The "exceptionally simple theory of everything," proposed by a surfing physicist in 2007, does not hold water, says Emory University mathematician Skip Garibaldi.
Garibaldi did the math to disprove the theory, which involves a mysterious structure known as E8. The resulting paper (http://arxiv.org/abs/0905.2658 ), co-authored by physicist Jacques Distler of the University of Texas, will appear in an upcoming issue of Communications in Mathematical Physics.
"The beautiful thing about math and physics is that it is not subjective," says Garibaldi. "I wanted a peer-reviewed paper published, so that the scientific literature provides an accurate state of affairs, to help clear up confusion among the lay public on this topic."
In November of 2007, physicist Garrett Lisi published an online paper entitled "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything." Lisi spent much of his time surfing in Hawaii, adding a bit of color to the story surrounding the theory. Although his paper was not peer-reviewed, and Lisi himself commented that his theory was still in development, the idea was widely reported in the media, under attention-grabbing headlines like "Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything."
Garibaldi was among the skeptics when the theory hit the news. So was Distler, a particle physicist, who wrote about problems he saw with Lisi's idea on his blog. Distler's posting inspired Garibaldi to think about the issue more, eventually leading to their collaboration.
Lisi's paper centered on the elegant mathematical structure known as E8, which also appears in string theory. First identified in 1887, E8 has 248 dimensions and cannot be seen, or even drawn, in its complete form.
The enigmatic E8 is the largest and most complicated of the five exceptional Lie groups, and contains four subgroups that are related to the four fundamental forces of nature: the e
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