Posts Tagged ‘ quantum mechanics ’

A complete, unified theory.

Now, if you believe that the universe is not arbitrary, but is governed by definite laws, you ultimately have to combine the partial theories into a complete unified theory that will describe everything in the universe. But there is a fundamental paradox in the search for a complete unified theory. The ideas about scientific theories assume we are rational beings who are free to observe the universe as we want in order to draw logical conclusions from what we see. In such a scheme it is reasonable to suppose that we might progress ever closer toward the laws that govern our universe. Yet if there really is a complete unified theory, it would also preseumably determine the outcome of our search for it! And why should it determine that we come to the right conclusions from the evidence? Might it not equally well determine that we draw from the wrong conclusion? Or no conclusion ar all?

Because the patrtial theories that we already have are sufficient to make accurate predictions in all but the most extreme situations, the search for the ultimate theory of the universe seems difficult to justify on practical grounds. (It is worth nothing, though, that similar arguments could have been used against relativity and quantum mechanics, and these theories have given us both nuclear energy and the microelectronics revolution!) The discovery of a complete unified theory, therefore, may not aid the survival of our species. It may not even affect our life-style. But ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.

– Stephen Hawking, ‘A Brief History of Time