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Surfer Stuns Physicists With Theory Of Everything And Gets Grant

Garrett Lisi epitomizes every suburban mom/high school teacher’s worst nightmare: a surfer living on the beach, doctorate in theoretical physics sitting on the shelf while he guides hikes and builds bridges, the possibility of being homeless next month pretty good. Well, think again! Lisi’s online article, “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything,” has struck the scientific world like a lightening bolt, outlining a new theory of the universe based on the mathematical pattern E8. While former theories linked three of the four fundamental forces in the universe, Lisi’s model also incorporates the elusive force of gravity as well. “My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing…I thought: ‘Holy crap, that’s it!’” Duu-ude.

Last week, the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) announced it has awarded $2.7 million in grants to 33 researchers to study basic questions in physics and cosmology.

Among the grant winners was surfer/theoretical physicist A. Garrett Lisi (pictured), who made the news last year with an unpublished paper entitled 'An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.' Lisi will get $77,222 to work on his theory, which involves using a recently mapped 248-dimension mathematical structure called E8 to unify all the fundamental particles and forces, including gravity. In the last round of awards in 2006, FQXi gave Lisi $77,280 over two years.

E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says "I think our universe is this beautiful shape."

What makes E8 so exciting is that Nature also seems to have embedded it at the heart of many bits of physics. One interpretation of why we have such a quirky list of fundamental particles is because they all result from different facets of the strange symmetries of E8.

Lisi's breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8's structure matched his own. "My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing," he tells New Scientist. "I thought: 'Holy crap, that's it!'"

What Lisi had realized was that he could find a way to place the various elementary particles and forces on E8's 248 points. What remained was 20 gaps which he filled with notional particles, for example those that some physicists predict to be associated with gravity.

Physicists have long puzzled over why elementary particles appear to belong to families, but this arises naturally from the geometry of E8, he says. So far, all the interactions predicted by the complex geometrical relationships inside E8 match with observations in the real world. "How cool is that?" he says.

I wonder if the 'eureka' of the 21st century is going to be 'Holy crap, that's it!'

I think it's great that he's breaking all the stereotypes of what a scientist should be...

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Added: Aug-28-2008 
By: virtucon2
Tags: physics, theory, everything, surfer, stereotypes
Views: 8388 | Comments: 21 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 3 | Shared: 1 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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