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Is There a "Theory of Everything" ?
Some of the names of topics in theoretical physics begin to sound more like the nonsense of a Dr. Seuss book than a scientific treatise. One such name could be “The Theory of Everything”.1 In the movie depiction of the same name, it is explained as a “single equation” relating all the forces of the universe. This would imply the four universal forces known to man which are gravity, magnetism, the strong force holding the atomic nucleus together, and the weak force (responsible for such phenomena as radioactive decay).
Off-hand, there appears no real reason to attempt such relationship, other than to state each relation separately and allow them to combine into a single set of field equations – the ONE set which stands for all the universal forces. But to the theoretical physicist, this is only the easy way out.
The other approach is to consider a discussion (outside the movie) which works with two theoretical frameworks resembling a “theory of everything” which is General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory. Outright it is thought these two theories are mutually incompatible, that is, they cannot both be right to use at the same time due to their unique domain of applicability. As one pursues, however, it is found their incompatibility is only an issue in regions of extremely small-scales and high-masses such as within a black hole or right after the big bang. A theoretical framework can be constructed which reveals an underlying reality, unifying the force of gravity with the other three non-gravitational forces of weak, strong, and electromagnetic force.
This undoubtedly has encouraged what is called “String Theory” emerging in the past few decades and is a way of theorizing that the four fundamental forces were combined into one fundamental force at a point in time immediately after the Big Bang (10-43 seconds). Accordingly, every particle in the universe at its most microscopic level consists of varying combinations of vibrating strings (or strands) and it is through these vibratory patterns of strings that a particle of unique mass and force charge is created.
Others have called these unifying principles the Grand Unified Theory (which combines the strong, weak, and electromagnetic force) or the Superunified Theory which adds on the forth fundamental force of gravity.
So there you have it. A theory of everything. But only a theory unless proven. Why is it needed ? According to cosmologists:
“..there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that a theory at least like a Grand Unified Theory is required to make sense of the Universe.”
1. The name title “The Theory of Everything” was once expressed by Robert J. Lang during his term at Yale, but then discarded as
irrelevant nor tangible other than a practical joke, or more likely, a spoof on science.