Saturday, September 10, 2016

reactions to a unified field theory

A few years ago, a friend sent me an email saying: "We think Einstein has been reincarnated. As you might expect, he has been reincarnated as a young Moslem with new lessons to learn... and just look at the equations of his new unified field theory based on an extension of differential geometry...!"

I was delighted to learn this morning that he is still around, and has more details in the theory.

I hope it is OK to post most of my reply to him this morning:


Thank you again!

A few hours later... I have done a first read of your email. This is important and complicated material, and I am truly grateful that you have come back in touch.

Where to begin?

First, in a light-hearted way.

I too often feel a bit like a "stranger in a strange land" on this planet, and often an immune system problem. Only -- instead of me being allergic to earth, I sometimes feel as if earth is allergic to me at times. Have you seen that great movie "Inception"? There really are antibodies of a kind in the noosphere of this little planet, and it is tricky how to handle them. My younger daughter works for google, and she and her boyfriend swear by the "paleo" diet. I just returned from a shopping trip with my wife, where I scanned a book on the paleo diet, and see how well-focused it is on living with immune system problems -- though it is flagrantly ignorant of the differences in needs of different types of people.  In a way, it is like a shotgun, aimed at the worst case of maximum immune system problems. 


I too see how the "spiritual" side of life is a core part of our real existence, and how I do not yet understand it as well as one should, even though most people are far more ignorant. 

I do not know how serious I should be about "reincarnation", for example, but I am totally convinced from experience in the reality of a phenomenon called "channeling" or "assumption." For example, I really enjoyed a simple science fiction trilogy, "Oversoul 7," by Jane Roberts, where she depicts a person in a mental hospital who channels Jesus. She vividly portrays a paradox -- a person in a mental hospital, who really belongs there, but who also really channels Jesus in a way which lets him do great things, and even perform real miracles in that mental hospital. I actually have a friend (and now coauthor) who channels his uncle Jesus, and does not belong in a mental hospital, but is certainly not the one and only
"Son of God" and not the full thing.

In a similar way, I have an image of how you channel Einstein's way of thinking, and I channel his friend John Von Neumann. Last year, I very much enjoyed visiting again their offices in Princeton, and refreshing my memory of the unique feeling of that part of the place. 

Frankly, from a Von Neumann point of view, the logic which led to general relativity would have seemed quite suspicious. But at the end of the day, 
Einstein did succeed along that path, and we should never forget his success.  
There are no guarantees, but from that experience ... we definitely should make room for the possibility that some kind of geometric thinking, exactly in his style of thought, could take us even further. I see immediately that your mathematics is quite serious, even though it challenges me in a way no other mathematics 
has in the past few decades. But I also believe that mutual respect and caution
are important for both of us. 

In recent years, I am grateful that I had fairly close contact with Bernard Widrow (Stanford) and Marlan Scully, two of the very most successful authentic mathematical thinkers in the recent decades. (Of course, both have enormous web presence.) I do not channel either one of them, but I was glad to assimilate their thoughts about what is crucial here to make real progress. Both emphasize the ideas of "one step at a time," and of always being heavily grounded in experiment and experience at every step of the way. For me, that means first learning to see the big picture.. AND THEN deconstruct it, to find "first steps" which open up a path to next steps, and so on, yea unto the whole thing. That is especially important to sheer survival in a planet full of "antibodies."

I have certainly had to accept the existence of many varieties of nasty people and conspiracies on this planet, especially after July 2014 when the empirical demonstrations of that became overwhelming to me personally. I usually use ONLY this gmail now, with double identity verification and the setting "always use https", which is far more secure than all other nonspecialist forms of email. But even so, I expect several databases to carry copies of this email, and I am worried about the ability of nasty third parties to get access to those databases. 


Your comments about monads remind me of the Newton/Liebnitz debate.
I have been biased, because I idealized Newton as a child... though my wife channels Newton much more than I do. (I also know a woman who channels Alan Turing, who recently took a job in the US military complex!) There is a lot of history in that relation. 

A few years ago, I was close to Kunio Yasue who, with Mari JIbu, wrote interesting papers on quantum foundations, and collaborated with Karl Pribram. 
 But he developed a mathematical model of "monadology" which he hoped I would support. I remember very vividly the meeting we had in Tokyo circa 2005,
when he was deeply disappointed that I could not jump on his bandwagon. I wanted to stay friendly and close, but he could not contain his disappointment and his anger. I also tried to convey the importance and value of a more down-to-earth empirical approach in understanding the "spiritual" aspect of life, and the importance of controlling spiritual energies here and now.

On my last day in Tokyo... they had the worst earthquake in at least 10 years.
I remember vividly my feelings in the shower near the top floor of a tall hotel,
as it began to sway. (Should I just run downstairs as I was? Or what?) 
The quake caused some deaths exactly on the rail line I had to take to the airport.
But for me... it was an interesting ride; I sat next to a fairly attractive young woman on her way to Thailand, for some international Buddhist activities.
Later, a friend of his at Toyota told me he gave up physics, and was now studying martial arts. I am so sorry it had to end that way. Still, that is better than a neurosurgeon friend I was once close to, a high teacher of Sufism, who ended up dead when he returned to Pakistan.  

Reality is not such a light or easy matter to cope with. Every one of us is challenged in "drinking from a firehose," to move ahead while staying within our own limited bandwidth.

One step at a time...

My basic views are still as they were at
Always I will admit uncertainty, and consider alternative theories of how the cosmos works. Always I will maintain a special place for "the simplest possible model." And truly, it is a key foundation of the Einstein approach to remember the limits of pure reason (ala Kant), to have respect for the simplest possible model
as one of the possibilities, and to try to find experiments. Certainly it would be a gross violation of the Einstein logic to rule out all models in which time is just another dimension!!

Reviewing the Einstein experience... some worked out very well, but some did not work out as well.   The Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment was a truly great step forward, but Einstein's prediction of it was dead wrong; the step forward was in doing the work, and facing up to the importance of that experiment.
I have been working very hard to try to persuade SOMEONE to perform the next step experiment, which I sometimes call "Einstein's revenge."

The quest for unified field theory in the last years of his life did not seem to work out as well. Only immediately after his release from Princeton did two great breakthroughs occur, both related to that release: (1) Wheeler's "already unified field theory," which, though very simple, provably achieved tasks which none of the later Einstein work did; and (2) Everett's PhD thesis, the first reasonably worked-out theory allowing a return to reality (and opening the door to the great dissemination and extension by David Deutsch). Breakthrough (1) explains why I believe that a simple model analogous to Wheeler's, but with W and B and isotwistor Higgs terms added, really is the simplest model which really might fit empirical reality; meeting empirical reality is the task before us now, and it will actually take many steps, and mathematical competence greater than what I see in universities today. Could a more geometric model do this more elegantly,
and suggest new experiments able to prove that it fits better? That would be great, but it would take a lot of work. I suspect that a lot of new approximation theory is required,
and development of a whole chain of  parametrized families of models 
stretching from phenomenological to ever more elegant.

But who knows? Many believe that the ultimate model might be more like our information technology world than like differential geometry.  
The rational approach is to be open-minded. 

I do hope that progress on those lines will be possible.

Best regards,


P.S. I actually did visit through Tuscany this year, in March or April.
(I have a record. My wife and younger son and I mainly went to Pisa, to Florence and to the western coast. Stopping by a wonderful vineyard on the way. Experiencing great gelato, but never getting hold of the vin santo...).

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