Chandra Data Tests ‘Theory of Everything’

March 19, 2020

Perseus galaxy cluster.

One of the biggest ideas in physics is the possibility that all known forces, particles, and interactions can be connected in one framework. String theory is arguably the best-known proposal for a “theory of everything” that would tie together our understanding of the physical universe.

Despite having many different versions of string theory circulating throughout the physics community for decades, there have been very few experimental tests. Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, however, have now made a significant step forward in this area.

By searching through galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity, researchers were able to hunt for a specific particle that many models of string theory predict should exist. While the resulting non-detection does not rule out string theory altogether, it does deliver a blow to certain models within that family of ideas.

“Until recently I had no idea just how much X-ray astronomers bring to the table when it comes to string theory, but we could play a major role,” said Christopher Reynolds of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who led the study. “If these particles are eventually detected it would change physics forever.”

The particle that Reynolds and his colleagues were searching for is called an “axion.” These as-yet-undetected particles should have extraordinarily low masses. Scientists do not know the precise mass range, but many theories feature axion masses ranging from about a millionth of the mass of an electron down to zero mass. Some scientists think that axions could explain the mystery of dark matter, which accounts for the vast majority of matter in the universe.

One unusual property of these ultra-low-mass particles would be that they might sometimes convert into photons (that is, packets of light) as they pass through magnetic fields. The opposite may also hold true: photons may also be converted into axions under certain conditions. How often this switch occurs depends on how easily they make this conversion, in other words on their “convertibility.”

Some scientists have proposed the existence of a broader class of ultra-low-mass particles with similar properties to axions. Axions would have a single convertibility value at each mass, but “axion-like particles” would have a range of convertibility at the same mass.

“While it may sound like a long shot to look for tiny particles like axions in gigantic structures like galaxy clusters, they are actually great places to look,” said co-author David Marsh of Stockholm University in Sweden. “Galaxy clusters contain magnetic fields over giant distances, and they also often contain bright X-ray sources. Together these properties enhance the chances that conversion of axion-like particles would be detectable.”

To look for signs of conversion by axion-like particles, the team of astronomers examined over five days of Chandra observations of X-rays from material falling towards the supermassive black hole in the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster. They studied the Chandra spectrum, or the amount of X-ray emission observed at different energies, of this source. The long observation and the bright X-ray source gave a spectrum with enough sensitivity to have shown distortions that scientists expected if axion-like particles were present.

The lack of detection of such distortions allowed the researchers to rule out the presence of most types of axion-like particles in the mass range their observations were sensitive to, below about a millionth of a billionth of an electron’s mass.

“Our research doesn’t rule out the existence of these particles, but it definitely doesn’t help their case,” said co-author Helen Russell of the University of Nottingham in the UK. “These constraints dig into the range of properties suggested by string theory, and may help string theorists weed their theories.”

The latest result was about three to four times more sensitive than the previous best search for axion-like particles, which came from Chandra observations of the supermassive black hole in M87. This Perseus study is also about a hundred times more powerful than current measurements that can be performed in laboratories here on Earth for the range of masses that they have considered.
Clearly, one possible interpretation of this work is that axion-like particles do not exist. Another explanation is that the particles have even lower convertibility values than this observation’s detection limit, and lower than some particle physicists have expected. They also could have higher masses than probed with the Chandra data.

A paper describing these results appeared in the February 10th, 2020 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and is available online. In addition to Reynolds, Marsh, and Russell, the authors of this paper are Andrew C. Fabian, also from the University of Cambridge, Robyn Smith from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, Francesco Tombesi from the University of Rome in Italy, and Sylvain Veilleux, also from the University of Maryland.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge and Burlington, Massachusetts.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/Cambridge Univ./C.S. Reynolds

Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Last Updated: March 19, 2020

Editor: Lee Mohon

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John Tillman
March 24, 2020 3:23 am

Axions were proposed in 1977 by Roberto Peccei and Helen Quinn at Stanford. Both are still alive, in their late ‘70s.

Peccei is Italian but has spent most of his career at UCLA. His dad founded the Club of Rome, but don’t hold that against him.

Quinn is an Australian-born naturalized American. She retired from SLAC.

If the axion be detected in their lifetimes, they’re liable to share a Nobel Prize with one of its discoverers.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 3:26 am

Auto fill typo on the erroneous apostrophe.

Charles Higley
Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 6:51 am

“By searching through galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity, ”

Of course, no mention of the Dark Matter they had to create out of nothing to explain why galaxies hold together. Completely ignoring electromagnetism.

“While the resulting non-detection does not rule out string theory altogether, it does deliver a blow to certain models within that family of ideas.”

This is perhaps the first real attempt to test String Theory, it is no surprise that they found nothing. It is really String Hypothesis as none, repeat, NONE of it has been tested and confirmed. They behave as if it is accepted and real, until you ask for the evidence, of which there is none.

But, never fear, from String “Theory” they get 22 dimensions and a multiverse of universes, having never actually proven the Steady State Universe wrong, a la Occam’s Razor.

Gravity may simply be London Dispersion Forces (LDFs) on a larger scale. LDFs are involved in all interactions between molecules, and effective enough to hold biological membranes together under many conditions. As gravity is only 1×10^-34 the strength of the electromagnetic force (EM), why cannot gravity simply be a one part in 10^34 of EM. These physicists have to disprove this before adopting a more complicated model.

As you cannot have matter without charges being present, as the quarks of protons and neutrons and the lepton electron, charges are ALWAYS available to interact, even at a distance.

John Tillman
Reply to  Charles Higley
March 24, 2020 7:48 am

Dark matter doesn’t hold galaxy clusters together. It forms halos around galaxies.

There is no evidence that EM radiation holds galaxy clusters together, and all the evidence in the world that gravity does.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 8:42 am

There is no evidence that dark matter exists. It is inferred from the movement of observed objects. It is a theory to explain what is seen. Not a fact.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 10:19 am

I think Dark Matter is an imprint in the fabric of space-time that appeared as super massive black holes arose during the Big Bang. We already know that Dark Matter is tightly coupled to central black holes and in this scenario, both arose simultaneously and the combination of central black holes and dark matter comprise standing waves of space-time curvature within which galaxies arose from all the fractured bits and pieces of space-time in between (i.e. particles) and that also arose at the same time.

A simple explanation for Dark Energy is the result of the arrow of time. Since time is a component of space-time and all of space-time is expanding uniformly, as time passes, there’s more to expand and as a result the expansion will accelerate. As time progresses, the increasing EM history of space-time needs a place to be stored in the fabric of space-time. Keep in mind that the vast majority of photons emitted by all of stars in the Universe that have ever existed are still propagating through the fabric of space-time. We are just observing what amounts to a 3-d projection of an expanding 4-d fabric. Keep in mind that the Universe is expanding from within and as each second passes, new space-time arises.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 10:44 am

I thought to say “hypothetically”, since dark matter hasn’t been directly observed.

But we know that much baryonic matter, such as interstellar planets orbiting the galactic barycenter, is too dim to be detected from Earth, whether it be considered “dark” or not.

Reply to  Charles Higley
March 24, 2020 10:26 am

Thank you Mr. Higley. Until the electro-magnetic elephant in the room gets explained, I am not a believer.

mario lento
Reply to  taz1999
March 24, 2020 4:49 pm

Yes, me too. I guess we will see Dark Matter when we uhm… are sure we don’t see it. Or something like that.

Reply to  Charles Higley
March 24, 2020 10:58 am

Philosophically and scientifically, the Steady State universe is a bust.

Philosophically, an actual infinite, such as an infinite regress of time in the past, cannot exist because it results in all sorts of absurdities (see Hilbert’s hotel example)

Scientifically, the 2nd law of thermodynamics dictates that if the universe has been here from infinity past, then we should now be at a state of maximum entropy. The same is true of every moment in time, which has had and infinite amount of time for the universe to reach maximum entropy. Obviously that is absurd. Hence the steady state universe idea is false.

Wayne Job
March 24, 2020 4:07 am

Is it just me or does everyone love this speculation about ghosts and hobgoblins and imaginary particles that are apparently controlling the universe. Maybe one day we may understand a small part of what is a huge creation.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  Wayne Job
March 24, 2020 4:22 am

Rebirth of aether ?

Reply to  Krishna Gans
March 24, 2020 6:10 am

It’s not called an aether simply because that has historic context which are actually very misleading and not compatible with modern physics.

Reply to  Wayne Job
March 24, 2020 4:39 am

String theory is more of a bird’s nest, full of fluff dust and the occasional fecal sack.

Really had enough of this fairy dust physics.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Greg
March 24, 2020 7:21 am

As a resident of the home town of the Perimeter Institute, I fear you are more correct than most want to allow. String Theory can be whatever you want it to be. One of its problems is its limiting assumptions. The first of these is that there are only two types of matter, regular and Dark.

There is a common sense idea that three types of matter exist: a superfluid ether capable of transmitting pulsations and vibrations, dark matter with mass, and visible regular matter. Strings were initially envisaged to describe reality without dark matter so it is a simple notion playing catch-up.

Another assumption is that particles shuttle back and forth “carrying forces” like gravity. That is the “particle theory of everything” in full bloom. Higgs Boson-ism is part of that church. It is trying to fit the universe into a predetermined box the limits of which are the presumptions of the progenitors. It is like explaining everything based on fairy dust model where the fairy dust particle size is so small that it escapes detection. At least we are sure that fairy dust makes a sound like the upper end of a Glockenspiel so one day we can bottle it.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
March 24, 2020 9:07 pm

I’m still wondering why no physicists have questioned the Higgs BS.

They had 2 competing theories, SUSY and Multiverse and 1 said the Higgs wouold be 140 GeV and the other said 115 GeV. 2 different CERN experiments had an anomaly at 126 GeV – that’s should be, in real science, a fail for both theories and yet it was trumpeted as proof of the Higgs.

Was it all because nobody wanted anyone to realise the abject failure of the LHC to achieve the goal it was supposed to fulfill? Or am I failing to realise how getting the predictions wrong somehow proves the hypothesis?

rhoda klapp
March 24, 2020 4:33 am

Wayne, are you a string theory denier? Don’t you understand that scientists have a right and a duty to construct theories out of nothing much. Well, you’re probably a climate denier too.

March 24, 2020 4:44 am

“how many physicists do we need to find nothing”
“how many satellites do we need to find nothing”

Better spend money for fighting viruses.

Mark G.
March 24, 2020 4:57 am

“The search for nothing, to explain everything, is the definition of something worth not thinking too deeply about.” He said about the dark matter.

Reply to  Mark G.
March 25, 2020 7:43 am

Billions of people have been searching for nothing to explain everything for thousands of years, and many wars have been fought because of it. People seem to need it. The scientific version has been very helpful – here we are.

March 24, 2020 4:59 am

Scientists do not know the precise mass range, but many theories feature axion masses ranging from about a millionth of the mass of an electron down to zero mass. Some scientists think that axions could explain the mystery of dark matter, which accounts for the vast majority of matter in the universe.

Presumably zero mass axions could not explain dark matter. The conventional explanation is that dark matter comprises 85% of the mass in the universe. link

Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 5:45 am

Yep. I noticed that one, too . String theory is the theory of anything, not everything.
Why are you up at 5 am?

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
March 24, 2020 7:53 am

My joking explanation used to be that I had to get up and feed the livestock before going to work.

The time stamp is supplied by the WUWT server which is located considerably west of where I live.

Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 6:35 am

Nope CB, there are many things that act like gravity but aren’t the first goes way back to classical physics in Centripetal force. The discovery of the Higgs already caused that problem there is something else that can act like gravity. Initially it was nicknamed the “god particle” because it was thought it was going to be the universal mass giver … it isn’t.

If you want a reasonable layman readable background … hard to go past

Layman think of it as an out in space problem but it shows up in any mass experiment you do in the lab

Reply to  LdB
March 24, 2020 7:47 am

I note that he doesn’t define momentum.

A zero mass photon is subject to gravity because it moves at or near the speed of light. Presumably the same requirement would exist for axions.

Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 9:08 am

Photons are not subject to gravity at all otherwise a light beam would fall like a bullet as it moved across a distance. They are only affected by the warping of spacetime near very large masses in space where you get lensing.

Perhaps go back a few steps and start from here

Reply to  LdB
March 24, 2020 9:48 am

The energy of the photon changes as it enters the gravity well. Its frequency goes up as it approaches a gravity source and goes down as it goes away from the source. Now, if you mean its velocity is unaffected by gravity, that I can go along with. Its energy and momentum is definitely affected.

Reply to  LdB
March 24, 2020 7:07 pm

&OweninGA, that is just an observation from the reference frame you chose. It will look totally different from a number of different reference frames. There is nothing wrong with that whatever energy you assign to the observation from that frame will be conserved if you interact it with something. Try your approach as something moves towards a black hole and time really dilates and you get stupid answers.

Basically you are creating a universal reference frame and that what you observe is somehow the “real” situation. Universal reference frames don’t exist the final nail in that coffin was done with gravity wave detection.

Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 9:10 am

Gravity curves the space-time fabric, and photons travel along those curved “lines”.

March 24, 2020 5:20 am

sometimes i think theoretical physics should be a hobby.

As a tax payer I’d rather not throw any more money at it.

Let the scientists raise their own money

Reply to  paul
March 24, 2020 6:57 am

They largely do via companies like IBM, Google,Intel, SpaceX etc who make money out of it. You haven’t given us your country but lets take the US as an example
The amount of tax payers money spent on theoretical physics is really tiny unless you want to include some of what NASA does as theoretical.

Joseph Zorzin
March 24, 2020 5:46 am

The eventual deep understanding of dark matter and dark energy will give mankind immense new powers; IMHO- much like the way the understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum gave us new capabilities. Only much more so given that these unknowns make up almost everything.

Ron Long
March 24, 2020 5:48 am

Wow! It looks like string theory is hanging on by a thread. I am still convinced that Einsteins remark about “spooky action at a distance” is till the best comment about unified theories, string theories, coupled spin-pairs parts of quantum mechanics, and possible, or not, existence of an ether. Clearly, and the comments above have this general tone, this type of research is a luxery item reserved for after dealing with other issues.

Reply to  Ron Long
March 24, 2020 7:13 am

I’m no physicist but I’ve always had a layman’s interest, and it has seemed to me that string theory has been a roadblock in the discipline for a few decades now. Too many people’s careers/reputations invested in it for a contrary view to make headway. There are similar issues across much of science, in particular Alzheimer’s research, where its incredibly difficult to get funding and ti get published if you don’t conform to the amyloid plaques theory.

Reply to  Ron Long
March 24, 2020 9:27 am

I’m no physicist either, just an interested reader who is extremely curious. But I tend to agree that it looks “like string theory is hanging by a thread.” As I understand it there is no evidence for string theory, no evidence for extra dimensions, no evidence for dark energy, no evidence for the multi-verse and no known way to reconcile relativity with quantum mechanics. It sure looks to me like physics is currently in a dead end, a cul-de-sac, a blind alley. Kind of like two hundred years ago when many brilliant people attempted to explain heat with the phlogiston theory. It kind of made sense at the time but it was wrong and a dead end. I don’t know where we go from here but I suspect a lot of extremely brilliant theorists may be wasting their careers.

Reply to  Ron Long
March 24, 2020 10:22 am

Wow! It looks like string theory is hanging on by a thread.

Better not say that at this link:

March 24, 2020 6:10 am

Theory of everything sounds nice, but when will attention be paid to more basic truths?

March 24, 2020 6:16 am

Could it be that the gravitational constant is not the same everywhere? Is not gravity a force that originates with interactions between specific unique massive particles? Before we go hunting for axions we need to examine whether there is an animal which like the virtual photon applies to interactions between masses and whose properties depend on the specific particles involved. These virtual gravitons may be the beast we are looking for.

Reply to  pochas94
March 24, 2020 7:16 am

You are forgetting the problem has nothing to do with space it occurs on any particle you create in the lab … electron, proton, neutron where does it get it’s mass?

Reply to  LdB
March 24, 2020 10:11 am

It could be right, things like gravitational constant, or Hubble’s constant might indeed not be constant. There is enough discussion about the value of Hubble’s constant. But if we cannot measure differences in these constants throughout the Universe we kind of have to assume it is constant (even if we can’t fully agree on the actual value) to allow us to make other assumptions that tie up with other observations. Otherwise why bother at all?

The bone of contention is giving the expression ‘String/Superstring Theory’ the word ‘Theory’, perhaps we should stick to ‘Hypothesis’, and to call it a theory is over-reaching.

As for Einstein’s ‘spooky action at a distance’, it’s difficult to accept but the alternative is even worse (Bells Inequality). As a bike rider, this is comparable to ‘Cheap, strong, light – pick two’.

Reply to  Pumpsump
March 24, 2020 7:13 pm

Call it what you like and think what you like nobody in that field cares. Those in the field don’t want you to change your lifestyle or economics or anything else. The fact is however those fields are well supported by industry and military because that is where most of the new discoveries are coming from and it doesn’t require your approval or belief.

March 24, 2020 6:53 am

Scientists (possibly beginning with Zwicky 90 years ago):
“The universe, as we see it, cannot hold together; there must be more in the universe than we can detect that allows it to hold together by gravity. Let’s hypothesize a few different types of matter and go look for them to solve this problem.”

God (as noted in writing nearly 2,000 years ago):
Hebrews 1:3: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

Colossians 1:17: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – al things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Robert W Turner
March 24, 2020 7:28 am

So much money is wasted on bad hypotheses like string theory. Quantum gravity research is where the funding should be going.

John Tillman
Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 24, 2020 7:56 am

String theory is a theory of quantum gravity, trying to unify gravity with particle physics, EM, strong and weak forces.

March 24, 2020 8:00 am

Looking far out for the very small. Very important, without theoretical science we would not have the modern world.

March 24, 2020 8:02 am

They peer through their telescopes, make their measurements, and then report, “It might be this!” Then they all argue about it. Dark matter theory originated in the 1930’s when an astronomer, presuming to know the mass of a galaxy, said, “It is spinning too fast to be able to hold together.” How do they know the mass of a galaxy? They do not.

Another one observed the red-shift, saying that objects farther away from us are moving faster, based on the theory that Type IA supernovae are identical, giving us Dark Energy. Another one came along and showed that Type IA supernovae are not identical. Did they abandon Dark Energy? Hell no. If the Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, why is the Earth still the same distance from the Sun?

Reply to  Michael Moon
March 24, 2020 9:49 am

Perhaps it is unmeasurable at the limited scale of 1 AU in human life times. Just like it is probably impossible to measure the curvature of an absolutely flat table top. But yet the good Earth is round and you can measure what the curvature of the earth is in one mile and it is about 8″. Presumably the same curvature would exist in my table top analogy at a smaller scale.

As for String Theory, it must be realized that it is just a competing hypothesis and I doubt any of it is correct otherwise why would there be competing ideas within string theory itself? Doesn’t hurt to speculate, but to dogmatically say it must explain things we don’t know would be foolish and perhaps suppress other concepts to emerge in the wider scientific community if everyone bought into this like the supposed ‘consensus’ on climate change.

Probably the ancient Sanskrit Vedas and the illusion they describe in the concept of Maya perhaps have as much credibility metaphorically speaking insofar as what we think we are seeing is just actually an illusion of some type. If that were true, then everything we think we know might be thrown out the window. We will probably know a lot more in decades to come as we start to understand other things in more detail, which might rule out certain hypothesis we currently have. Or maybe confirm some of them. But right now, we don’t really know even though some people think they do.

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael Moon
March 24, 2020 10:41 am

The expansion of the universe doesn’t override local gravitational effects, where “local” can mean distances far greater than one AU.

Galaxies “attract” each other, as do even galaxy clusters. Yet space-time between such clusters is expanding.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 11:42 am

JT that statement is impossible to prove or disprove.

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael Moon
March 24, 2020 5:02 pm

It is a scientific statement because it makes testable predictions, which have always been confirmed.

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael Moon
March 24, 2020 5:06 pm

May I point out yet again that science doesn’t do “proof”. It consists of making hypotheses, predictions based upon which are capable of being shown false by tests, such as observations of nature or controlled experiments. Thus, an hypothesis can be repeatedly confirmed, and never shown false, but not “proved”.

Proof applies to math, not science.

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael Moon
March 24, 2020 5:20 pm

Besides which, we observe galaxies clustering while space between them expands.

So it’s an observation, ie a scientific fact.

March 24, 2020 9:41 am

Even though it seems like it might be the answer, my gut tells me that string theory is far too complex to be a GUT. I consider Einsteins GR to be one when all of existence can be quantified in terms of space-time curvature. That is, space-time curvature is the fundamental constituent of everything in the Universe.

For this to work, the singularity must be removed in a similar way that String theory converts it into a string. Consider a particle to be a curvature conserving function, that is, instead of a singularity at the center of a particle, the space-time curvature on the outside of the particle is exactly offset by opposite space-time curvature on the inside. It turns out that when forces are calculated based on differential space-time curvature between a pair of particles at the boundaries between the curved space on the outside and uncurved space on the inside, the force of gravity emerges outside of the particles and as they get closer and closer, the force morphs into something characteristic of the strong force. Conserving curvature has an interesting consequence, which is that the net curvature of the Universe becomes zero which is exactly the same as what preceded it’s creation. In principle, the Universe is nothing but a reorganization of nothingness. The curved space-time on the outside of all particles overlaps with each other and sums into a large effect we observe as gravity. The strong force on the inside only overlaps with other particles in an atomic nucleus and at scales larger than atoms is invisible. In this context, it was a transient spark of space-time curvature that got the Universe started as that spark was opposed.

Charge and the weak force are a little trickier and instead of curving space and time uniformly with respect to the speed of light, the relationship between time and space is curved. When time is ahead of space, relative to the speed of light, a positive charge arises and when time lags space, a negative charge arises. In effect, charge is what keeps the arrows of time among nearby particles in sync with each other. The amount of temporal push or pull corresponding to a unit charge is equal to half the period of the Compton wavelength. From a mathematical perspective, space-time curvature has a magnitude responsible for gravity and the strong force and a phase responsible for charge and the weak force. Note that the combination of a unit positive charge and unit negative charge is also curvature conserving. Under this scenario, all of the forces are manifested by the Universes opposition to being curved.

This leads to 3 constraints that can potentially turn GR into a GUT.

1) Space-time curvature is the fundamental constituent of all existence
2) Space-time curvature is conserved
3) The Universe opposes being curved

This is all still a work in progress, but the deeper I get, the better it looks. One of the more interesting results is that when you examine a photon, it defies Maxwell’s equations because it’s energy, given by E=hv is inconsistent with the L and C of the free space occupied by the photon at its resonant frequency. However; if you consider a photon to be comprised of equal and opposite curved and uncurved space-time where the C is alpha times smaller than free space and L is 1/alpha times larger, where alpha is the fine structure constant, the photon becomes consistent with Maxwell’s equations. The only way to change the L and C of free space is to modify its geometry, as e0 and u0 are immutable constants. Space-time curvature does exactly this and it turns out that curving time from space by an amount equal to +/- half the Compton period has the same effect on its L and C as curving space-time uniformly by a factor of alpha corresponding to a negative charge and 1/alpha corresponding to a positive charge.

Phil Salmon
March 24, 2020 9:43 am

Here is another, exceptionally simple, theory of everything.

Abstract: All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
March 24, 2020 4:42 pm


I wouldn’t call it simple … but the basic idea is similar to mine, although I think mine is easier to understand as a natural extension of GR. The math that fits my approach is the same tensor math used for GR, except that all of the coefficients and values have real and imaginary parts, where the electroweak is manifested by the imaginary components while the real components manifest gravity and the strong force, although the strong force only emerges once you remove the singularity at the particle.

I consider the singularity as a point in space-time stretched into a surface at a single point of time enclosing a volume of space in the future, within which is the ‘un-curved’ space-time offsetting the curved space-time the particle presents to the Universe. At this ‘Surface Of Existence’ the curvature on the outside is exactly offset by the anti-curvature on the inside thus manifesting apparent forces by simply responding to the curvature fields around it. This surface can also be considered the origin of the arrow of time which is unique for each particle. Outside of this surface is the past and on the inside are all possible futures which will fit because no future has occurred yet. When you reverse the rolls of curvature and anti-curvature, you get anti-particles.

navy bob
March 24, 2020 10:13 am

Is that why it’s called string theory – because it ties everything together?

Walter Sobchak
March 24, 2020 10:39 am

I don’t know why they need astronomers to search for axion. You can buy it at Amazon:

March 24, 2020 10:47 am

The theory of everything or nothing. At least it works, mostly, in our neck of the woods.

Reply to  n.n
March 24, 2020 11:55 am

I like to think of the theory of everything as a manifestation of the Universe opposing its own existence.

Gary Pearse
March 24, 2020 11:36 am

“One of the biggest ideas in physics is the possibility that all known forces, particles, and interactions can be connected in one framework.”

Biggest ideas? Possibility? Let me help – it is trivially true. They ARE all connected in one framework as a fundament of logic! And physicists have thought so for over a century.

The Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes, launched in 1972 and 73, exited the solar system and their signals became undetectable after 2012. Calculations (the Pioneer Anomaly) indicated a tiny discrepancy in expected distances from the sun measured as an acceleration of ~10^(-9) m/s^2 (the sun’s apparent gravitational pull on the crafts appeared to be slightly stronger than expected). Mulled over by world scientists, a consensus was reached that it was due to anisotropic heat dissipation from their radioactive energy sources. A perfect situation for a sceptic to jump in! There were some scientists proposing some differential to Gravity in the world gathering, but they soon excepted the heating explanation.

Thinking leagues out of my depth about the “excess” gravity on a galactic scale that spawned the idea of Dark Matter and the ‘unified field’ of all forces, I used the Pioneer Anomaly as a departure from Newtonian gravity and came up with a gravity function that plotted as an hyperbola on a log/log graph – force on the ordinate and distance on the abscissa – such that Newtonian gravity was a tangent to this function midway between the extremes of inter atomic distances with their strong forces and galactic distances which were weak, but nevertheless stronger than Newtonian gravity as you increase distance beyond the tangent point’s abscissa distance.

Even the asymptote to the ordinate axis (force) evoked the enormous force associated with E=mc^2 as ‘zero’ distance is approached. Okay, gotta go, my keepers are chasing after me.

Tom Abbott
March 24, 2020 12:26 pm

“Galaxy clusters contain magnetic fields over giant distances,”

Magnetism, gravity and light all travel at the speed of light, so how does the magnetic field of a galaxy maintain its coherence over a distance of lightyears?

tsk tsk
March 24, 2020 5:49 pm

String Theory remains just a power fit of the universe.

Loren Wilson
March 24, 2020 5:57 pm

String theory is well known for being unlikely and hard-to-substantiate.

March 24, 2020 7:43 pm

“String theory is arguably the best-known proposal for a “theory of everything” that would tie together our understanding of the physical universe.”

You enjoyed writing that sentence, didn’t you?

March 24, 2020 9:39 pm

Would knowing what universal math constants and operators formulate the dimensionless fine structure constants for the fundamental forces explain anything?

March 25, 2020 3:15 am

The axion and some of the comments on centripetal force as a stand-in for gravity reminded me of some thoughts I had earlier on the origins of the universe

I’ve never really liked the notion that there’s always been mass. In my view, in the beginning, there was no mass and no time. Stuff that travels at light speed has neither. In a way, there was just light.

And so, what if the universe started with massless, timeless stuff (think of photons). These collided which changed their relative speed, which knocked them into different space time, and gave them what we call mass. It took 2 massless things and gave them a tiny bit of mass (think an axion) which was just their respective deltas from C.

There wasn’t a Big Bang just a nearly impossibly small one.

Mass, then would merely be a function of a rate of speed less than lightspeed. Something that sits in different space-time.

When this new stuff that had “mass” collided with other stuff with “mass” in the same space-time, the “mass” grew.

Mass is merely a collection “stuff – photos turning to axions turning to…” that is moving at nearly the exact same rate of “less than light-speed” and so sits in nearly the same space time. The nearly is important since there would be bundlings of things in different space times.

One could think of the amount of energy that it would take to restore this stuff to C as to help think about the E. When an item is at C it’s M which is it’s delta from C would be 0.

Gravity would be a function of relative difference in absolute momentum (including angular) between two objects.

Frank Baginski
March 26, 2020 3:43 pm

Distinti has the best theory of everything. It uses all of the things we already know about. I have read many and his is the best so far. He shows that all of quantum mechanics is measurement interference and dark matter is curve fitting as well. Well worth watching the hundred or so of his videos on youtube. If nothing else it gives a new idea in the mix.

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