Time and the Theory of Everything


Many theoretical physicists belief that a complete theory of time is contingent upon finding a quantum definition of gravity, which will lead to the Theory of Everything, the Final Theory, the Universal Theory: the reputed theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena. The primary problem in producing a Theory of Everything is that general relativity and quantum mechanics are hard to unify – the theory of gravity works in the macro (the world we see around us), but does not hold true in the micro world of quantum mechanics.  This is one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics today and the solution depends on a greater understanding of gravity.

Accordingly, our search for the theory of time is inextricably linked with two other central questions facing physics today:

  1. Grand Unified Theory, (GUT) and
  2. Theory of Everything (ToE) or Final Theory

Defining the GUT will lead to the ToE, which will provide a foundation for The Theory of Time.

A Grand Unified Theory (GUT) merges three of the four fundamental forces of nature  – the electromagnetic and the weak and strong nuclear forces.

  • Electromagnetism is pervasive in daily life  – we see it and use the forces constantly. Additionally, the earth itself produces electromagnetic fields that protects life itself from the harmful rays from the sun.
  • The weak nuclear force is responsible for radioactivity and decay. The weak interaction finds practical application in the radioactive elements used in medicine and technology, which are in general beta-radioactive, and in the beta-decay of a carbon isotope into nitrogen. At “long” distances, approximately the width of a proton, the weak charge looks smaller because of quantum fluctuations in the vacuum.
  • In particle physics, the strong interaction (also called the strong force, or the strong nuclear force) is one of the fundamental interactions of nature and is the strongest of the four fundamental forces of nature; but it only has a very short range – a length equal to one quadrillionth of a meter. It is the force that holds the nucleus of an atom together.

Combining GUT with gravity, the last of the four forces, will produce the long sought after Theory of Everything (ToE), which is theorized to produce a complete explanation of the forces in the universe. While this sounds simple, the solution has eluded physicists for nearly 100 years since Einstein presented the general theory of relativity in 1915.

  • Newton’s theory of gravitation accurately predicts the motion of bodies in the macro – the world we see around us  (ie.. apples falling from a tree). HOWEVER, general relativity is incompatible with quantum mechanics. Gravity, pursuant to the general theory of relativity by Einstein, is a consequence of the curvature of Space-time, and  provides an accurate approximation for gravity in most physical situations.  However theories of quantum gravity do not work in the micro world. We currently do not have a theory for gravitation that works in the micro world of quantum mechanics.

So we are stymied inbetween the quest for a unifying principle of gravity that thrives in the macro world of general relativity and simultaneously resolves the inherent “weirdness” of gravity’s role in the microscopic realm of quantum mechanics.

Finally, we arrive back to the central question, the pebble in my shoe: how can we find a path that will lead us to the Theory of Time.

  • If I were Newton and could create calculus, we might use math to define the Theory of Time.      Such as:     Input   \sum_k c_k\,x_k(t)   produces output   \sum_k c_k\,y_k(t).\,I
  • then   \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} c_{\omega}\,x_{\omega}(t) \, \operatorname{d}\omega   and  \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} c_{\omega}\,y_{\omega}(t) \, \operatorname{d}\omega\,
  • If I were Einstein and could postulate the workings of the universe as a thought experiment, we might use relativity – general or special – to define the Theory of Time using “light cones” (see below – we will utilize the concept later)

However, if I had the intellect of Newton or Einstein, I would have resolved The Theory of Time before my sixteenth birthday and there would be no need for this blog. Being a man whose curiosity greatly exceeds his intellect; we will continue to toil among these big questions with few answers.

Come back again soon!

The Holographic Universe

Just so life does not get too easy or boring, try to wrap your noggin around the holographic principle of the universe.    [Ok, concentrate and read this passage until your brain hurts]

The theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional informational structure “painted” on the cosmological horizon, such that the three dimensions we observe are an effective description. So, think of the universe and your reality as a balloon, where you live on the inside of the balloon interacting with reality as a 3D holographic projection of a two dimensional set of “instructions” that is “painted” on the inside walls of the balloon.  Stated differently…holy crap – who thinks this stuff up?

Well, actually some of our most respected theoretical physicists. First proposed by Gerard ‘t Hooft, “. . . it was given a precise string-theory interpretation by Leonard Susskind who combined his ideas with previous ones of ‘t Hooft and Charles Thorn. As pointed out by Raphael Bousso, Thorn observed in 1978 that string theory admits a lower dimensional description in which gravity emerges from it in what would now be called a holographic way.” (I hate citing Wikipedia, but you can lookup the specifics and cites).

Note: Please See

[The Holographic Universe, by Michael Tabot, 1992 and 2011]


[Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution – The Holographic Universe, By Leonard Susskind and James Lindsey, 2005 – 2010]

And, of course

[From Eternity to Here – The Quest For The Ultimate Theory of Time, By Sean Carroll, 2010]

Now that we have cleared that up, the question is, what impact does the holographic principle have on a workable theory of time? Importantly, the holographic principle actually solves the black hole information paradox within string theory and independently proves entropy’s role in determining the direction of time (from the past to the future – see previous posts on entropy).

The arrow of time moves from low entropy (order) to high entropy (disorder), pursuant to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  A good example of entropy in action is how the 1000+ pages of War & Peace react to being thrown in the air. If the book is unbound and in single sheets, entropy predicts, correctly, that if the pages are thrown off the 4th floor of a building, they will land in any one of a trillion or more different and distinct combinations – and none of them will have page 1 on top and page 1o00 on the bottom. Just like a broken egg (high entropy-disorder) will never turn back into a whole egg incased in the shell (low entropy-order). This is inspired by black hole thermodynamics.

In the case of a black hole, the insight was that the informational content of all the objects that have fallen into the hole could be entirely contained in surface fluctuations of the event horizon. The holographic principle resolves the black hole information paradox within the framework of string theory.

Now, if you are still confused, take heart – it is said that there are only a handful of   theoretical physicists in the world who have the understanding to properly explain the interaction of quantum mechanics, string theory, and the theory of time.