In the eighteenth century scientists discovered that lightning was made of the same electricity as static discharges. In the nineteenth century scientists discovered that electricity and magnetism were related. They described the phenomenon as different manifestations of the same underlying force named electromagnetism, which operated through something called an electromagnetic field. They predicted the existence of ripples in this field called electromagnetic waves. Later it was found that visible light was an electromagnetic wave. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, ultraviolet light, x-rays, and gamma rays were also shown to be electromagnetic, made of the same “stuff” and differing only in wavelength. At the atomic scale, electromagnetic forces drive chemical reactions and bonding. The magnetic, electrical, optic, chemical, and physical properties of all substances are governed by the electromagnetic force. What were once thought of as separate phenomena are now described in terms of a single theory.
At the same time, gravity was used to explain both falling apples and the movement of the planets. The various behaviors of the atomic nucleus were described in terms of two forces: the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force (physicists apparently have no imagination when it comes to names). Might this trend continue? Is it possible to explain everything in terms of one force?
This is what physicists have been trying to do for a century now. Some progress seems to have been made. The Kaluza-Klein theory unified gravity and electromagnetism, and the standard model of particle physics unified the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and electromagnetism. Unfortunately, the two theories are incompatible with each other. Numerous other candidate models have been proposed to unify all four forces, such as superstrings, super-symmetry, Penrose twistors, the holographic universe, cellular automata, and quantum loop gravity. There are problems with each. For some, the math is so hard that we can’t be sure they even work at all. For others, they are so versatile in explaining everything that they can explain anything – meaning they make no testable predictions to disprove them.
In everything I read on the subject, it is simply assumed that a unified field exists to explain all fields, both for bosons and fermions. Why? I have always wondered whether a unified field theory is even possible. What if the four forces are truly separate and fundamental? Could it be that nature is infinitely complex, with baryons being made of quarks, being made of still smaller particles, being made of still smaller particles, and so on forever? Since math is the foundation of physics, doesn’t Goedel’s theorem imply that any “theory of everything” must necessarily be either incomplete or inconsistent?
The same could be said of any set of rules, including those of moral philosophy. It seems that when I try to organize a set of principles from which right and wrong can be determined, there are always situations in which they either do not apply or else yield contradictory answers. The best example is land ownership. I believe in property rights. Land claims must be first-come-first-served. What is to be done with landless nomads, then? What is to be done with the homeless? Humans are material objects that take up space. They have to be somewhere. When the whole world is taken, where do they go? Who’s yard do they camp in? Yours? It would make sense to take a tiny sliver from everyone’s land to gather together in one place for them, but this is not how space works. It would make sense to cut up the nomads and distribute their matter equally across all lands, but this is not how the human body works. Instead, the majority of landowners will be blissfully unaware of the problem, while a minority will find their properties overrun. While it is perfectly permissible to defend your livelihood by driving the intruders away, it is also perfectly permissible for the intruders to defend themselves from being constantly driven from one place to another. Conflict is unavoidable and because any conflict can contain an element of this one (imagine the intruders taking over the government, taxing the landowners, and using the money to buy places for themselves), it can no longer be said who is right and who is wrong. Morality completely breaks down.
I am not a relativist. There is still a right choice and wrong choice in any given situation. It’s just that the underlying principles are infinitely complex and cannot be described ahead of time in a way comprehendible by any finite mind. These subjects I hope to describe in greater detail in the book I’m still writing.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.