A universe without Einstein: why physicists no longer seek the theory of everything
Einstein once set the main goal of modern science: the search for a unified theory, “theory of everything”, which would explain why the Universe in which we live cannot look and function differently.
“I wonder if the Lord had any choice in creating the world,” Einstein wrote.
Last summer, an article titled "The Laws of Physics Does Not Exist" appeared in the scientific journal Quanta. Its author, Robert Diykgraaf, director of the Institute for Advanced Study, in which Einstein spent 22 years of life.
Dr. Dijkgraaf writes about a frighteningly branched labyrinth of possibilities - an almost endless network with weak interconnections, consisting of alternative versions of reality.
There are separate universes for each nightmare that you saw in a dream, and each of them has its own set of fundamental laws of physics.
This landscape of alternative possibilities, known as the multiverse, is actively used in string theory, which has clearly stepped over Einstein's level of scientific imagination.
String theory combines the concept of gravity, which encircles the cosmos, with quantum mechanics, which describes the chaos that exists in it. In string theory, the fundamental components of everything that exist are presented in the form of tiny energy strings (quantum strings) that emit vibrations in 11 dimensions.
The 20th century was completely unprepared for the emergence of string theory; the 21st century allowed it to receive a significant impetus in development. But the minds of mathematicians of the XXII century will be needed for string theory to show its full power.
The result of this theory was a maze of mathematical solutions in the amount of 10⁵⁰⁰, where each solution corresponds to one of the potential universes. One of these is ours, but it’s not accurate. So it goes.
Dr. Dijkgraaf writes: “If our world is just one of many, what should we do with the rest? The view of modern physics on the Universe is the exact opposite of Einstein's ideas about a single cosmos. ”
Dijkgraaf, by the way, said that he did not invent the title of his article, and considered him too vociferous. Perhaps, behind the string theory, there is still a certain single fundamental principle. However, no one, including the creators of the theory, can even imagine what this principle can be.
What led scientists to string theory? The discovery of a mysterious force, "dark energy", which accelerates the expansion of the universe, moving the galaxies apart from each other with increasing speed.
Dark energy has all the signs of a cosmological constant, which Einstein introduced into his equations of the theory of relativity a century ago, but then abandoned it. However, the experimental value of this cosmological constant differs from the theoretical one by 10⁶⁰ (this is an extremely large gap between the calculated and experimental values. This phenomenon has even received the name "problems of the cosmological constant. - Ed.).
So far, physicists have given the only explanation for this problem: perhaps, in all alternative universes, this constant takes on a random value. This means that we live in one of those universes where the amount of dark energy allows stars and galaxies to form - where this is possible in principle.
Other physicists see the landscape of string theory as a logical continuation of the Copernican revolution: if the Earth may not be the center of the solar system and the only planet, our universe may not be the only one.
There is a group of scientists who consider the idea of a multiverse as an epistemological absurdity, a dead-end branch of knowledge based on unsubstantiated speculation.
The long-awaited discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 was the last brick in the foundation of an ambitious theoretical construction in particle physics, known as the Standard Model of elementary particles.
The standard model explains all forms of matter and energy, except for dark matter and energy. Physicists around the world searched for deviations in the Standard Model using the Large Hadron Collider, colliding trillions of protons. The found Higgs boson behaves according to the predictions of the Standard Model.
This is the greatest intellectual achievement, but it is not at all joyful. The lack of inconsistencies will not help deepen the existing theory. For example, scientists really wanted, but could not find confirmation of supersymmetry - the theory that each elementary particle has a much heavier “superpartner”. But this theory could combine physical forces together and expand our ideas about elementary particles (where dark matter could already be included).