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When do you think we'll have a Theory of Everything?






A theory of everything (TOE or ToE), final theory, ultimate theory, or master theory is a hypothetical single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe. Finding a TOE is one of the major unsolved problems in physics. String theory and M-theory have been proposed as theories of everything. Over the past few centuries, two theoretical frameworks have been developed that, together, most closely resemble a TOE. These two theories upon which all modern physics rests are general relativity and quantum mechanics. General relativity is a theoretical framework that only focuses on gravity for understanding the universe in regions of both large scale and high mass: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, etc. On the other hand, quantum mechanics is a theoretical framework that only focuses on three non-gravitational forces for understanding the universe in regions of both small scale and low mass: sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc. Quantum mechanics successfully implemented the Standard Model that describes the three non-gravitational forces -- strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and electromagnetic force -- as well as all observed elementary particles.

Physicists have experimentally confirmed virtually every prediction made by general relativity and quantum mechanics when in their appropriate domains of applicability. Nevertheless, general relativity and quantum mechanics are mutually incompatible – they cannot both be right. Since the usual domains of applicability of general relativity and quantum mechanics are so different, most situations require that only one of the two theories be used. As it turns out, this incompatibility between general relativity and quantum mechanics is only an issue in regions of extremely small scale - the Planck scale - such as those that exist within a black hole or during the beginning stages of the universe (i.e., the moment immediately following the Big Bang). To resolve the incompatibility, a theoretical framework revealing a deeper underlying reality, unifying gravity with the other three interactions, must be discovered to harmoniously integrate the realms of general relativity and quantum mechanics into a seamless whole: the TOE is a single theory that, in principle, is capable of describing all phenomena in the universe.

In pursuit of this goal, quantum gravity has become one area of active research. One example is string theory, which evolved into a candidate for the TOE, but not without drawbacks (most notably, its lack of currently testable predictions) and controversy. String theory posits that at the beginning of the universe (up to 10−43 seconds after the Big Bang), the four fundamental forces were once a single fundamental force. According to string theory, every particle in the universe, at its most microscopic level (Planck length), consists of varying combinations of vibrating strings (or strands) with preferred patterns of vibration. String theory further claims that it is through these specific oscillatory patterns of strings that a particle of unique mass and force charge is created (that is to say, the electron is a type of string that vibrates one way, while the up quark is a type of string vibrating another way, and so forth).






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I'm not knowledgeable enough on the topic and this is obviously fiction. But Greg Egan pegged a Theory of Everything to the 2060s in his novel Distress if I remember the book right. It could have been the 2070s too. Somewhere around there. So by proxy of another person and fictional projection I'm gonna say sometime from 2060-2080.




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I don't think "they" ever will have a complete "theory of everything" in the way that they describe.  There are going to be finer and finer questions that one can ask, that are forever just out of reach.  Beware the lure of eternalism:

Grand Unification; finding the "right way"

Many projects in physics and math can be described as a search for "grand unifications" -- that is, formal mathematical systems from which one can elegantly deduce explanations for a wide range of observed phenomena. The quest goes on and on, and practitioners are never fully satisfied; but still believe in yet greater unities, just out of reach; and, often, believe in a supreme object or theory that would put an end to their quest.

For example, Newton's laws of motion, that people learn in pre-high school (in some form) contain a "grand unification" of gravity observed on earth and in the orbit and motion of planets -- the same equations that show on earth how a ball moves when thrown also predict the shape of planetary orbits, at least mostly (general relativity is needed to get more accurate predictions).  
To reduce the excitement even more, and bring it down to a dull, engineering level:  several projects in machine learning and AI can be thought of as finding a "grand unified theory" of intelligence.  e.g. maybe all the different facets of what we call intelligence are just emergent phenomena from training large neural nets with Backpropagation on the right data.  If it could be proved, that could constitute a "grand unified theory" of intelligence.
That may seem to lack the mystery and gee-whiz of "grand unified theory" in physics; but it's exactly the same kind of program.



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Even if we discover the grand unified theory, it still won't explain why it is so. It'll probably follow science will have a new mission - to uncover the mystery behind it.


Future Timeline talks about a new type of science we have yet to discover. I suppose it's where it will be at.

What are you without the sum of your parts?

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Theory of everything, general relativity, quantum mechanics, universe, physics, string theory, TOE, Big Bang, Planck, Standard Model

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