Friday, February 24, 2006

Maybe I'm infringing on Cliff Pickover and Rita J. King's Galactic Question Center here, but I can't resist:

How soon -- if ever -- do you think physicists will arrive at a Theory of Everything? If a TOE is accomplished, do you think it will have any unexpected effects on human consciousness? If so, of what kind?

Feel free to comment or email.


metachor said...

I suspect the closest we will come to a Theory of Everything is by developing a Theory of Our Own Ignorance (TOOOI) that takes into account the epistemic and physiological limitations on human knowing.

And any so-called Theory of Everything might possibly be hiding a labyrinth of unspoken metaphysical assumptions under its skirts.

Perhaps; but maybe I am full of shit.

metachor said...

To alleviate the possible interpretation of my previous comment as being somewhat snarky, I want to say sincerely that, while having a theory unifying the four universal forces to explain all known physical phenomena might feel aesthetically pleasing, there remains a strong chance that any such theory would fail to accurately reflect the natural universe in terms of utility and gained predictability.

I think this failure might obtain because:

a) Such a theory would have premature closure due to mapping all currently known physical phenomena but mapping no currently unknown phenomena. Besides, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem suggests that any formally closed system is by necessity incomplete (though it might be a stretch to apply this to physics instead of arithmetic)

b) All epistemic access that we have to these physical phenomena is mediated through our instrumentation and ultimately the human nervous system projecting a sensory-perceptive field. Not to be mistaken with sophistry, this entails that any Theory of Everything actually models how our nervous system (and external instruments) presents the appearance of consistent physical phenomena to "consciousness," another phenomena we struggle to understand.

c) As far as I know, the conflicting and paradoxical nature of the many interpretations of the mathematics of quantum physics have not yet been resolved with one another nor with our "common sense" understanding of the physical world that arises from simply looking at it directly. Frankly the Everett/Wheeler/Graham model and Bell's Theorem sound like some freaky (and cool) sci-fi imaginings, and will require resolution before we can back a unified Theory of Everything. It seems like the more we learn about the quantum world, the more our standard models begin to deviate from modeling that reality.

I don't know if this will be of interest to you, yet I highly recommend the book Quantum Psychology by Robert Anton Wilson for exploring the interstice between epistemology, the human nervous system and the current models of quantum physics.

Chris said...

One of the interesting ideas in string theory is that gravity is the weakest force in our universe because most of it "leaks" into neighboring dimensions. Conversely, there might be forces in those other dimensions that don't manifest in our universe at all, but which would be required to close the Theory of Everything. So count me as a TOE skeptic, at least for the moment...