whips. So what? We got Nascar.


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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Nov. 8, 2009 @ 21:35 GMT
Nice comment, Florin.

Dear Giovanni,

I wonder, considering that the fairness principle is true, what will happen after 1000 generations: will they have to understand first the previous 1000 theories (of the passed generations) of increased complexity, starting with our present physics, before making the contribution of their own generation? You see, we have to know what was done before, and it is already inconceivably more than it was four generations ago. What about after a billion generations? (This entails speculations about the increased capacity of human mind.) How is this fair?

What about the passed generations, before Galilei? Or did fairness started in the modern world? Should we then expect it to last forever?

Best regards,


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NN wrote on Nov. 17, 2009 @ 02:40 GMT
Author's response to the 'fairness' principle have not been responded, as desired by Cristi, Florin and may i now add myself to that query too. The contest is over for voting but scientific discussions never have any deadlines!It is fair to seek the author's response in a healthy competition.

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Author Giovanni Amelino-Camelia wrote on Nov. 19, 2009 @ 16:59 GMT
dear all

concerning one of the points in Florin's post, I already stated briefly in a previous post that my essay focuses on fundamental physics as traditionally intended, and whether research of that type can reach an end point or gradually enter a stage of saturation. We can instead be sure (I hope) that physics will not end, and in particular it will keep challenging mankind in realms...

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NN wrote on Nov. 20, 2009 @ 01:36 GMT
i enjoyed the struggle Giovanni has shown by explaining 'fairness' principle as a side conclusion to his main theme contained in the earlier 2/3 of his esssay. Then, he also suggests that he is not really a person who holds faith very close to his heart. Such struggles affect a large number of we humans, as we do tend to live in contradictions. The later really are a product of our minds which is wayward and jumpy by nature. The discipling of the mind can only result in a profound presentation. Alternately, it can come out of the blue, as indicated by Einstein for his famous discoveries. He attributed these to be a product of ideas that were not a part of his regular thinking process as these appeared suddenly from outside. What he did was to realise their importance/significance, as he had the tools to implement these ideas.In other words one may associate outside inspiration for this kind admission. Thus, it is best to remain very humble about our works, as a lot of credit may well go to 'others' that we may not wish to acknowledge/admit/confess about!

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Nov. 20, 2009 @ 07:15 GMT
The dictatorship of TOE

Dear Giovanni,

It was a pleasure to read your interesting and fair answers to the questions of various visitors of your thread. It is obvious that your fairness principle raises nice discussions, despites being based on faith, as you said. But isn't every new hypothesis based on faith? What are required then to collapse the superposition of hypotheses into a...

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NN wrote on Nov. 21, 2009 @ 14:09 GMT
Words are words and deeds are deeds. Let us continue our search for truth with faith, devotion, as selfless scientists in the persuit of truth and there is nothing to worry about. Right and wrong are just two words of the same coin! Both Author and Cristi appear equally right to me.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Dec. 1, 2009 @ 17:00 GMT
Butler--Stoica dialogue moved to Butler forum:

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Paul N. Butler wrote on Dec. 2, 2009 @ 00:00 GMT

I answered your latest comments to me on my forum (What’s Ultimately Possible in Physics by Paul N. Butler,) per the desire of the powers that be in FQXI. You can answer it there so as to please them. I’ll look for it there so you won’t have to let me know here.

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