Let's get one thing clear off the top: I know nothing about theoretical physics. I tried to listen to Hawking's A Brief History of Time as an audiobook and it damn near made my head explode. So the following shouldn't be viewed as an endorsement, because I have no idea what I'm talking about. But onwards, ever upwards.
An impoverished surfer, who also happen to have a PhD in Physics from UCSD, may have finally found the elusive holy grail of modern science- a unified field theory that explains every particle and force in the universe. In other words, a theory that explains everything.
Garrett Lisi, a 39 year-old surfer and nature guide has proposed his new model in a paper entitled An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything. And it really is exceptionally simple. Whereas some explanations of the universe require 10 or more spatial and time dimensions, Lisi relies on good ol' three dimensions of space and one dimension of time.
His theory is based on the E8 geometric structure. Don't ask me how, but apparently the E8 has all sorts of wacky characteristics that, coincidentally enough, may also explain the universe. Bully.
So far, Lisi's theory has received some cautious praise. Said Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario:
"It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years. Although he cultivates a bit of a surfer-guy image its clear [Lisi] has put enormous effort and time into working the complexities of this structure out over several years."
Lisi himself gives his theory a "low, but not tiny" chance of being correct, which is sort of like the theoretical physics equivalent of calling your own shot.
I am always a bit nervous about unified field theories. Such a theory would be totally deterministic, and could predict everything from what I ate for breakfast and why I wrote this blog post. Spooky. I like my illusion of free will, thank you very much.
Apparently, the universe looks like this. Which means I drew the universe with a spirograph in 1986.