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Surprising Science

The One-inch Equation to Explain All Physical Laws

You might have heard me speak about the equation that eluded Einstein for the last 30 years of his life: the one-inch equation that will in a sense summarize everything we know about the physical laws governing the universe we live in. I believe that one day, perhaps the destiny of all intelligent life in the universe may hinge on this equation. Finding it is the goal of a lifetime.

It is The Theory of Everything, the equation that might summarize all physical laws into an equation, perhaps no more than an inch long. Scientists and layman alike have been trying to crack this problem for a generation. We think we’re very close, in fact, the leading (and only) candidate for it is String Theory.

The main problem, I think, is that String Theory is not in its final form. In the last decade, we have learned that membranes must also be included into the theory as well as strings, and that these membranes can vibrate in 11 dimensions. This means that the complete mathematics behind the theory is not yet known. This means that it might be premature to demand that string theory fit all the properties necessary for the final theory. However, some results can be tested now. 

Currently, the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva is running smoothly and may eventually find sparticles (super particles) which are predicted by string theory. In fact, dark matter—which makes up to 23% of the matter and energy of the universe—may ultimately be made of sparticles. If sparticles are found by the LHC, it will go a long ways towards confirming the theory.

Also, in the coming years, new generations of satellites, such as gravity wave detectors, may be launched into space, which might allow us to examine radiation emitted a trillionth of a second after the big bang. This in turn may allow us to verify or rule out predictions of string theories which can describe the behavior of the universe before the big bang. So gravity wave detectors may open up a new realm in which to test string theory. 

Most people ask what we would do with it if we had the answer. The first thing that we would do is we would begin to solve it. For example, picture a chess board and think about the rules that govern the game play. Just because you know how the pawns, bishops and knights move around the board doesn’t mean that you’re a grand master. But this also means that once you know the rules of the game, you can perfect your strategy over time. Personally, I believe that the theory of everything will essentially provide the rules of the chess game. The chess game is life, it is the universe and we will begin to know how the pawns, bishops and knights move. These are the rules by which universes evolve. 

To be a Grand Master! That’s the goal.


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