Transcript: Garrett Lisi and Eric Weinstein on The Portal podcast episode 15
The Portal podcast transcription series
- Peter Thiel
- What is The Portal?
- Werner Herzog
- Timur Kuran
- Rabbi David Wolpe
- Jocko Willink
- Bret Easton Ellis
- Andrew Yang
- Bryan Callen
- Julie Lindahl
- Sam Harris
- Vitalik Buterin
- Garry Kasparov
- London Tsai
- Garrett Lisi
- Tyler Cowen
- Anna Khachiyan
- Eric Weinstein – State of the Portal 2020
- Bret Weinstein
- Sir Roger Penrose
- Ashley Mathews (Riley Reid)
- Ben Greenfield
- Agnes Callard
- Kai Lenny
- The Construct: Jeffrey Epstein
Geometric Unity – a First Look
- James O’Keefe
- Daniel Schmachtenberger
- Eric Lewis
- Jamie Metzl
- Ross Douthat
- Ryan Holiday
The following transcript was generated by a machine and not edited by any human – so it’s full of of errors. I’m posting the transcript because the podcast is excellent and a crappy transcript is better than no transcript. Questions/comments: get me on Twitter @mgmobrien.
Eric Weinstein 0:00
Hello, you’re queued up to enter the portal, but I thought I’d say a few words before this episode. In general, when we present science in front of the public, we do it in one of two ways. Either we talk in an incredibly hand wavy way about very speculative ideas like string theory, or we have a sort of a corpse of previous scientific thought that has been specifically arranged for public viewing. It’s not really science, the way we do science. It’s kind of a denatured version to make sure that we don’t lose anybody. Because the public is famously supposed to be squeamish about anything involving equations, abstractions, or jargon. In this episode, we try to well do something different. I’m actually having a conversation with Garrett here. He’s updating me on where his thinking has gone with respect to unifying physics. Now, it’s very unusual for anyone to try to unify physics and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Garrett, even though I don’t think his theories are going to work. I make no secret of this. I’m not saying anything behind his back, but I He is in some sense, Theodore Roosevelt’s man in the arena, he actually is trying to take on the general problem of the cosmos. And even though I don’t think he’s succeeding, he has my profound admiration for simply suiting up and trying, most people. In fact, almost everyone I know does not attempt to do what he is doing. And for that he has my admiration and respect. Now with that admiration and respect comes a desire not to be mean, but to actually push him on his theory because I don’t want to see him wasting his time. And I feel that when you’re outside of the university system, there’s almost no one who takes your research seriously. So while there’s an aspect of tongue in cheek with respect to us being each other’s arch nemesis, there’s actually something quite serious about it. I don’t necessarily like the path that he’s going down. And I don’t know that I really believe that he’s going to get anywhere productive. But I do think that he’s an inspiration to us all simply for trying in an era where everyone else seems to have given up I hope you enjoyed this episode. And I hope that you understand that it is an experiment. I’m trusting you guys to listen in on something which is much closer to actual science than what you’re usually presented with. I hope you like it. You found the portal. I’m your host, Eric Weinstein, and I’m here today with my arch nemesis, physicist Garrett Lisi Garrett, welcome to the portal.
Garrett Lisi 2:22
Thanks for having me on. Eric. You’re brave man.
Eric Weinstein 2:24
Well, I would say you’re a brave man coming into the lion’s den. So thank you for coming by. For those who don’t know who you are, or what this issue of being arch nemesis is about, what what could you do to inform our listeners and viewers about who you are and what our relationship might be?
Unknown Speaker 2:46
All right, well, we have a many disturbing similarities in that we did fairly well in school, we got our PhDs, but then we left academia and Spitz maintained an interest in fundamental physics. and kept pursuing this on our own. However, there are some distinctions in that you went into the finance world and I went into being a surf bum.
Eric Weinstein 3:12
Yes, that’s not that similar. Also you are you have a PhD in physics proper, whereas I have one in mathematics. So I would say, advantage Lisi but then I have one from a more typically powerhouse school you have one from one that’s a little bit off of that main quarter that may be caught up caught up in string theory and the fads that propel the field. But I think what’s been very interesting to me is that in all of theoretical physics, which everyone is quite interested in, you still find people publishing books on quantum theory and all of the spookiness weirdness and beauty that constitutes theoretical physics. It feels to me that almost no one is pursuing actual theories of everything. We talk about theories of everything all the time. But that the courage to actually put forward anything even remotely resembles the theory of everything. Almost nobody’s willing to do that. Would you say that? That’s a fair statement?
Unknown Speaker 4:20
Yeah, it’s a very fair statement. And the the main reason for that is because it’s such a hard problem, that you pretty much have to be a megalomaniac, just to tackle it or to think you have a chance of succeeding at it.
Eric Weinstein 4:33
Well, I think that’s a weird statement. Like if you’re doing if you’re going to throw away your life on issues of theoretical physics, what is it that you would imagine people would think that they were doing like, if you’re not going for the brass ring? Why enter that field? Well,
Unknown Speaker 4:48
I think that a lot of people in physics are doing the usual thing where they encounter a problem and try to solve it, and try to proceed incrementally. And that’s how actually I got wrapped up in this identified a problem with electrons and their description. In fundamental physics, it was something about it that really I didn’t like it just didn’t, just didn’t feel right to me. And I got wrapped up in solving that one aspect of this big picture. I didn’t go off trying to think I’m really gonna tackle this problem of coming up with a theory of everything. Because you, you have to be somewhat of a lunatic to take that on. It’s like, you’re trying to prove some theorem and mathematics, it has been stagnant for hundreds of years. It’s just, you know, you’re probably not going to succeed, and you’d probably just be frustrated with the attempt, you have to have a huge ego to even think about it. Right. And also, there’s a lot of discouragement our students are actively discouraged from tackling such problems because the professors who came before them and know a little bit more about the field know just how hard it is to make progress even on small problems. And making progress on a huge one is just insurmountable. So they tried to actively discourage the students from from going into fundamental problems initially. Because they, they they haven’t had success themselves. So they’re they’re trying to be protective of their students that way.
Eric Weinstein 6:07
So maybe just to set this up and I should say to regular listeners and viewers of the portal. This is intended to be something of a transitional episode so that the entire podcast is an experiment. And, you know, other other people have shows, and there’s a concept of professionalism. I don’t think that’s what we’re striving for here at the portal. This is really an untested we’re gonna experiment with our advertising models. We’re going to experiment with what the traffic will bear when it comes to intellectual discussions, without spoon feeding everything to the audience, realizing that some people may get left behind. In fact, the host may get left behind. We don’t know. I don’t know, but it’s quite possible. And what we’ve done is we’ve done a series of interviews to begin the podcast to just establish that we can have conversations that people want to tune into and get great guests in that chair, where people may not have even heard of the person before, but hopefully walk away feeling enriched. However, that’s not really the point of the podcast. The point of the podcast is to explore new territory intellectually. And it may be an academic level, outside of traditional channels. And it has to do in part with my belief that we don’t really understand how much idea suppression has been going on for a very long period of time within the standard institutions. In fact, I’ve created this thing I’ve called the disk, the distributed idea suppression complex, and its purpose is to make sure that ideas do not suddenly catch fire and up and disrupt previous structures. So for example, I would claim that string theory which has absolutely dominated theoretical physics since what 1984 Yes, it’s about them. It’s about 35 years. It artificially consolidated the field around a complex of ideas that did not have a huge signal coming from experiment, you know, to try to steal homeboy,
Unknown Speaker 8:15
I mean, to understand that you have to understand the as I’m sure you do the the culture of particle physics at the time when string theory started to grow, which is, you know, up until, you know, up to the 70s there had been steady experimental results coming in from particle accelerators, where it was like a new particle every week, that there is rafting to really cooperate on as a community to jump in on try to figure it out and exchange ideas very it was more of the 50s and 60s it was but it continued all the way through the 70s. And, and from that culture of, you know, community working together on information that’s coming in a steady stream, right, you got this color have like Yeah, no, don’t go do that everything, it’s a waste of time, you really want to be working on what’s hot, right? Because there’s new information coming in all the time. And this is where the culture of string theory started. I was also more involved in the, in the culture of general relativity, gravity, okay, which is a very different culture, it’s much more slow paced, you don’t have new results coming in all the time, everything’s very is much more do
Eric Weinstein 9:22
I set this up a little bit for our audience and you check critique if I do a poor job. In essence, the to great idea complex is in fundamental physics, not condensed matter physics, or astrophysics, but like whatever ground reality physics is, is the general relativistic complex around the ideas of Einstein. And then there’s the sort of quantum field theoretic complex or the quantum complex around the ideas of bores, sort of fair enough and plunk erina I don’t mean to slight Dirac and others, but just to keep it simple, the children of Einstein and the children of Bohr right
Unknown Speaker 10:00
The the the boring people went into particle physics. The boring
Unknown Speaker 10:04
people. Well, you said they’re the children of bores. Haha. Okay, so so they’re so they’re in this culture that’s a very rapid fire, you know moving moving things along as part of a community, whereas general relativity and the people from the Einstein community were more exploring different possibilities at their own pace, and there is more of an exploratory culture. And that’s a culture that turned into loop quantum gravity.
Eric Weinstein 10:27
So, so first of all, I’m just going to, I’m going to begin arguing with you there. To me, yeah, the issue was, is that Einstein put much more of the general relativistic picture in place, so there was less to do for the descendants of Einstein. And because the quantum was considerably less tied up, there was much more work and so through a system of selective pressures, the more successful community in some sense left fewer to attendance and they were less capable because there was less for them to do. And then you had the quantum community start to attract the real brains. Because there was lots of work for a period of time to go back and forth between theory and experiment. That’s right.
Unknown Speaker 11:14
Okay. And, and, but what happened was that a, when the when you think about it as a whole, that gravity has to be quantized. So there, there are two ways of getting there. You can either start from bores children and and quantum field theory and try to get from there to a quantum theory that encompasses gravity. Or you can start from the gravitational side and geometry and try to somehow get quantum mechanics to play nice with this essentially classical geometric theory. And they were two very different approaches and two very different cultures.
Eric Weinstein 11:52
I still have some disagreements, but I don’t think I necessarily want to derail us. So
Unknown Speaker 11:59
all right. So, anyway, my the the point I started with was that the string theory came out of the particle physics community.
Eric Weinstein 12:06
Now, when we say string theory, we mean the cultural explosion that happened in 1984 rather than the original string revolution of let’s say Vanette siana, which was much earlier, okay. So that in in the mid 1980s, there was a discovery called the anomaly cancellation, where two very improbable things cancel each other. And the theory was, suddenly there was a theory that was given a green light that was highly restrictive as to what could what could go in that spot. And that result, the anomaly cancellation, gave birth to a cultural phenomenon, which was the sort of takeover of theoretical physics by string theory,
Unknown Speaker 12:53
right. I mean, it looks so promising at the time in the 80s. I mean, they thought that, yes, it naturally encompasses gravity and All we need to do is find the right you know, high dimensional manifold to attach to, for our strings to vibrate in and will immediately recover all the properties of the particles of the standard model. We just have to find the right one. We’ll probably get this done by lunchtime
Eric Weinstein 13:12
wrapped up. I don’t believe that story. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 13:15
Well, that didn’t happen. That
Eric Weinstein 13:16
was no, no, but I don’t think that’s even what actually happened in I was in college and during this period, and even though that’s the story that I would agree is told inside of the community. Yeah, I’m not sure that I fully believe it. If I go back to my own memories, something very different happened. Well,
Unknown Speaker 13:33
it took a while to get everybody on the bandwagon.
Eric Weinstein 13:35
I think something’s still different happened. I think that Ed Witten showed up, and that there was one
Unknown Speaker 13:39
human being he’s his own anomaly.
Eric Weinstein 13:42
He wasn’t he was absolutely an anomaly. He came to Penn in I don’t know whether it was 83 or 84. I left in 85. And he started talking about what the world was in a way that None of the physicists could actually follow because he was using ideas from from differential geometry and from high higher mathematics in ways that most of the community couldn’t track he was saying things like, the reason we have three copies of the kind of matter that makes up our world comes from the characteristic numbers of a six dimensional complex manifold found at every point in space and time. And these things were so mind blowing. I mean, if that if our listeners can’t exactly follow what they were in the same shoes, as many people in the community, there was a voice that was clearly coming from another planet, right. undoubtedly the most brilliant person I’ve ever met in my life, the one person who continues to make me tremble when I hear his name or his voice, and this person signed on big time to string theory in a way that was very coercive and seductive. So that even though the The community understood why he was signing on. It was in part Winton’s endorsement that really started to move the needle in my opinion. Well, the
Unknown Speaker 15:11
string theory unification program, the idea that this description of all fundamental particles and gravity and our entire universe would come from a model based on strings vibrating in other higher dimensions. I mean that this unification program is failed. The vast majority of the high energy physics community has been working on it for over 30 years. And they’ve utterly failed to deliver on that promise, despite the hype, high hopes and promises.
Eric Weinstein 15:40
Well, and this has to do. And again, we can sort of do a small synopsis of the field. The idea was the original hopes had been built around an idealized point particle concept where hard little balls, were kind of the naive model of particles then you had to smear them out. Do waves on waves from that point particle concept called second quantization or quantum field theory? And string theory said no, the fundamental unit should never have been a hard little ball to begin with. It should have been modeled by something that was an as if string, obviously, it wasn’t string made out of atoms. It was some sort of mathematical version
Unknown Speaker 16:23
of right. It’s an abstract mathematical description of a surface inside another surface, essentially,
Eric Weinstein 16:28
right? And so that this this thing had a peculiar appeal to the children of Bohr. That was not that appealing to the children of Einstein, would that be a fair description of it that it has
Unknown Speaker 16:40
for pretty subtle reasons, specifically, anomaly cancellation, and also the ability to produce what appeared to be particle excitations within from the string model
Eric Weinstein 16:50
right. Now, that thing, that sudden shift in the community from regular quantum field theory From a plurality of different approaches, whether some of them had names like Technicolor or grand unification, or supersymmetry, all of those seem to get subsumed in this. I don’t know a fad What? It’s hard to
Unknown Speaker 17:15
click it giant rolling what Katamari democracy ball where it’s just collecting everything that it touches and making it a part of itself.
Eric Weinstein 17:21
That’s right. And in fact, the claim was, if we find something that isn’t string theory, we’ll just find some way of including it and call it string theory. Right? So this was a bizarre You know, there was it was a sociological phenomena. It was a we would say the Political Economy of science was involved where who could get a job for their students, whether or not the newspapers, were going to challenge this or go along with it. So you had reporters who had no idea what was going on publishing these glowing pieces about the string theorist and how they were going to wrap it all up? Yeah. And in essence, you know, we have this concept in evolutionary theory. theory called interference competition, where one animal will attempt to out compete the other by keeping it away from like a watering hole. So nobody else could afford to get nourished because the string theorists were saying all the smart people are in string theory, it’s the only game in town was the famous phrase, I certainly encountered a lack of nourishment when I graduated in the 90s. And I wasn’t interested in strings, but I was interested in high energy physics. Well, I think almost everybody was in that position. And that that is really the founding crime. For me, in the string revolution, it was the desire to say that everyone who is not part of us as an idiot, yeah,
Unknown Speaker 18:38
yeah, that’s above and beyond normal physicist arrogance,
Eric Weinstein 18:41
above and beyond normal physicist arrogance. And I want to say also why I think I’m so focused on theoretical physics as the most important endeavor that humans are engaged with. I think that there are three components to it and just see whether whether it resonates with you One is that this is the closest we get responsibly to asking why are we here? What is it that we’re made of? It is the thing that would best substitute for a religion, if you were able to understand what it was. The second thing is that it appears to be the secret powering our economy that very few people have really fully understood. It gave us the World Wide Web, the semiconductor. The electron shells that generated chemistry, nuclear power, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, communications technology, electromagnetic, you know, Wi Fi, what have you. If you want it, it invented the theoretical physics more or less created molecular biology.
Unknown Speaker 19:49
That’s probably a bit of a stretch but the other certainly aren’t. So
Eric Weinstein 19:53
yeah, if you look at the RNA tie club, you know the people word teller Fineman Crick people trained in physics So, in this telling of the tale, its second major feature of importance is that it sort of created our modern economy. And I don’t think people have understood the extent to which all of these things for, you know, the web semiconductors. And even molecular biology really came out of theoretical physics because of the third issue, which is, I think, even though I’m a mathematician or trained in mathematics, I could make a pretty decent argument that this was the world’s most impressive intellectual community ever.
Unknown Speaker 20:36
It certainly seems to attract some of the greatest minds.
Eric Weinstein 20:39
Well, I would say, I would go even farther. I would say that because of the interplay between the most beautiful mathematics even according to mathematical standards, and experimental discipline, so you have this, this thing that’s forcing you to go back and forth between the purest of pure theory and the the dirt and intuition The messiness of experiment. I don’t think anything else had that property so that it wasn’t necessarily even that it just attracted the best people but it it actually rewarded human intellectual achievement, like no other subject ever.
Unknown Speaker 21:15
Right? It’s also a touching on something
Unknown Speaker 21:18
that’s a little bit different socially, which is the type of people who are attracted to really, you know, hard problems and fundamental physics and modeling and really trying to get, as you say, the source code of the universe. These often aren’t very skilled people, people, they’re not very socially oriented people for the most part,
Eric Weinstein 21:41
some are, some aren’t.
Unknown Speaker 21:42
Yeah, but for the real intellectual heavy hitters, you’re talking about people who sort of, I mean, walk among us as aliens, you’re talking about things that they’re not extremely social, they’re not very focused on, on issues with other human beings and physics. This understanding of our universe through mathematics is really otherworldly pursuit. Right? It’s not like law where laws are made up by humans and discussed in front of humans competin in front of humans, it’s, I mean, that has its own intricacies and difficulties and puzzles, but theoretical physics you’re getting, you’re working at something that’s not related to humans directly. I mean, any intelligent beings in this universe that advanced to a certain state are going to be involved in studying physics, and it’s gonna be the same physics right? with some of the same mathematics and the same mathematical tools. It’s it’s something that exists independent of humanity. So if you’re, if you’re not a huge fan of human beings, and but you you really like puzzles, and you’re good at math. Physics is very attractive because it’s a it’s a it’s the greatest puzzle there is in our universe. And it exists completely independent of humanity. Yet humans have been able to work on it and make progress which is freaking amazing. It’s amazing the degree to which humans have understood our reality. And and I think we’re getting close to having a copy
Unknown Speaker 23:14
of it three
Eric Weinstein 23:18
classes of greatest puzzles. I mean, if I could, I could tell a story that biology is the greatest puzzle because without something to care about the universe in which it lives. This is all completely sterile to begin with. And I can also make a different case for mathematics, which is that physics is but one example of a universe we don’t know if there are other universes that can could be constructed.
Unknown Speaker 23:41
So biology, I mean, it’s, it’s, I agree, it’s intricate and and it can be a pure pursuit, but it’s not pure in the sense that so much of the foundations of biology are somewhat arbitrary. Like whether it you know, DNA helix is going to spiral to the left to the right, and what its chemical components are precisely That might vary other planets, you know, other civilizations biology is gonna be different.
Eric Weinstein 24:08
Make a decent argument that systems of selective pressures as described by Darwin and Wallace, there might be conserved even if you had didn’t have carbon baseline, there will be convergent evolution, of course, sure.
Unknown Speaker 24:18
But but the details will be slightly different. So if you’re studying biology, by the time you get up to something like cells or animals, it’s going to be wildly different, in different different places in the in the galaxy, right? Whereas, whereas physics is the same everywhere, okay, it’s it’s independent of biology. And it’s independent of humanity. And it’s, I think, and then when you go to mathematics, mathematics, the pursuit of mathematics like how things get proved, and how structures get built up through axioms that are then proved it It’s a it’s a larger playing field than physics. So within that huge arena of possible mathematical structures, okay, we see appear to live in one mathematical structure. So I mean, a physicist only has to focus on the the mathematics that we that
Eric Weinstein 25:19
Raul and I, by the way, share your intuition than in a certain sense. This is the best and most interesting place to play, in part, because there’s this very weird feature that we’ve seemingly unearth about the physical universe, which is that it unexpectedly has this bizarrely good taste. Yeah, about what to care about within. It’s as if you let it loose in the mathematical jewelry store and it selects only the finest pieces. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 25:52
Yeah. And we have to wonder if that’s, you know, is that just our human take on it because our human aesthetics have evolved within this beautiful world and universe. So is it that I mean, Douglas Adams described the anthropic principle as a as a puddle of water, right thinking, it’s like, wow, this, this, this hole I’m in is just perfectly formed to my shape. Right isn’t wonderful how it just fits me so perfectly. It’s so comfortable here, just like it was made for me what’s like know, the puddle got there and filled the shape of the hole. I mean the water got there and filled that shape. And as humans, we ended up here and we filled this niche and our aesthetic tastes was shaped by what’s around us, including the mathematics that underlies the physics of this universe. And so when we look at the universe, you might say, Oh, no. Maybe it’s just our tastes evolved within this universe. So this is why we find physics aesthetically pleasing. Do you actually believe what you’re saying right now? No, I think it’s wrong. I mean,
Eric Weinstein 26:56
I think so powerfully.
Unknown Speaker 26:58
I know I agree. And right Like, I have to wonder about it. I have to I mean, I
Eric Weinstein 27:02
actually have to pay lip service. You know, it’s not
Unknown Speaker 27:04
just lip service. I think about this. I mean, I think I mean, is it really? My proclivities have been shaped by my environment in order to think this because I have to question everything all the time. Sure. Mostly cuz I don’t talk to enough other people. But, but also, it’s because you know, yeah, when you’re questioning things, you’re delving with fundamental building blocks, you want to make sure as you build things up that you have things right. And in looking at the fundamental physics, pieces of physics, you know, the fundamental mathematical physics. I really think that the mathematical pieces, as you say, are the ones that are extraordinarily beautiful. And it’s not just my aesthetic tastes has been shaped by evolution that causes me to think that I really think objective Lee, these are very pretty mathematical objects be underlying our physical reality.
Eric Weinstein 27:51
I think we just lacked the courage to say what this appears to be which is, there is something that we do not understand about the universe in which it is selected for the most mysterious, most beautiful stuff with which to write what we, I mean, the closest thing we have to source code. We don’t we’re not at the source code yet. We’re not quite at that layer.
Unknown Speaker 28:19
Right? My smelly cat. Yeah.
Eric Weinstein 28:21
Well, I mean, yes and no, feels close. I think it’s almost provably close. But yeah, but there’s a caveat to that, which is, I think we’re almost at the end of this chapter. And it does feel like it could easily be the final chapter. And by the way, we should be, we should clarify that when we when we talk about a theory of everything. We don’t mean a theory that once understood could explain everything you see in your daily universe,
Unknown Speaker 28:54
right? We love is still gonna be a mystery, of course. Oh God, you really did that.
Unknown Speaker 29:00
Of course I did. But yeah, no, I mean file
Eric Weinstein 29:03
form a single file.
Unknown Speaker 29:05
There’s there’s evidence. I mean, there in our, in our understanding of physics as we’ve learned more particles Yeah, the fundamental particles we’ve learned about appear to be filling out a complete set. I mean, we’ve you know, when you when you predict that a towel court should exist or know that a towel laptop should exist. Or you figure out that, you know, it completes this that there is this third generation it’s complete. Right, so we seem to be completing our set of fundamental parts. So we have three sets of Lego. Yeah,
Eric Weinstein 29:40
right, the first generation, second generation and third generation of matter. And all the pieces in each generation are mirrored in the other two generations, just a different mess scales so far. That’s what it looks like.
Unknown Speaker 29:53
Well, it’s not just so far it’s like we we have we have reasons to know that there aren’t there aren’t more from from How the Big Bang sent matter loose in the universe, we know that there aren’t more than three generations after certain, very high energy.
Eric Weinstein 30:07
Well, we’ve known a lot of things, Garrett, that have turned out to be wrong.
Unknown Speaker 30:13
Ah, well, but this is really filling out a pretty complete pattern.
Unknown Speaker 30:17
I don’t dispute, but I just haven’t
Unknown Speaker 30:20
except for this minor point of dark matter still being completely unknown for the most part.
Eric Weinstein 30:24
Yeah. I mean, I guess my discomfort with this comes from the fact that knowing the history, I know how we’ve been wrong. And I also know how we haven’t had the courage of our convictions. And one of the things that really, you know, occupies My mind is why we’re not more definite about things that I think we have very good, good reason to believe. And we’re so definite about things that sort of scare me where we say, I know that it can’t be other than this. And yet it has we’ve been we’ve been showing up multiple times. We’ve Got two different directives telling us to be both more confident and more humble, right? The thing that has affected both both you and myself, most profoundly is the existence of something called spinners. At the core of our understanding of matter, do you want to say a little bit about what that is? Why you think it’s affected you and me as well? And why? Perhaps it hasn’t had the same emotional and intellectual impact on the community.
Unknown Speaker 31:33
Right? I mean, when you’re
Unknown Speaker 31:36
basically when physicists
Unknown Speaker 31:39
more or less completed that what’s called the Standard Model of particle physics, right you have you have the the known forces in physics like the electromagnetic force, the weak force and the strong force as well as the force of gravity. And then you have the matter particles, which are electrons and quarks and neutrinos and other generations of these. That that form, you know what are called the fermions. Okay? And these are called the matter particles, and they they have mass because of the interaction with the Higgs boson,
Eric Weinstein 32:10
right, which is sort of in between, it’s not going to make sense to people it’s not alright.
Unknown Speaker 32:13
Unknown Speaker 32:17
the the force particles behave differently as elementary particles under rotations than the matter particles. Alright, so these matter particles, they, you have to basically rotate them 720 degrees to return them to their original state. Right, whereas most objects, you rotate it and you rotate it 360 degrees and you get back to where you started. Right? But spinners are different. Right? And they, they behave in a very specific way. And there’s a very specific way of describing them mathematically. But it’s described in an unusual way. It’s described as a as a column of complex numbers or a column matrix. If you like. It’s acted on by rotation matrix that tells you specifically how these particles transform under rotation.
Eric Weinstein 33:07
Honestly, that wouldn’t make any sense to me. And I don’t think I can help all of my audience to guess
Unknown Speaker 33:12
that this is the thing. So so this is the way physicists are introduced to description of electrons.
Eric Weinstein 33:18
Well, look, don’t just try to play with something. While we’re talking about this that this way,
Unknown Speaker 33:22
well, you can let me can I hand it off to you in about 10 seconds? No, you finish it out. All right. So I found this description to be incredibly unsatisfying, right, because the rest of physics is not described this way. Right? You don’t introduce a fundamental field that transforms a certain way into rotations. That’s not how, you know, why would the universe do that? It’s not elegant. It’s not it’s not geometric. Right? It seems sort of arbitrary. Why would the universe have spinners in it? Well, it turns out that because if you if you describe general relativity as curving four dimensional space time describe gravity, and you describe forces, as gauge field Right, which both of those are very geometric descriptions. They’re very elegant mathematically manuscript physic the fermions is spinners It looks like a Cluj. It just it doesn’t fit with the other theories. But that’s why I left physics to solve this problem. I wanted to know why spinners geometrically. And no one else was interested in the problem. No one else thought it was a problem. They’re like, yeah, they transform this way. And and maybe it comes from strings. And that’s all you get. And it’s like, no, that’s totally unsatisfying. If gravity is described geometrically, and are all our other forces described geometrically, the universe is just one thing. It’s right there in the name. I mean, unit is one verse is turning. We have we have this one turning thing we call The Universe. And it’s just one mathematical object. And if this if we have different particles, they have to be aspects of this one mathematical object. Why would this mathematical object have spinners as an aspect of them? It was a huge mystery to me. I wanted to go solve it no one else even acknowledged. It was a problem.
Unknown Speaker 35:02
And you also tackled this, this also bothered you? Well, there was a. So
Eric Weinstein 35:08
this is the very difficult part of what the portal is supposed to be. And I have the feeling that we’ve probably left a lot of our listeners behind. But I’ve I’ve said that we’re going to have to take some risks and this is going to be one of them. So the way I see it, some some of our listeners are also viewers right. And we have in studio these beautiful Klein bottles from Acme Klein bottle and Cliff Stoll out of Oakland, I guess, these objects that I’m holding up, or you can look up Klein bottles on the on the web, have this very odd property that they are covered, if you will, by the surface of a doughnut if the surface of the doughnut wraps around this object twice. We call this a double cover. Now the idea that you have some very Very strange object with no inside and outside, called a Klein bottle. But that it’s wrapped twice by some object which has different properties, namely the surface of a doughnut called a Taurus. The rotations of our three dimensional space, bizarrely have some object that covers them twice, just as a doughnut covers a Klein bottle twice. So when we talk this crazy language about you have to rotate an object more than 360 degrees for it to come back to itself. This is somewhat of garbage language that we’ve taught people to understand, where we’re not really showing them what’s behind the curtain. We’re not showing them that they’re the rotations of a rigid three dimensional space. And then there’s this thing that covers those rotations twice, called the spin group. And that spin group is the thing that has the property that it acts on these things called spinners. So this is a hidden level of structure that you would not know Was there just from three dimensional space, there’s some secret, trapped in three dimensional space that is very well hidden. And if we weren’t at a very high level of mathematics or physics, you would never know that spinners even exist to play with,
Unknown Speaker 37:16
right? I mean, it comes out of representation theory. But at that, once again, that’s a fairly high level of mathematics, you have to get to, to even see that these things exist. And
Eric Weinstein 37:24
for all of the other basic kinds of symmetries, we don’t have these hidden representations. We don’t have these hidden spaces that have these bizarre properties. It’s only for these things called orthogonal groups. So it’s a very special property of real, Euclidean, rigid space, that spinners are there to be found. And not only does nature find them, she bases all of matter around the hidden object that can’t easily be seen or deduced which is a total Mine job, right. And the math community has in fact sort of split between people who think, Hey, we can describe these things mathematically. So our work is done, versus other people who believe there’s something about spinners that just it continues to surprise us. We don’t understand where they came from. They’re a hidden feature of the universe, and they keep giving in this very mysterious fashion.
Unknown Speaker 38:27
Yeah. And the most of the general relativist, who came at this problem, just would not want to touch it, because it’s too foreign to them. And the people came into it from the particle physics side, thought it wasn’t a problem. It’s they can’t that’s his field transforms a certain way. It seems perfectly well described. What
Eric Weinstein 38:49
if that doesn’t? This doesn’t make sense to me at all. So it
Unknown Speaker 38:52
didn’t make sense to me either. But I will
Eric Weinstein 38:55
have an argument as to why this is a really, really serious problem. If I take Two kinds of thing that might one might hope to find in the universe and electron and a photon. Okay, so the idea is that I’ve got stuff that orbits around atomic nuclei, and I’ve got light, and its relatives that carry the electromagnetic force in the photon. If I don’t know how to measure length and angle, I can still talk about the objects that are photons, we call them spin one particles. But if I don’t have lengthen angle, I don’t have any way of talking about spinners. In other words, if there isn’t a ruler and a protractor, which is effectively what Einstein used to define space time, I don’t have an ability to talk about spinners. And that’s a big problem, because if you’re a problem, it’s a huge clue. It says that you have to be intimately related to gravity in general relativity and gravity. So spinners are over on the quantum side of the equation. Right? The Quantum in the children of Bohr, it’s really more their object than the children of Einstein’s. The children of Bohr claim we have to quantize gravity and make everything quantum. So it’s sort of an imperial belief that the people who study the standard model should extend their techniques to cover gravity so that all can be one. yet. If it turns out that there we don’t know how to measure length and angle between measurements, because in quantum theory, you get something very different when when things when a field is propagating versus when it’s measured. All of the probabilistic stuff we talked about is happening when there’s a quantum measurement. If you don’t know where length and angle are, while something is propagating, then you don’t even know where where the electrons can be a disturbance. If electrons are waves, they have to be waves in some kind of a sea, you know, with photons, that you can’t tell exactly where the wave is, but you know where the sea is, in the case of electrons, if you don’t know where the the metric is, you can’t even say where the sea is that the electron would be a wave in China. It’s a very convoluted thing, but it’s a big difference.
Unknown Speaker 41:23
Yeah. And it’s, I mean, I can almost describe it in extremely simple terms, which is, most people, most physicists who think about it think of gravitational charge as being mass, but gravitational charge is really spin.
Eric Weinstein 41:42
Yeah, we’re getting, we’re getting pretty far afield. Alright.
Unknown Speaker 41:48
So to speak,
Eric Weinstein 41:49
so to speak. So let’s imagine that maybe our listeners haven’t understood exactly what we’re saying, but that there is some special problem About spinners and how they’re tied to the structure of space time. That is different, where you can describe things like photons in some sense without knowing how length and angle are measured, whereas length and angle are essential if you’re ever going to talk about spinners. Now, you and I have two very different points of view. And the reason that that I consider you an arch nemesis is that I think your theory based on IE eight, which is depicted in this crystal block for those who are viewing on YouTube, thanks for bringing your kryptonite to the show. Your approach to this is to say let’s start out with some object that is mathematically distinguished and very peculiar, effectively, like a platypus of the mathematical world. And let’s try to distill from this thing that has to exist for reasons of logical necessity and is maybe the most complicated naturally occurring object Arguably that you could pick and let’s find the richness of our natural world is distilled from this bizarre freakish occurrence in the laws of mathematical necessity Is that a fair telling?
Unknown Speaker 43:17
From a top down perspective it is.
Unknown Speaker 43:21
But the way I got there is by describing spinners and seeing that spinners is part of this one beautiful mathematical object naturally and it’s it’s unique to the exceptional Li groups to these this class this small class of objects
Eric Weinstein 43:37
and when you say exceptionally groups, what you mean is a lot of high continuous symmetries that only occur once that they don’t fall into some regular pattern,
Unknown Speaker 43:48
right? Okay. And, and spinners are naturally a part of their geometry. And then they’re in there. They’re intricate, beautiful objects. They have spinners naturally as part of their geometry. And that if you dissect them, you can see all the other parts necessary to particle physics and gravity. And this was just stunning to me. And at this point, I’m like, Alright, I’ve built up from the ground up from from particle physics and from gravity and from spinners have built the structure up and seeing how it’s all interconnected. And I found that they’re all part of this small class of mathematical objects that are unique in their intricacy and beauty for finite dimensional objects. And that’s why now I appear to have adopted more of a top down view where it seems like oh, I started with this pretty object, and I said, Oh, look, it explains everything. But it’s nowhere near like that, how I actually got to there. All right, the truth is I’m building up and the truth is, the next object is going to be higher dimensional objects that include
Unknown Speaker 44:53
like this one is a subgroup.
Eric Weinstein 44:56
So the way I’m hearing you, Garrett, and again, you know, this is Like one of the most obscure,
Unknown Speaker 45:01
gonna lose some of your listeners. But I was gonna, I’m happy to talk about
Eric Weinstein 45:04
well, but I’m trying to we’re trying to describe this. I would like to describe this a little bit as as if we were taking somebody to an opera in a foreign language so that they can follow the plot even though they can’t follow line by line. Okay. The way I see what you’re saying is, is that there is a usual kind of symmetry, which we would associate with bosons that is the force particles of the universe. And what makes these very strange objects that you’ve, you’ve referred to as in referring to exceptionally groups, is that you appear to take something from the fermion ik universe that is this spin normal universe where the spinners come from, and you adjoin it, in some sense to the bosonic to get more symmetries.
Unknown Speaker 45:55
Yeah, yes. Yeah, that’s very clear. Okay.
Eric Weinstein 45:59
There’s a huge problem with the strategy.
Unknown Speaker 46:01
We’ll wait but this, but you’re forgetting the part where this structure exists as part of these exceptional ops.
Eric Weinstein 46:07
Well, don’t I’m not you’ve correctly described how these objects occur in nature that there’s some regular kind of typical symmetry, a bosonic symmetry, then you take some of these spinners that are related to that symmetry. And you fuse them together to get an even more beautiful, weird, symmetric object. But the problem with that strategy is, is that we know that nature has these two very different recipes for how she wants to treat these things quantum mechanically, right. One of them goes into the name of bosonic Quantum quantization and the other sort of goes into the name, sometimes of you know, Barisan theory or right
Unknown Speaker 46:58
and anti commuting numbers. numbers were a times b equals
Eric Weinstein 47:02
negative times a parallel, totally different treatment. And the way you’ve done it, you’ve really taken the fermions. That is the matter part, the spinners that we’ve been discussing. You’ve lumped them together with the bosons. And now they’re fused in a way that it’s going to be almost impossible to treat this spinners in a manner befitting fermion ik quantization. Yeah, no, it’s
Unknown Speaker 47:29
very straightforward, though. The the fermions just end up being a long directions orthogonal to space time.
Eric Weinstein 47:38
I don’t see that that actually works. I mean, this is this is my great my criticisms of your theory, which we’ve known each other now for 11 years. And this is the basis of our antagonism is that on the one hand, you ingeniously saw and give you your credit that he ate the largest of these options. A 248 dimensional behemoth carried some numerology surrounding three copies of the spinners that are present, which looked in some sense could be confused for maybe related to three copies of members about that hand wavy, yeah. Okay. So, all the honor to you, that’s not an obvious feature most people who barely know what the exceptional lead groups are, and most of them don’t know that it has to do with this property called triviality. Okay. That was that was true, but there really wasn’t in my opinion, enough room to pack the particles that we currently see into this group structure. With three generations that was one issue Second of all, because the of the of the particular way in which bosons and fermions matter in force were fused together. It really pushed everything towards the bozos Next side, that is the force side of the equation. So you’re going to now have to be in some kind of technical debt, where you would have to figure out how to get the fermions back into a matter framework, because you would actually push them too far through unification into it. A union with force. That was another basic concern. And my last concern was that, because of the properties of this object, you didn’t have any room for what we call Kairos ality, in which the universe that we’ve seen so far appears to have a left right, a symmetry to it. It’s as if it has a beauty mark. And these the any object that you derive from IE eight is going to be very hard to get it to have a beauty mark because he doesn’t have a beauty mark itself. So these were three things that you’re going to have to pay back, right. If you’re going to connect To the world that we see. And I might, yeah, nerdy issue with you was that I brought this up with you in 2000. And you remind me 2008, nine, when we met at the perimeter Institute, and I tried to warn you about these things, I felt like you never took me serious. No, I did take you seriously, I’ve taken all these problems seriously. And they’re discussed in subsequent work. And the way I’ve been resolving them is by tackling a larger unspoken problem, which is how to have a quantum description of this sort of geometry.
Unknown Speaker 50:34
Right, because our universe is a quantum universe.
Unknown Speaker 50:38
And EA is a finite dimensional object. And you have to have multiple states multiple numbers of particles able to occupy every state. So if you have a full quantum description of a theory, you need an infinite dimensional geometry to do it.
Eric Weinstein 50:53
Well, I always thought your goal was to take a finite object and then take waves on that finite object. To create something that was going to be infinite dimensional, I didn’t see that as a problem. But that’s not good enough,
Unknown Speaker 51:06
say more, because just just just when you talk about waves on geometric object, those act as different representations mathematically to the Peter Wilde theorem. But when you when you do that, that’s not enough to give you all the structure you need for quantum field theory, you really need a fundamentally infinite dimensional geometric object to describe quantum field theory. And this and by looking at what sort of objects you need, that include exceptionally groups, but are infinite dimensional geometries that can correspond to quantum field theory. That’s how you tackle the three problems you’ve discussed yet you have you can have more space to handle the three generations of particles. You can have the anti commuting fermions in them so that they behave like fermion like matter particles should and it Also no large enough to give you the sort of dynamics you need for quantum field theory. So that’s why I’ve, I’ve in the intervening 10 years since we’ve had a deep discussion about this, I’ve now started looking at generalized infinite dimensional geometries, which are general infinite dimensional generalizations of lead groups, which which solve these problems. And that’s, that’s why I really believe that you’ve solved these problems, I think I have a really good description that goes along with it. So
Eric Weinstein 52:27
here’s the thing. If I just think about where we are with the Standard Model, right? You’ve got four dimensions of space and time. Right? Then you’ve got an extra eight dimensions coming from something called su three, three dimensions from something called su two and one extra dimension coming from something called u one. That’s the basic data, right? that occurs and gravity people leave out you could put in six dimensions for something called spin three, one, okay? But the point is I can add those all up. And I mean, he gets some number probably, you know, in 20s of dimension 20, some odd dimensions, whatever. That finite thing generates the infinite dimensional world of quantum field.
Unknown Speaker 53:15
Wait a minute, but quantum field theory, we have a way of mapping between those base the base geometry and then going to quantum field theory. Right, then we have Fox base. Right, and you have occupation numbers for all the different possible state. Your
Eric Weinstein 53:32
point is, you’re working on a problem that has certain foreseeable problems as part of the challenge. And unlike your detractors, from the more standard community. I’m not, I’m not telling you that you’re dead on arrival just because certain problems can be seen that would be unfair. And then by the way, that’s what you know, there are lots of problems that can be seen from the string theory community where Let’s say you know, the the number of dimensions that wants to play in is doesn’t seem to be the right number or that they thought there were only a finite number of theories, it turns out that there’s a continuum of theories that are the vast majority come out with, right? And I get very irritated that somehow the string theory community is entitled to make all these mistakes and anybody outside if they say one wrong thing, or one seemingly wrong thing, they’re excommunicated. It’s a ridiculous standard. Okay. That’s not what I’m trying to do to you. I’m trying to say something very different, which is, you’re going to be up against the fact that if your initial data comes from this most beautiful and most bizarre of all objects eat, right?
Unknown Speaker 54:40
And that doesn’t contain, as I said, I’m now working on its generalizations to infinite dimensions.
Eric Weinstein 54:46
But there’s an issue of intellectual check kiting, like, I don’t mind the idea that you recognize the depths that you’re in, and then you say, I think I have a way of getting this thing to close off, right. But there is a question of, well, now that you’ve reached Lies Am I right? Am I right? No. Yeah, right. Right. Right, that the issues that I raised with you initially turned out to be really serious problems,
Unknown Speaker 55:09
of course. I mean, and maybe you
Eric Weinstein 55:11
didn’t know that back then.
Unknown Speaker 55:12
Yeah, I did. They were there in the paper. They’re in the original paper, saying that the description of three generations was very hand wavy and unsatisfactory. That’s in the original paper.
Eric Weinstein 55:23
Okay. My recollection was that when I tried to explain to you why people were going to have the objection about the two different quantization schemes that that was not handled correctly.
Unknown Speaker 55:35
Right. I handled that in a paper in 2010 or so. Okay, so that would be cosmology. All right.
Eric Weinstein 55:39
That was one of the the issue. Yeah. Then there’s gonna be an issue that you weren’t able to bring the left right asymmetry out of the initial data. There wasn’t enough. And that was a fair description. Absolutely. Okay. And then you’re saying that the I seated to you that you were making a connection between the mysterious appearance of three copies Matter and something called triviality, which was not manifest, obviously inside of EA, but to the few people who actually care about the structure. It it definitely is there in a very profound way.
Unknown Speaker 56:13
It relates to rotations in eight dimensional spaces.
Eric Weinstein 56:17
Yes. But you also haven’t taken an interest in what is EA if not the the wellspring for the source code of the universe. Like, if it isn’t the union, I think it’s a piece of it.
Unknown Speaker 56:33
But I’m not religious. Eric. I mean, I’m going to explore whatever seems most promising to explore. Okay.
Eric Weinstein 56:40
Well, have you changed your your sense of the status of EA as a candidate for the unified theory in the fashion that you were originally seeing? Absolutely. You have changed your Yes. Can you talk about that? Right.
Unknown Speaker 56:56
So it was in tackling quantum field theory. How to describe it geometrically, which as far as I know, nobody has done. I mean, whenever whenever you you start with as you say, you want an SU two, Su three, and you go through this quantization procedure for its fields, you know, filter, or if you’re dealing with strings, right, you have this model of vibrating strings in higher dimensions, then you go through this quantization procedure to get a quantum quantum theory of strings. Okay. Right. We have we physicists have this toolkit for quantizing things. But that’s utterly the wrong way to look at reality. If if the universe is just one thing, which it is, then it’s one mathematical object.
Eric Weinstein 57:36
I mean, you’re making a point that is very well understood, I believe in the standard theoretical physics community, which is that if the world starts off as quantum, right, you should talk about classical Ising pieces of it rather than quantizing. The classical pieces that appear to exist Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Unknown Speaker 57:53
So So what’s a quantum
Eric Weinstein 57:57
geometric object look like? It’s You know with with all these infinite dimensional Fox base, and the creation annihilation of elementary particles possible people at home won’t know what a fox bases rock space is effectively where the states of the system can live when you have multiple particles in a situation and you can change the number of particles that you have just the way a photon can break into an electron and the positron pair that would be possible in a fox space not possible in a simpler quantum. So that’s right. So effectively, a fox base is just a large place to play where the number of particles in the system can change
Unknown Speaker 58:40
up to infinity.
Unknown Speaker 58:43
Unknown Speaker 58:44
So in order to describe this as one geometric object, you’re stuck with a generalized Li group, infinite dimensional generalized Li group. Yes, and in order to describe spinners it’s going to be an exceptional generalize lead group.
Eric Weinstein 59:03
Your i don’t think i don’t think you’re adding anything. I think that the problem here is is that IE eight is an exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally interesting object. It did have the properties that you were talking about and that it unifies stay standard symmetries with these spinners to form new symmetries. That’s right. But what is not only inadequate, it would push them into a universe of pure force, rather than a universe divided between force and matter. You’re actually the problem is the kind of unification it would create would be completely force unification with with an absence of matter, you’d be dragging matter if you will, spinners. You’re
Unknown Speaker 59:49
focusing on a problem that that was, you know, they’re solving the paper in 2010. But it’s very simply that fermions are orthogonal to space time whereas you know, the forest fields of bows on fields are a long space time. And the same way that the same way if you have to force fields that are long space time, but in different directions, they would
Eric Weinstein 1:00:10
anti commute, right. So what you’re doing is you’re using space time, if you will, which is again, kind of a classical Einsteinian concept to break apart a unified system, which was the intention in unification to begin with. And then you’re going to try to treat these two things naturally. According to two totally different prescriptions. That’s you’re violating. I mean, in some sense, any kind of natural ality that you just picked up in the unification to begin with,
Unknown Speaker 1:00:41
in a sense, yeah, but the symmetry has to break somehow.
Eric Weinstein 1:00:45
Does it do it in a natural I mean, this doesn’t feel this feels like it allows it.
Unknown Speaker 1:00:52
It doesn’t seem completely natural, but it does allow it.
Eric Weinstein 1:00:56
Well, but the whole point of the thing I thought was to take the Natural reality and what we had understood about the nature of these exceptional objects and to say, hey, these things actually unify beautifully inside of these very unusual, elegant mathematical structures. They do but it was it was too small. As you said it was too small because it didn’t correctly contain three generations of matter. And because it can’t correctly portray quantum field theory
Unknown Speaker 1:01:26
but once you go to the larger generalized Li groups it can
Eric Weinstein 1:01:31
well you know, if this was a startup what you’re saying is that the business is going great but it’s just run out of money and I needed a fresh and no, I’m not kidding. This is sounding like an intellectual check it,
Unknown Speaker 1:01:44
sir. it’s it’s it’s round be funding.
Unknown Speaker 1:01:50
Series B. I see.
Unknown Speaker 1:01:55
Or is it cash flow? Pause?
Unknown Speaker 1:01:57
Not yet. I mean, put the paper out. Yeah. Okay.
Eric Weinstein 1:02:00
So there’s, I mean, I look, it’s not question that I need to see the paper or that you’re not allowed to take out more loans. But are you getting more? I mean, I know you to be. Look, I hate to say this, but I have defended you to the regular community with some frequency, because I have viewed you as an honest broker for your own stuff. I don’t think you’re trying to get away with something. I think what you try, what you’re trying to do, is you’re trying to say I need to take some advances, which I think and I hope I can pay back which I think is an admirable, an honorable way to do physics. Are you worried about your own theory? Are you worried that you’re going to infinite dimensions in the way that you’ve been forced to modify on several previous occasions? And then in fact, this is not going to close?
Unknown Speaker 1:02:51
I am unusually confident that I’m on the right track
Unknown Speaker 1:02:54
with this one. Really? Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 1:02:58
Only there are two Many things matching up in the right way. doesn’t sound good
Eric Weinstein 1:03:03
carrot. I gotta be honest.
Unknown Speaker 1:03:06
But it’s Yeah, I will put a paper out. Yeah, yeah. Okay. And, you know, people may not find it interesting, or they might find it really interesting.
Eric Weinstein 1:03:17
Well, I wish you the best of luck. But I have to tell you that I do think that the problems in this program, I mean, again, I should just be honest about it. I thought that the choice of EA was so natural that they’re really one of two choices that I can see as being the way to go if you’re going to avoid the the usual paths in in research into into fundamental physics. One is that you start with the most beautiful intricate object you can find. And then you find the intricacies of the natural world somehow living inside of the intricacies which occurred naturally, that would be not a top down view, right and it’s quite nice to look At the bottom up view is that somehow you start with something that’s practically lifeless, which I’ve analogize to a fertilized egg. And somehow it bootstraps itself into this weird, intricate and Baroque world that we find ourselves in. And it’s sort of AutoCAD the universe auto catalyzes, from almost nothing. And these are the two basic approaches that I can imagine that would not strain the concept of a theory of everything
Unknown Speaker 1:04:31
right? Well, then we both engage in both of these. But once you use this bottom up approach, right, starting with your fertilized egg and getting up into more and more complexity, then you start to see a complete object. After you’ve expanded it
Eric Weinstein 1:04:48
out, sorry, you view yourself as exploring the concept of going from the bottom up. What is it that you’ve done that that has that character
Unknown Speaker 1:04:57
starting from gravity and particles Physics
Unknown Speaker 1:05:02
and how they can be matched up together in a in a way that
Eric Weinstein 1:05:06
brings about natural okay? That’s, that’s not very simple at all. Well, I know gravity gravity is already you know, you’re talking about curvature of space time manifold. That’s beautiful stuff. I love it. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think we’re divided by that. But when it comes to you know, breaking up this object called the curvature tensor into three different pieces, throwing one of the one of them away called the viol, curvature, and then fine tuning the other two to be equal to the matter and energy in the universe. There’s a lot of stuff that’s going into that story that isn’t, that’s an intricate story. And then the other story is even worse, and right here. Yeah. So, you know, you’re smuggling in a ton of complexity. When I say fertilized egg. I’m thinking at the level of cytology, but you know, at the level of the actual DNA that’s incredibly rich. So when I, you know, maybe it’s a bad analogy, because it’s not bootstrapping itself out of nothing, right, you’re smuggling in a ton of intricacy,
Unknown Speaker 1:06:18
but you have to look in both directions, you have to look from the bottom up. And then once you can see the larger picture, then you have to look again, from the top down. And if going that way from the top down, doesn’t match up very well with with what you did to get there. Then you have to go further and see if I can get a different bigger picture.
Unknown Speaker 1:06:40
It’s the only way forward, Garrett, but I mean, to be honest, I
Eric Weinstein 1:06:43
feel like you know, this is something is run into a wall. And there’s the sense that like, how could this beautiful structure not be? Not be right? It doesn’t feel Feel to me like it’s insufficient?
Unknown Speaker 1:07:01
Yeah, yeah. And then but there there’s there are larger structures that are not finite dimensional. But they’re still lead groups and exceptionally groups. They’re just generalized infinite dimensional, the groups that contain EA has a substructure, and they’re beautiful. They’re just as beautiful, if not more, so,
Eric Weinstein 1:07:22
I really don’t I think that the, the problem is, is that, you know, we have this mutual friend Sabine, Haas and Felder. When Sabine has this very strange feature of her personality that she needs to tell the truth at scale.
Unknown Speaker 1:07:40
Well, Sabina is a scientist and scientists, you know, engage in the truth at all costs. Yes, but it’s sort of our modus operandi.
Eric Weinstein 1:07:50
Well, I find it very interesting that almost no one has followed some beans lead.
Unknown Speaker 1:07:55
I think it’s Sabina Savita. Yeah, okay.
Eric Weinstein 1:08:00
from her perspective, beauty has led theoretical physics astray. Right now. I’ve I’ve tangled with her my claim is is that the string theory community which has generally hoovered up the most brilliant minds, but turn them into kind of almost cult like members, which are exploring some structure, but I just don’t. It’s similar to EAA in the sense that I’m not positive that it’s the structure of our world. It has some beauty and some consistency. But I’m not positive that that’s its reason for being and because that argument has been so abusive, and it’s just been, it’s been abused against other people that our work is beautiful. And then when those outsiders look at it doesn’t look like what you’re doing is that beautiful at all. She’s gone against beauty as a means of trying to figure out what’s true and what what isn’t. I’m concerned that you’re falling prey to the siren of beauty, where you’re not coupling you’re not things that are beautiful that there are many things that are beautiful that don’t exist to do what you think they’re there to do. Right?
Unknown Speaker 1:09:13
Well, that’s definitely true. I’m definitely inspired by beautiful mathematical objects. When I start exploring an area of mathematics, and I start to see its intricacies and its connection to fundamental physics, I am led to think that there might be something there based on aesthetics.
Unknown Speaker 1:09:31
Well, and I’ve
Unknown Speaker 1:09:31
also discussed this with the Sabina who I think is great and her her points are wonderful. But I would be lost if I didn’t have this aesthetic sense as a guide.
Eric Weinstein 1:09:44
Well, let’s, let’s take an example like the hydrogen atom. So you’ve got one proton at the center of a hydrogen atom. And you have all of the electron shells in quantum theory that are generated by the cool um potential that comes off of that. nucleus, right? Okay. That story of chemistry is just being these perfectly spherical electron shells. works pretty well.
Unknown Speaker 1:10:17
If you have the other orbitals on p orbitals, s orbitals do all these things. Yeah,
Eric Weinstein 1:10:21
yeah. In terms of the representation theory of something we’d call spin three that gives the symmetries of the system. That story is not, it is absolutely beaut gorgeous. It’s beautiful. And it works pretty darn well. But it starts to fall apart. The larger the atoms are, and the more neutrons and protons are stuck together in the in the nucleus, it gets much more subtle. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 1:10:47
Eric Weinstein 1:10:49
it’s it’s a perfectly beautiful story. That isn’t the right story. It’s not the true story. It’s very close to a true story. It’s suggestive, it’s indicative, but it isn’t actually The True Story itself. So you have to be very careful in my mind that you you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the hydrogen atom sort of generalizes its perfection is simply the story of chemistry.
Unknown Speaker 1:11:15
Right? Of course, they’re much more complex elements and then grouped into molecules. And there’s all sorts of things that go into it, that sort of chemistry.
Eric Weinstein 1:11:24
Well, but you don’t you have the same situation in theoretical physics where you have certain kinds of beauty that are incredibly pure that actually kind of fall apart under scrutiny and you have other kinds of beauty that seemed to fall apart but actually go the distance I’m thinking about dirt rocks. Discovery of anti matters, the corresponding solutions to the matter solution, and then he originally think that was that the anti electrons were that were actually protons and these are the only two of those two particles and then Heisenberg Tried to pop his Bubble bubble and said, you know, you actually have a new particle
Unknown Speaker 1:12:05
Eric Weinstein 1:12:06
Well, no, he said that the proton was way too heavy to be the anti particle mirror of the electron. And I think direct sort of recanted. But direct should have had the courage of his convictions and said, I predict that there will be two new particles and anti proton and an anti electron, which was called the positron. And both of those things turned out to be true.
Unknown Speaker 1:12:29
Yeah, that’s considered a victory for the aesthetic of beauty in mathematical physics.
Eric Weinstein 1:12:34
Yes, but there was an intermediate. There was a situation in which the beauty led darracq astray because he wanted to shoehorn his theory into the pre existing world that was understood. That’s right.
Unknown Speaker 1:12:48
So it’s important to be cautious, but and careful Yeah, but not too cautious. So if you’re if the mathematics is actually telling you something, you want to listen to it.
Eric Weinstein 1:12:57
What’s the mathematics telling?
Unknown Speaker 1:13:00
It’s telling me that I think I’ve got the first handle on a geometric description of quantum field theory.
Unknown Speaker 1:13:08
You’re, I say,
Eric Weinstein 1:13:10
out of love, and I hope, not envy. I’m super concerned that you can see the problems from here. And that rather than just going to infinite dimensions and saying that quantum field theory requires a jump from finite infinite dimensions, you can say, look, I am fighting. The fact that the the beautiful unification that I found, actually is going to be challenged at the quantum level where that beauty becomes my enemy.
Unknown Speaker 1:13:44
I’ll never put it that way.
Eric Weinstein 1:13:46
I know because what you did is you took a theory, I mean, to be honest, there’s a different set of objects called the exceptional isomorphisms, which aren’t the exceptional lead groups that have the exact same Same property that you found where you take something from the force universe, let’s say there’s some object called spin six, which by an exceptional isomorphism, is equivalent to some other object, surprisingly called su four. And you can take the spinners of spin six and find out that they are just the four dimensional object from su four, right and smush them together, and you get an analog of E eight. Yeah, there’s also probably not used by the physical universe in any way that we think of as being important. I don’t think that that feature is what you think it is,
Unknown Speaker 1:14:37
right? But there are a vast world of mathematical possibilities out here. And I think we need more people
Eric Weinstein 1:14:42
like to learn with you that we need more people fanning out and trying things that look like they won’t work. So we need a more exploratory call. We need a more exploratory culture and we need to be forgiving. What we don’t need to do is to fool ourselves. When we start getting The sense that maybe this stuff doesn’t actually work. I mean, it just, it feels to me like I can sort of see what the next set of problems are going to be. And it would be, I would be remiss if I didn’t say them at the beginning. Sure.
Unknown Speaker 1:15:15
But you know, you can’t really dig into this stuff until you see the mathematical details.
Eric Weinstein 1:15:20
And this gets back to an issue of the question of how science should be organized. So we’ve talked about how difficult it is to do science inside of the institutions because there is such a pressure economically to do whatever is fashionable to get lots of results to publish continuously. Can we talk a little bit about what happens when we try to do science outside of the institutions both of us have, and I think people will be very surprised to hear it been rather critical of How hard it is to do science when you’re not part of the standard community.
Unknown Speaker 1:16:06
Right? I mean, I think in some sense, it is essential to say to stay connected with the scientific community even when you’re exploring out almost entirely on your own. You one thing that has to happen is you have to have an extreme set of internal checks on your own progress. And because it science is extremely frustrating to work on most of the pathways you follow or end up being dead ends. And it can be really frustrating. So in doing that, if you’re going to work outside academia, you also need an extremely strong support system and a healthy life, independent of the science you’re working on. So you need to have good support from friends and family, good relationships. You need to have confidence in your ability to support yourself. And that frees up your time, if you’re really going to work on stuff outside of academia on your own, I’ve been fortunate enough to build into and to have those things, I feel really lucky to be able to do that. And I think I’ve had a really good life that way. And, but if you’re gonna do that, you need to be really careful about it. Because if you if you if you just abandon everything else, because you have this idea in science that you want to pursue, and you abandon everything else, you’ll be totally out of balance in your life. And if you hit some frustrating item and what you’re researching, it’ll be crushing. Because the main thing you’re working on focused on stop working, when really what you aren’t able to do is like, oh, I’ve got other stuff going on, that’s keeping me happy. This thing didn’t work out. I just have to wipe the board clean and start fresh. And that’s not devastating to do because the rest of your life is good. You have to do that. Otherwise, you just won’t be healthy as a human being
Eric Weinstein 1:17:58
okay. And you have created something that you think might be an intermediate between being in total isolation and being hooked up to the community that lives within. It’s the standard institutional stressors.
Unknown Speaker 1:18:14
That’s right. I mean, I, I came to this idea when I was wandering from a friend’s house to friend’s house after getting my PhD, I would basically go hang out with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. And if you’d had extra space, I spend time in their house while I worked on theoretical physics and enjoyed the local environment. And I thought was great to be able to do this because you’re not worried about you know, having a roof over your head, you have company to interact with, and you have a good environment to play. And I want to have a network of such places, but I had a hard time getting friends to give me their houses to use for this. So I ended up getting the resources together to buy a house in Maui. And and to start bringing friends and visiting scientists in and I’ve called this the Pacific Science Institute. Currently, it’s basically my house with delusions of grandeur. Because what I also have is a beautiful piece of property that’s 15 acres that I bought 10 years ago because I like doing things slowly. So I’ve been growing the community of the Pacific Science Institute by having friends come in and stay at my house, including you. And my arch nemesis I had
Eric Weinstein 1:19:21
a great time despite the obvious antagonism
Unknown Speaker 1:19:24
and and for you specifically, I tried to kill you in several different ways.
Eric Weinstein 1:19:30
With the millipedes instead of beads, yeah, we’re in shark infested water. Yeah, sure, is great rough corals.
Unknown Speaker 1:19:36
But, but yeah, basically have scientists visit and take people out to have fun around the island and really enjoy a good environment where they’re free to explore ideas that might be a little bit on the dangerous side to work on, while they’re in the confines of academia and among their normal colleagues. It’s a place where you can explore a little bit Wilder ideas and I’m Really excited to grow this community by by starting to design things to build on the 15 acres I’ve got that’s really a nice location. So I’ve been growing things slowly up here and I’m really looking forward to some more progress with it. And and growing this community it’s and it’s it’s also been a nice balance against working on physics directly because it’s it’s guaranteed success. I mean, when you when you will have a place in Maui for scientists to come hang out and have a good time. That’s that’s going to happen, and also keeps me entertained, to have good people coming through.
Eric Weinstein 1:20:31
That’s fantastic. So where’s that for yourself? Can you just I’m curious, from your perspective, how do you see the two of us as being divided in our approaches to the community? I would definitely say that I, I seem to be more connected to the sensibilities of the elite science community. I know that I can get their noses out Joined but I’m I tracked them very carefully. Yeah, you had a lot
Unknown Speaker 1:21:03
fights with those guys. Okay. Yeah, whereas I didn’t. So my, our academic lineages are quite different. I mean, I went I went to a smaller school, I went to UC San Diego, I didn’t go to Harvard. But my advisor there in particle physics was Roger dashon. But he he passed away while I was a graduate student. And I finished up my dissertation under under Henry Bartman, who also had a background in particle physics, but it changed the nonlinear dynamics.
Eric Weinstein 1:21:33
But in some sense, you were a self advise PhD.
Unknown Speaker 1:21:36
Yeah. So I was very much self directed. Henry gave me the freedom to go explore whatever the heck I wanted. I had an extraordinary extraordinary amount of freedom as a graduate student. And I hit this problem with spinners. And that’s what I wanted to tackle. I want to figure out what they were geometrically and no one else was interested in that problem. But through academia as a straight A student, you know, I did really well. I never had any big conflicts. Was it easy round? Yeah. It was nice. A lot of time surfing, I was living on the beach and the oil is beautiful is the greatest time of my life. Okay. You know, people talk about, you know, a small, you know, being in a small pot, big fish in a small pond going to bigger pond, you feel humbled, I never really had that experience I was I was pretty close to the top of my class and really happy about it, how everything was going, everything was great. I got my PhD. But there was no way I was going to get a job trying to understand the geometry of spinners when everybody else was doing string theory.
Eric Weinstein 1:22:31
So you’d already accepted that you were unemployed? Yeah, I was totally unemployable.
Unknown Speaker 1:22:35
But I invested in Apple stock in the 90s. I had a few money. So I said, See you guys. I’m gonna go surf in Maui and work on the stuff on my own. Whereas you had a very different experience. So you you’re you’re in Harvard, in the math department, studying mathematical physics. As far as I know, you were making some really unusual breakthroughs that were very ahead of their time. But you weren’t welcomed by the, the head of the the head people there. And so you said you had a Conflict from the get go.
Eric Weinstein 1:23:02
We had a very, very serious dispute about something in mathematics, which were called the self dual equations, self dual Yang Mills equations, which were related to the regular Yang Mills equations, which are the equations of force in the standard model, but the self dual Yang Mills equations were sort of a square root of those equations. And they were very difficult to work with and to solve. And I was very confused as to why people were investing in this particular form of these equations when it felt to me that we hadn’t asked what constellation of equations these new equations belong to. And I’d propose again spinners as a means of changing the equations and was told that it mean the exact quote was something Like, if spinners had anything to do with the story, Nigel, who was Nigel Hitchens would have told us, like it was just completely. It was bananas. And then I got into this issue that, well, you know, spinners have to be quantized as fermions. That is, they have to be treated as if they were matter inside of quantum field theory, but this was not like we weren’t doing quantum field theory, we were just doing classical geometry of a kind. And so none of the arguments, I put forward the set of equations, which later got recognized and completely changed the field, which came through Ed Witten, and this guy called Natty SEIBERG. Both of them were professors at the Institute. And there was just no room to question why everybody was struggling with these almost intractable equations and just you know, getting great results but with so much effort and work, so that was like a variable weird story whereby, you know, I think that by 1994, the Harvard department had woken up to the fact that it was not using the right equations. And I had been actually proposing several sets of different equations. But that, you know, when this all, you know, came about late, late 80s, early 90s, there was just no way to to have a productive conversation about it. Right. So you find yourself at odds with the people you’re talking with and you decided to go into finance instead? or How did that happen? No, I mean, I wanted I was trying to get back to physics and the, you know, I was proposing, I propose three sets of equations. One of which turned out to have been done by somebody else, and someplace that I didn’t know anything about, one of which later gets done by SEIBERG and Witten, and then another set of equations that I wanted to connect to the actual standard model. And the department was just very concerned that this didn’t really have anything to do with actual physics. It was sort of a coincidence in their mind that something that was vaguely physics, he was having great topological results. And so there was this, you know, this fear. And I was sent to a guy named Sidney Coleman, who was a great quantum theorist. And he was much more encouraging the Harvard math departments, any comments, great guy. I mean, an unbelievable human being. I had two memories of him, one of which was that he had all the time in the world for people who had no idea what they were doing, and the other was that he didn’t suffer fools gladly. And then I realized that those are two contradictory images. On Earth, old footage of him he gave this brilliant lecture called quantum mechanics. In your face, to try to make the quantum Have you ever seen this thing I’ve know it’s a work of art, you’d love it. And it turns out both of these things were really true about him that he had, if you were full of yourself and you were wrong, he would just cut you up into little pieces. But if you said, I don’t quite understand this, he had all the time in the world to be the greatest of teachers.
Unknown Speaker 1:27:22
Now, I mean, one of the marks of a good scientist is humility.
Eric Weinstein 1:27:28
He No, no, one of the marks of a good side is a dialectic between arrogance and humility.
Unknown Speaker 1:27:35
If you don’t have that’s a more subtle and accurate way of putting it
Eric Weinstein 1:27:38
Yeah, well, no, I just I worry about us extolling the virtues of the humble the mean, right, the self effacing and it’s just like, that’s not where the magic happens. But yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:27:47
I do happen to have they’ve had the arrogance to tackle hard problems right, and made some progress but then been kicked back by something didn’t work. I mean, after enough of that, you develop some humility, but you still have to maintain the arrogance to get it Anywhere.
Eric Weinstein 1:28:01
So how do you feel currently about, about the community? Like the professional community, you have to know that they regard
Unknown Speaker 1:28:09
Unknown Speaker 1:28:12
Unknown Speaker 1:28:15
I mean, I know what’s going on. I mean, they’re I got a lot of contempt from string theorists for getting for getting attention for putting forward a mathematical model of reality that wasn’t strings.
Unknown Speaker 1:28:28
And it wasn’t complete.
Unknown Speaker 1:28:31
It was it had is a model that was proposed that had problems with it. And I was forthcoming with the problems in it, but I was still saying, Yeah, this is this seems like it’s making progress towards the disruption reality and has nothing to do with strings. And that said alarm bells off all over the place. It set off alarm bells for either it’s a threat or this guy is a complete crackpot, which is more likely. And I got criticisms from both for both.
Eric Weinstein 1:28:54
I don’t think if I were to steal man their perspective and again, you Know that I don’t share it, and I’m willing to fight them. And I, as I did when you first encountered what I called their immune system in a gentleman known as Chuck Destler, right? I’m willing to stand up for what it is you’re trying to do. But I do think that we have to give them their due before we say what’s wrong with their perspective. Their perspective is there are lots of constraints that one learns are very difficult to evade. When you immerse yourself in standard quantum field theory. Like they know what it is that is d motivating them. It’s all the no go theorems and the intricacies. And the reason they got crazy about string theory, first of all, I’m convinced that it was a way of evading the real problems in physics. It gave them something to do it’s like, like war games. It’s an amazing piece. But yeah, it gives you something to do to keep your chops up that is different from the thing you’re supposed to be doing.
Unknown Speaker 1:30:07
Eric Weinstein 1:30:09
what they were objecting to is to say, this guy doesn’t understand all the things that have to go right in order to do it and may have an improvement on the theory. From our perspective, how dare he blindly saunter forth, if we ignored all the constraints on us? We could have fun proposing all sorts of things that also won’t work. That was really the responsible version of their critique. Now, the irresponsible version of their critique is, hey, we have something that isn’t working very well. How dare he takes something that isn’t working very well and get attention, right. And maybe funding or maybe destroy the sense that there’s only one game in town. Right. And, you know, I was separately lobbying you and them for different things. I wanted you to just say the words like I understand these are the constraints that will have to be satisfied. And I don’t have answers. And I don’t know how difficult they’ll be to find, but I don’t want to be demotivated from the get go. So please don’t immediately tell me all the no go theorems because any successful theory will probably have to have a period where it’s flying in the face of no go through. So that’s what I wanted to hear from you. Right. I
Unknown Speaker 1:31:23
believe I said those things scattered over several interviews at the time,
Eric Weinstein 1:31:27
somewhat, but i think that i think that what they don’t Intuit is that you understand how, how significant the negative results are. The no go theorems, as they’re called, are pretty profound
Unknown Speaker 1:31:42
right? Now, I mean, there’s a theorem called the Coleman Mundo theorem that prohibits the unification of gravity with the other forces. I just blew right through that because it didn’t seem to apply in what I was doing. Well,
Eric Weinstein 1:31:54
I mean, really, it prohibits naive unification of matter in force. And there’s a way of evading it using this thing called supersymmetry. And supersymmetry is this very weird thing that doesn’t have that much mathematical beauty behind it. So the mathematicians know about it. They studied a little bit, but they’re not bananas over. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:32:19
I’m not either.
Eric Weinstein 1:32:21
the natural world doesn’t seem to use it in the expected way. But it does so much for theoretical physics. That despite the fact that math is just kind of ho hum on it, and that the natural world doesn’t seem to be using it. It doesn’t stop the theoretical physics community from embracing that because it evades this dreaded no go theorem, right?
Unknown Speaker 1:32:44
It stopped me from from embracing it. I never embraced supersymmetry. I never, I never liked it.
Eric Weinstein 1:32:50
But you didn’t evade the problem with it either. I mean, I got around it.
Unknown Speaker 1:32:56
You think you really got around it? The common mental theme? Yeah, it requires as well. axioms that you have to have, you know, certain it talks about properties of the scattering of particles. And you have to have a space time over the scattering occurs. In the theory I put forward the space time comes out after the symmetry breaking between gravity and forces. So, it’s only after the symmetry breaking happens when the unification is no longer there. Yeah, I’m sure space time I don’t then in that context, it theorem applies my yes breaking. It doesn’t.
Eric Weinstein 1:33:24
But my guess is that I could be wrong about this because I haven’t studied exactly what you’re talking about that what’s going to happen is that even with how you claim this arises, in your theory, they’re going to say, in whatever approximation is going to be applied to relatively flat space times close to Minkowski. space. Yeah, that if you’ve really evaded it in some super meaningful way, you should be able to tell us some theorem about good old quantum field theory and relatively flat space time.
Unknown Speaker 1:33:56
Right? Well, I mean, it evades it by not satisfying the x And without
Unknown Speaker 1:34:02
you do know what I’m trying to get at.
Unknown Speaker 1:34:06
It’s not evading it in some, you should be able to
Eric Weinstein 1:34:09
tell us something really new. If you’ve if your underlying theory truly unifies force and matter, right? It would be the case that the approximation of it that is found in ordinary regions that look close to flat, right where quantum the usual rules of quantum field theory apply. It should be telling us something wildly new about that. Can you tell us a new theorem about how it would appeared to unify force and matter in a region that looks close to classical quantum field theory to standard quantum?
Unknown Speaker 1:34:52
Well, I mean, once the theory is advanced to the stage where you can get to that description, yeah, then that would happen. But in the initial stages, all you can see from certain is that it’s not violating the theorem. I
Eric Weinstein 1:35:03
don’t know enough about
Unknown Speaker 1:35:05
how we can talk about it after this. Okay, like, sure. But, but anyway,
Eric Weinstein 1:35:10
so So those were my I had these wishes for you. And then I had the wishes for the community, which is that they would stop being pricks about the whole thing. And that they would say, look, we can’t keep telling everybody who’s not a string theory string theorist, that their theory is dead on arrival. And keep saying, Well, we know that our theory doesn’t appear to be living in four dimensions and appears to have a bunch of stuff that we don’t want and not necessarily the stuff that we do want and maybe there’s a huge landscape of different theories that would
Unknown Speaker 1:35:44
be at this point. I don’t think string theory is looming at all. I think it’s an X theory. I think it’s pining for the fjords it’s it’s I’ve seen nothing but declined since I left this train wreck.
Eric Weinstein 1:35:54
Well, this is pricing is a refuses to take stock of itself and it took a lot more minds than one I think that’s happening.
Unknown Speaker 1:36:01
Yeah, certainly the graduate students who are coming up, are seeing what’s going on with string theory. And they’re taking stock of the field, and they’re going another direction. So we’re where do we go next?
Eric Weinstein 1:36:12
Like, well, is there any way? I actually view it as highly demotivating? The in essence, every new theory is dead on arrival, because of the number of things. Can we agree that physics has gotten incredibly difficult?
Unknown Speaker 1:36:27
It has, we have it’s, it’s difficult by virtue of being so successful.
Eric Weinstein 1:36:33
I mean, this the you can smell that we’re almost at the end of the rest of this chapter. we’ve exhausted everything that we know, that has worked previously, which is like to vary the assumptions a little bit on every and that’s been spectacularly successful. And now it doesn’t work anymore. And it hasn’t worked for almost 50 years.
Unknown Speaker 1:36:52
Right. It’s it’s incredibly frustrating. I think that’s why most people are wise to stay the hell away from it. And I think a lot of the smarter minds are Going into machine learning, or even biophysics or just into other funerals or even condensed matter
Unknown Speaker 1:37:07
how do you feel about that?
Unknown Speaker 1:37:10
I feel like I’m out in an island in the middle of the Pacific watching it from unfold from afar well I work on the puzzle myself my own different
Unknown Speaker 1:37:17
way having fun.
Unknown Speaker 1:37:19
Yeah, that’s that’s my prime directive is have fun
Eric Weinstein 1:37:22
is to have fun. And do you think that inducing other people to do this is kind of like maybe the big programs fall apart and we start just becoming individuals trying crazy strategies that probably won’t work?
Unknown Speaker 1:37:34
Yeah, I mean, they’re they’re undergraduate textbooks and undergraduate courses on string theory. Yeah. Okay. And people from undergraduates are and and there’s this culture of arrogance saying is string theory is the pinnacle of physics, right? And people are coming up to that and they’re becoming and if you’re really working on fundamental physics, and the the whole area of string theory has gotten so large and the amount of research Done sure that it just takes an enormous amount of intellectual effort to consume it and to get up to speed on to what the current status is of the field. And by the time you’re there, you’re so invested. Then of course, what you want to do is go and continue a postdoc in string theory when you graduate and there are hundreds of students who are coming up this way. And when they get there, they go to half like I did this morning and look at a job the high energy physics theory section where have this thing called the archive where all the new papers are found every day? Yeah. And and the, this high energy physics archive also has a postdoc and job posting board. And just just for giggles, I went say, Okay, well, how many opportunities does a rising string theorist have now? And I went looked and they’re all these subfields of physics that condensed matters a big party, because it’s so incredibly vibrant and right and productive right now. And you go into high energy theory and Okay, there 30 positions open in North America. Okay, all right. And some of them are open to string theorists. But out of those 30 positions, you know, how many of them actually actively want a string theorist and are looking for a strength. There’s, there’s one. One, Eric. So yeah, these hundreds of people groomed up saying string theory is the pinnacle of what you can be studying, and there’s nowhere for them to go. But this field is dying.
Eric Weinstein 1:39:23
Well, because it was a baby boomer phenomenon. We treated it as if it was an intellectual phenomenon, but it was actually this weird generational phenomena that this took hold. You know, this is very weird feature of 1951, where Frank will check and Ed Witten, two great physicists born in the same year will check as effectively like the last guy to make the train for real physics.
Unknown Speaker 1:39:48
He’s an amazing guy.
Eric Weinstein 1:39:49
Yeah, and then Witten born Later that year, probably more powerful than anyone else alive in terms of his mental abilities. hasn’t had a trip to Stockholm because He hasn’t been able to make contact with the physical world. And almost certainly in any era that wasn’t this one, this guy would have been to Stockholm once or more. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:40:12
it in my mind, it’s a cultural problem. We’re stuck in this culture of particle physics, where you have everybody in the same community studying the same popular direction, in full force, as if there was lots of data coming in supporting that, and there’s not. So what it is, is they’re going full bore full self supporting force along direction that in my mind just doesn’t describe our universe. And what we need is an exploratory phase with physicists with graduate students coming up and picking up stuff that they think is interesting, and following that direction on their own, branching away from the main herd. And by having more explorers going in different directions, you’re more likely to find something good. And I guess my hope is that, you know, some graduate students will have listened through this incredibly long and detailed podcast and go look at stuff and say, well, that’s kind of interesting. Maybe I wanna learn more about that.
Eric Weinstein 1:40:59
Do you have any other Ideas are the Pacific Science Institute. Is there any way that our listeners can support it?
Unknown Speaker 1:41:05
Yeah. Are you? Are you a non profit 501 c three nonprofit, I’m very happy to take donations and put those donations to use supporting scientists
Eric Weinstein 1:41:14
to diversify. Okay.
Unknown Speaker 1:41:17
And these aren’t just it’s not just supporting physicists. The idea is that, as you said, science has supported our economy to incredible degree and I don’t think scientists have been sufficiently personally rewarded for that. So basically, what I want to do is, you know, give them a nice place to hang out and Maui, enjoy the environment and work and think on whatever they want undirected while they do
Eric Weinstein 1:41:38
it. So it’s a place to fight groupthink effectively within a field while still having community support both solving community support
Unknown Speaker 1:41:45
the problem is I’ve very limited resource right now. I’m basically running this out of my house, right? I have a big piece of land I have dreams for what I
Eric Weinstein 1:41:51
build out you I’ve been there and it’s incredibly generous, that people can hang out and just actually fulfill the promise of dreaming about our world and try Things that they wouldn’t feel comfortable trying, under the watchful eyes of a departmental chairman is telling them what they need to do to get chair tenure to win grants. Do you have any sense of what we should be directing people to do if they’re in a position to change the culture of the field? I always want to think like, we still have a few old great people that everybody looks up to. And they refuse to say something really provocative. Like, here’s the thing that I dream about. We get all of the negative results. They’re incredibly demotivating. Allow your young people to violate several of them without being string theorists, and then insist that they try to pay that back once they’ve been exploring a theory that in a previous era would have been dead on arrival because somewhere we have to go backwards to go forwards we have to question something that is rock Solid in all of our minds, but isn’t actually right. I mean,
Unknown Speaker 1:43:03
yeah, this is totally right. And this sort of cultural inertia that’s holding things back is it’s in biology, it’s in computer science it’s in it’s in all fields of science. So I would say just, I mean, it’s almost the best thing to do just to find people who are really frickin smart and want to work on stuff on their own, give them money and support and let them do it. Unless, well, I’m
Eric Weinstein 1:43:22
on record as saying that we have too much oversight, too much transparency, and too much accountability. It’s strangling us.
Unknown Speaker 1:43:29
Yeah, it’s absolutely true. It’s absolutely true.
Eric Weinstein 1:43:31
Well, Garrett, I really appreciate you sitting down it’s a hell of an experiment to just even try to have conversations about you know, what might be the path towards final theories of everything. And
Unknown Speaker 1:43:43
I’m actually really worried that we hurt most of your listeners
Eric Weinstein 1:43:45
well, but I’ll do that if we use this at all. I’ll try to say something at the beginning of the program to try to say what it is that people are listening to so they’ll have an idea they’re not just gonna stumble in on a podcast, and hear people talking about bozos firm Ns EA quantization and have no idea what’s going on. The fact is very few people are invested in this like this. But this is the fabric of reality ultimately in question, but how we go about trying to probe whatever’s next.
Unknown Speaker 1:44:15
Yeah, I think it’s amazing. I think it’s the most significant and intricate and difficult puzzle there is right now for anybody to tackle and to immerse himself in. And I also think it’s potentially incredibly rewarding. But it’s also one of the hardest things you can do is
Eric Weinstein 1:44:32
probably the hardest thing and it’s never been harder. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:44:35
that’s almost as hard as learning to surf.
Eric Weinstein 1:44:38
Okay, well, through the portal with Garrett Lisi here from the island of Maui, my arch nemesis, you’re welcome to come back anytime. And if you’re interested in the Pacific Science Institute, scary its attempt to try to figure out how to move science outside of the direct institutional control. You can find him on Instagram I think is Garrett Lisi and on Twitter as
Unknown Speaker 1:45:01
Karen Lisi, Karen Lisa hard to find
Eric Weinstein 1:45:03
Alright. Thanks for joining us.
Garrett Lisi 1:45:04
Thank you, Eric.
The Portal podcast transcription series
- Peter Thiel
- What is The Portal?
- Werner Herzog
- Timur Kuran
- Rabbi David Wolpe
- Jocko Willink
- Bret Easton Ellis
- Andrew Yang
- Bryan Callen
- Julie Lindahl
- Sam Harris
- Vitalik Buterin
- Garry Kasparov
- London Tsai
- Garrett Lisi
- Tyler Cowen
- Anna Khachiyan
- Eric Weinstein – State of the Portal 2020
- Bret Weinstein
- Sir Roger Penrose
- Ashley Mathews (Riley Reid)
- Ben Greenfield
- Agnes Callard
- Kai Lenny
- The Construct: Jeffrey Epstein
Geometric Unity – a First Look
- James O’Keefe
- Daniel Schmachtenberger
- Eric Lewis
- Jamie Metzl
- Ross Douthat
- Ryan Holiday