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Scientists Crowdfund The Theory of Everything (cphpost.dk) 189

einar.petersen writes: Danish scientists are seeking to fund their research on the theory of everything in a rather unconventional way, namely via crowdfunding. The two researchers have launched a campaign that as of writing is 55% funded....
"Einstein spent the last 30 years of his life searching for an answer to the deepest question about the universe: does a fundamental principle, that governs all of reality, exist...?" reads their Indiegogo page. "In 2013 we, the theoretical physicist Jesper Moller Grimstrup and the mathematician Johannes Aastrup, discovered a simple mathematical principle, which we believe could be exactly what Einstein was searching for." One Danish newspaper jokes that the mathematician and theoretical physicist "are now offering mere mortals a chance to get in on the action."
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Scientists Crowdfund The Theory of Everything

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  • by einar.petersen ( 1178307 ) on Sunday May 15, 2016 @04:32PM (#52116923) Homepage
  • Of course it does. It is extremely simple too:

    Everything will grow as big as it can before it explodes.

  • Can anyone knowledgable in the field give a yes/no on the sanity of their research? If I decide to help fund it, I would like some idea that it isn't all snake oil.

    • If it's correct it's worthy of a Nobel Prize and that's worth more than they'll raise on Kickstarter. So we can conclude from the fact they haven't published that it's a scam.
      • You've never tried to get a proposal accepted, have you?

        Research dollars aren't exactly easy to come by - especially in a field like theoretical physics. So, it might be good work - but far enough outside the mainstream to be unfunded.

      • The monetary value of a Nobel prize is about a million euros. I suspect that the lucrative sponsorship deals that a championship winning sportsperson can use to enhance prize money probably aren't available to Nobel prize winners, so the cash bit is probably all they'll ever see. It is possible to raise more than a million euros on Kickstarter but I don't think this is the sort of thing that will grab enough attention to be one of those record-breaking kickstarters, so they might have been better going for

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

        You can conclude whatever you like.

    • Can anyone knowledgable in the field give a yes/no on the sanity of their research?

      If people knowledgeable in their field thought their approach was likely to succeed, they would already have plenty of funding.

      • Can anyone knowledgable in the field give a yes/no on the sanity of their research?

        If people knowledgeable in their field thought their approach was likely to succeed, they would already have plenty of funding.

        Nobody knowledgeable in the field has funding to give, hence they give to people like Tyson, Kaku and Hawking because they are celebrities. Knowledge in the field being defined as at least being on the right track to a grand unified theory.

    • The researchers have few citations other than their own and apparently can't get funding from anyone who would know enough to judge whether their work has any merit.
    • Re:Sanity Check (Score:5, Informative)

      by bjorniac ( 836863 ) on Sunday May 15, 2016 @06:13PM (#52117241)

      TL:DR - yes, it's a bit out there, but no more so than any other of the big attempts.

      I've talked with Jesper and Johannes at length whilst I was a PhD student - their ideas are based on applying the techniques of loop quantum gravity to non-commutative geometry. To give a brief summary of each:

      LQG regards the basic variables of geometry to be holonomies and fluxes - a holonomy is the transport of a vector around a small loop, coming back to the start to find the vector isn't pointing the same way (think about carrying an arrow around the a triangle from north pole to equator). This measures the curvature of the underlying manifold. The fluxes are like field lines in electromagnetism. It is these variables that are quantized (discretized) on a spin-network in LQG.

      Non-commutative geometry is the idea that geometrical operators care about the order in which they are applied - area(A) length(B) != length(B) area(A) (very loosely). Non-commutativity is at the heart of quantum mechanics, and is the root of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

      What they're hoping to do is build on the work of Connes and Chamseddine who have shown that the spectral action (special type of object in a non-commutative geometry, coming from application to the standard model) naturally reproduces the Einstein-Hilbert action (Basis of General Relatvity) in certain conditions. They hope that by applying LQG techniques here they'll get a full quantum theory of everything.

      It's a long shot, of course, but all such things are - non commutative geometry is a strange beast, and no-one has shown that LQG is the right way to quantize gravity (though they have had some theoretical success in cosmology and black holes). It's a personal aesthetic as to whether you think this is more or less plausible than extra dimensions, or symmetries, or some altogether new principle. It's not something I choose to spend my time on as I don't think it's the right way to go (I don't like non-commutativity, and LQG involves fundamental discreteness in a way that I think doesn't work) but I would say it's as good an idea as any other on the market and deserves to be explored.

      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday May 15, 2016 @06:25PM (#52117257) Homepage

        You know, that doesn't help a bit.

        • by quax ( 19371 )

          Helped me. Then again I have a physics degree :-)

          • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday May 15, 2016 @07:08PM (#52117463)
            Fraud! Physicists use radians, not degrees.
          • by tomxor ( 2379126 )

            ...[Correct, detailed and insightful explanation]...

            You know, that doesn't help a bit.

            Helped me. Then again I have a physics degree :-)

            This pretty much sums up the problem with many wikipedia pages on complex subjects... for outsiders they are man pages where even the syntax is esoteric... only useful when you want to remind yourself the details of something you already know quite well... If not then it's a difficult decoding exercise.

            The "simple english" version isn't really a proper solution, it would be nice to be able to dynamically and automatically break down complex components for a better subjective understanding... in a similar ki

            • This pretty much sums up the problem with many wikipedia pages on complex subjects... for outsiders they are man pages where even the syntax is esoteric... only useful when you want to remind yourself the details of something you already know quite well... If not then it's a difficult decoding exercise.

              There's a (relatively) modern buzzphrase, "life-long learning," that basically means you take up those difficult decoding exercises in order to make yourself a better person.

            • I agree completely. One hint at where this problem stems from is the fact that scientists often even have trouble communicating with other scientists outside of their own field (and these are the people writing the wikipedia articles). The goal of research is to go very deep, so scientists tend to get entrenched in their own specialized terminology and way of looking at the world. Furthermore, in my experience as a PhD student, being able to communicate scientific ideas with the broader public is not a skil

            • by quax ( 19371 )

              You may want to check out Bee's blog at http://backreaction.blogspot.c... [blogspot.com]

              She is an outstanding theoretical physicist with a nag to explain things in plain English, without dumbing them down too much (at least I think so, then again I may not be the best person to judge that).

            • This pretty much sums up the problem with many wikipedia pages on complex subjects [...] If not then it's a difficult decoding exercise.

              Ummm, remind me where in the description of the purpose of Wikipedia that it says the purpose is to provide tuition manuals? There are MOOCs and that sort of thing for that job. Wikipedia is intended to be an encyclopedia - a compilation of the (current) state of knowledge on a subject.

              Acquiring knowledge and understanding is not easy, and probably never will be. Which rem

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dbarclay10 ( 70443 )
        This kind of thing is why Slashdot can be awesome. (All credit to the author of course :)
        • It's a pleasure. I'm lucky enough to work on my passion, and to be able to talk about stuff like this with the people who work on it.

          A side note - both Jesper and Johannes are very open and easy to talk to - I'm sure if they're not overwhelmed they'll respond to questions from the public about their ideas.

      • I think wolfram has a better chance with cellular automa [youtu.be].
      • Thanks for that. I'm just a guy on the Internet, but this explanation was enough to convince me that it's a non-crank proposal, even if it's being oversold.

      • A link to their thesis, in it's simple beauty: arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0601127v1.pdf (yeah, I was being slightly sarky).

        I used to study these things in a previous eon, and my main problem back then was (and still is) that physicists seem too reluctant to explore what might explain quantum mechanics; or perhaps that is just the way it looked to a student who kept asking annoying questions :-) We keep trying to guess a solution, but there has for a long time been a strong reluctance against questioning the basic

        • I don't get what you mean by explaining quantum mechanics. You can't explain it in terms of classical physics, because things don't work that way. It might help if you were to give an example of what an explanation of some quantum phenomenon could be like (it doesn't have to be correct). It sounds to me like you're looking for meaning that may well not exist (an explanation of the Kantian noumenon in terms of phenomena). There's not necessarily a "why" to laws of physics (although your questions about

    • Actually the researchers are legit, I am from Denmark and this is not a joke, if you are in doubt contact some of the non affiliated (research wise) researchers yourself they are easy to find, write a nice letter and if you are satisfied donate. Personally with the Danish reporters having done this already and being familiar with the issues of funding in the research world I decided to throw in my bit in the hope of furthering the understanding of the universe(s).
  • What will you do if the ToE proves we are just NPCs in a simulation?

    • by surfcow ( 169572 )

      What would you do if you discovered that the world, the universe was just one of god's jokes?

      Would you work any less hard to make it a good joke?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think by definition I would have to classify myself as a PC (player character).
      The real question is, are all of YOU people PCs in a massively multiple universe, or just NPCs in my own open world universe.

      Psychopaths seem to act like they believe the latter, but most of us seem to act like we believe the former (well, outside of slahhdot comment posts anyway ;p )

      What would be very strange is if I am the only PC, everyone else are NPCs, but DMed by the same intelligence. Everyone I treat differently in som

  • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Sunday May 15, 2016 @05:11PM (#52117047)

    I've been wondering whether AI systems may advance science @ some point. I mean: not just as a tool with a human at the control knobs & interpreting results, but by itself as the 'entity' doing the advancing.

    Some significant advances have been made not through heaps of grunt work, but when great minds like Einstein did their thing. Seeing patterns in their mind that no-one else saw. Sadly, such great minds are rare. And have a limited lifespan - of which a big part is spent learning the subject matter. And no matter how genius, with hard limits on the # of grey cells that can be thrown at the problem.

    Artificial intelligent systems don't have such flesh-and-blood limitations: these can effectively be built at will, any size, optimized for specific problems sets, etc. Lately computerized systems have beat humans at increasingly complex tasks. Sometimes using brute force. Sometimes by looking at a problem from many angles at once. Fed with enough data, 'seeing' connections somehow that even experts in the field might overlook.

    Regardless how it works exactly, fact is you might say that for some problems, we've built AI systems that are more capable than a "genius" human at finding solutions. Would it be hard to imagine that @ some point, an AI system might spit out a new formula, discover some as-of-yet-unseen regularity in scientific data, or find a path to unify as-of-yet-non-unified scientific theories?

    Exciting times...

    • I wonder when we're going to engineer organic brain-in-a-tank (for lack of a better description) that don't age, and if it will beat out a sentient AI to existence.

      • Isn't organic brain-in-a-tank basically a process of disconnecting all the sense neurons from a brain and isolating it in a tank of fluid?

        How will the ever amount to anything?

    • Eventually we will get to the point where AI figures it all out, tries to dumb it down enough for us to understand, fails, gets frustrated, and gives up trying to explain it to puny humans.

  • by GPS Pilot ( 3683 ) on Sunday May 15, 2016 @05:36PM (#52117125)

    Good luck to them. FWIW, their "Quantum holonomy" theory has only a minor mention in the Wikipedia article on quantum gravity.

    • Added on october 8th, 2015 by user "Jespergrimstrup". Likely the reason for "This article may contain improper references to self-published sources".
      • by GPS Pilot ( 3683 )

        Interesting find! Jesper promotes his theory on Wikipedia as well as Indiegogo.

        However, {{Self-published}} was added on 6 October 2011.

        Is it just a coincidence that "grim Jester" is so similar to "Jesper grim"?

    • by abies ( 607076 )

      What is the difference between https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and Quantum holonomy?

  • Who knows, maybe these guys are onto something. I see some warning signs, though.

    See, these guys have been working on this theory for some time. They've developed some language (as in L) of their own and it sounds like they're having some trouble showing that it is internally consistent. This shouldn't really be a speedbump. It should be possible to first of all show that a space can exist in the algebra, by finding a basis. This would simply require finding a set of linearly independent vectors satisfying

  • ...is pretty much a guaranteed signal of a terrible idea. Obviously if you were actually carrying on some work from Einstein that would be super cool, but this phrase gets used for every perpetual motion machine and grand unified crackpot theory; it's a weird dog whistle for conspiracy theorists, dreamers and idiots.

    Heck, I thought by this point that was kind of an established joke - like saying your new board game "takes minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Einstein was working on a Grand Unified Theory for decades before he died, but he came nowhere close.
      It didn't help that he was sceptical about quantum mechanics (especially aspects like non-locality and entanglement).

      This is a completely different kind of GUT, related only by the fact that it is designed to reduce to General Relativity in the classical limit.

  • Many fine physicists have burned away their lives grappling with the problem of quantum gravity. - R. P. Woodard

  • People who have spent their entire lives working the politics of the academic financing system will not stand for this. They are not only in control of who gets money but for what.

    There is a very simple rule: "Science proceeds one funeral at a time."

    Basically this translates to a near complete banning of any research that could out do or overturn any established theories that were fleshed out by an active member of the senior academic community. They will have written many well cited papers, potentiall
  • The most obvious answer to this question is 42.

    However, that answer also outlines the more obvious question that should be posed before beginning research like this. as those who received an "answer" before didn't know what the hell to do with it.

    What exactly will we do with the proverbial answer to "everything", other than fight the masses who have their own answers based on their own beliefs?

    Oh well, at least Douglas Adams and PT Barnum are having a good laugh.

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Monday May 16, 2016 @09:40AM (#52119905)
    I don't see how crowd-sourcing the paying of researchers will help bring about a viable theory of everything. You can't purchase genius solutions to as yet unsolved deeply complex problems. This reminds me of the times when my old boss told me that I had two weeks to complete six weeks of testing. When answers come, they come. You can't speed up or buy unique solutions. When the physics and math add up, and the time is right, the theory will be developed, and later confirmed by others doing tedious work. We can't pick who will do it or pay a specific group to do so. Creativity doesn't work that way.
  • http://www.arjenlucassen.com/c... [arjenlucassen.com]

    If you love progressive metal... you will not be disappointed.

    That is all.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.