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How close are physicists to creating a unified theory of everything?

How close are physicists to creating a unified theory of everything and at what rate is their knowledge of this area increasing?
Graeme from North Yorkshire (Age 25-34)

Are we close to finding the General Universal Theory (GUT) that can answer every question posed to our scientists?
Upal Sen from County Antrim (Age: 25-34)


2 Responses

  1. In my opinion not very. Since this would include how the Big Bang started and what was there before, then until any theory addressing these questions has testable consequences for the existence of something before the Big Bang this is a matter of philosophy not physics. The other aspect of this may be about when the forces of nature are understood to be unified into one. As we don’t really understand gravity fully, let alone gravity waves, and the Holy Grail of quantum gravity is nowhere near solved, we are still some way off.

  2. Difficult questions!

    What we usually mean with a GUT is a theory unifying all four known forces (gravitation, weak and strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic forces) in one consistent framework.

    As a theoretical physicist not working in this area, I would say much progress has been made, but we are not there yet! The big stumbling block remains gravitation. String theory made enormous progress for a while, but at the moment there are just too many valid string theories to really give meaningful physical predictions at this stage. Other so-called quantum theories are being actively persued, but I have seen no real solution.

    I have the feeling we are at a slightly quiet point in the evolution of this area, but looking at the recent past I would predict another explosion soon-we are just waiting for the right idea/approach.

    There is of course a philosophical issue whether this can answer every question.
    First of all there is the issue of emergent phenomena. Even well-established theories like QED (the theory of electrons and photons) don’t predict directly why liquids work the way they work, or why the wheather is chaotic. The length scales are just too different, and a reductionist approach seems rather ineffective.
    At the other end there is the zooming-in problem. Can we look at smaller-and-smaller scales, and discover new phenomena? If not, what precludes us from doing so? Is a GUT the final answer, or is the GUT just a manifestation of yet another theory?

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