Surfer creates Theory of Everything.

If Einstein was around today, he’d probably surf, too.

There’s a piece in the Telegraph (based, apparently, on a New Scientist clip) about Dr. A. Garrett Lisi, an “impoverished surfer” who looked hard at a pretty geometrical shape (called “E8”) and realized it could possibly be used as a map for everything. He might just have solved the step beyond Grand Unification Theory. (Though there’s no word as to whether he, like Nobel-winning surfing biochemist Kary Mullis, had any, um, biochemical assistance in making his conceptual breakthrough, just look at E8, maaan). Anyway, this realization – that the forces of the universe could be shaped like this spirograph-like swirl of interconnected lines – could be a very big deal indeed:

Lisi’s inspiration lies in the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics, called E8 – a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

E8 encapsulates the symmetries of a geometric object that is 57-dimensional and is itself is 248-dimensional. Lisi says “I think our universe is this beautiful shape.”

What makes E8 so exciting is that Nature also seems to have embedded it at the heart of many bits of physics. One interpretation of why we have such a quirky list of fundamental particles is because they all result from different facets of the strange symmetries of E8.

Lisi’s breakthrough came when he noticed that some of the equations describing E8’s structure matched his own. “My brain exploded with the implications and the beauty of the thing,” he tells New Scientist. “I thought: ‘Holy crap, that’s it!'”

Researchers might well be testing some of this stuff at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva next year.

If you’re up for the science, here’s Lisi’s publication, “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything”.

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