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Physics crunch: Desperately seeking everything

Physics crunch: Desperately seeking everything

作者:冒敉兽  时间:2019-03-13 14:07:14  人气:

By Michael Brooks (Image: Pasieka/SPL) Read more: “Crunch time for physics: What’s next?“ BLAME the ancient Greeks: they started it. The idea seemed sensible enough. If we dig down, we can uncover the building blocks of reality: what matter is ultimately made of, what rules govern its behaviour. Dig down far enough and we will hit the ultimate gold – a theory of how everything works. In some senses, we have been doing quite well. Quantum theory’s weirdness might bamboozle us, but the standard model of particle physics built upon it successfully reduces things to a few fundamental particles and just three forces. General relativity’s mind-warping treatment of space and time delivers a cosmology that describes with stunning accuracy a universe dominated by a fourth force, gravity. Yes, there are wrinkles in both theories, but surely they will be ironed out as we move towards (see diagram) an ultimate theory of physics that unifies the two? Put that to many physicists, and you will get a grumpy response. “Elementary particle physics is pretty much in the state chemistry was in with Dmitri Mendeleev,” during the creation of the periodic table, says David Deutsch at the University of Oxford. “It has been classifying things, and has recognised there is an underlying structure, but it has no idea what that underlying structure is.” Crucially, quantum theory and general relativity remain fundamentally incompatible. That is not a problem when we use relativity to describe the very large – stars, galaxies, the cosmos – and quantum theory for the very small – molecules, atoms,