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Q & A: theory of everything

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
um...through all of history, man has defined many things, from words, to mathematics, or another language...we’ve also classified science and physics as a study of what we discover of "nature"...but, through our history of many, many, years of mankind...we are still struggling to comprehend all of the universe......will there be an end for it? the M theory looks pretty promising...but will there be another theory, and another? and another? will we ever uncover the world "god" put us in?
- Anonymous
A:
We absolutely don't know the answer to that question. One of the nicest discussions of it can be found in Feynman's book "The character of Physical Law."

Maybe there will be some complete consistent theory with no dangling ends. We won't know for sure that it's right, but if it works long enough with no problems, that might be a reasonable guess. Maybe no such theory exists even in principle. Maybe it exists but it's too many layers away from what we can experiment on to find. Maybe it exists but our minds can no more grasp it than a dog's mind can grasp quantum mechanics.

Mike W.

I'd prefer to believe that we can try to peel as many layers of the puzzle away as we can, until we run out of good ideas or money to do experiments. So far, never in recorded human history have we ever given up the quest to learn more about nature (except temporarily). And nature has always rewarded us with ever more understanding of what's going on. There may be no end, or perhaps there is one, but we may just not be able to probe it with our equipment. Astrophysicists and cosmologists can use the entire universe as a laboratory for testing ideas, but often without the ability to control an experiment, if there are two competing hypotheses that explain the same behavior, we'd ultimately like to choose between them. The worst case is that we'd have lots and lots of ideas of how nature could be, but not the ability to test them experimentally.

Tom

(published on 10/22/2007)

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