Saturday, May 25, 2013

Eric Weinstein's invisible theory of nothing

On Friday, I received an irritated message from Mel B. who had read articles in the Guardian claiming that Eric Weinstein found a theory of everything or something close:
Roll over Einstein: meet Weinstein (by Alok Jha)

Eric Weinstein may have found the answer to physics' biggest problems (by Marcus du Sautoy)

Geometric Unity (a lecture at Oxford that no physicist attended)
First, the puns involving names emulating Einstein are extremely far from being new to me because as the most successful Czechoslovak debunker of these new Einsteins (I mean anti-relativity cranks in this particular case), I've spent quite some time with the Slovak crackpot originally named Arthur Bolčo who also wrote the book Arthur Bolstein: An Ordinary Collapse of an Extraordinary Theory (which had both Einstein's and Bolstein's photographs on the cover, cute).

Now, Weinstein is a smart guy, a likable figure, a hedge fund speculator, the father of the MathWorld encyclopedia later run on Wolfram's domain (mistake! A different man, see the comments), and a discrete physicist close to folks like Edward Frenkel, a mathematician at Berkeley.

But the stories in the Guardian are just completely insane because they have absolute no basis.

This aspect of the story was nicely discussed by Jennifer Ouellette's blog entry "Dear Guardian: You’ve Been Played". Her blog, Cocktail Party Physics, has been incorporated into the website of a once nice American science magazine.

Eric Weinstein doesn't seem to have written a physics paper in his whole life (if we don't count his bizarre 0-citation PhD thesis) and this particular new theory of everything isn't described in any paper – not even an informal preprint – that anyone has seen. He was just invited by a buddy to give a seminar that no one attended and no one who knows similar things was invited to, in fact.

So it seems like another self-evident case of nepotism, self-promotion, unprofessionality of the journalists in the Guardian, and "science" run by press conferences. Even Nude Socialist's Andrew Pontzen concluded that Weinstein's theory of everything is probably nothing; see also a similar criticism by Spinor Info. I am not gonna speculate on whether or not Eric Weinstein has paid for the self-promotion but I think that it would be legitimate to speculate because there's quite some case for this hypothesis. It's comparably conceivable that the whole effect may be explained by the journalists' gullibility and stupidity and nothing else.

I don't know the content of the Oxford seminar, I haven't seen any paper, and I don't even know whether a paper will ever exist at all but building on some rumors, it seems that his work is another episode in the widespread confusion about the "graviweak unification". Papers by authors by Garrett Lisi – and in the case of the "TOE" papers, even papers by folks like Fabrizio Nesti (who wrote the JHEP \(\rm\LaTeX\) macro and added even some papers on matrix string theory, among others; despite his "priority", Nesti is less famous than Lisi because he's a sailor, not surfer) – are mixed sequences of mistakes, blunders, errors, misunderstandings, and – in the best passages – unjustified hopes.

I guess that Rammstein is a relative of Einstein, too. It's cool music I only began to like less than 10 years ago under the influence of friends JB and OK.

There are lots of lethal flaws in these papers each of which is sufficient to kill the idea. But the most general theme, the "graviweak unification" i.e. the unification of the electroweak and gravitational interactions at the level of spacetime fields, is just totally hopelessly wrong. There can't be any "graviweak unification".

It seems rather clear to me that all these authors are confused by the apparent similarity between the local Yang-Mills groups of gauge theories such as \(SU(2)_W\times U(1)_Y\) for the electroweak theory on one hand; and the local Lorentz group such as \(SO(3,1)\) acting on vielbeins \(e_\mu^a\) in the tetrad formalism describing the general theory of relativity i.e. gravity on the other hand.

These groups enter the dynamics differently but these differences could perhaps be due to some symmetry breaking (and even the difference between one group that is compact and another group that is not could turn out to be harmless, perhaps).

But the key fact that those people completely miss is that the \(SO(3,1)\) local Lorentz group is in no way the key local symmetry principle underlying general relativity in its "covariant" description. Instead, it's the diffeomorphisms that are the key symmetry. And diffeomorphisms are completely different transformations than the local Lorentz symmetries! Diffeomorphisms act like\[

\phi(x,y,z,t)\to\phi'(x,y,z,t) = \phi(x',y',z',t')

\] on the scalars and I want to avoid descriptions how tensors transform because you should know it. At any rate, the new value of a field at a point after the action of a diffeomorphism depends on the value(s) of the field at another point before the diffeomorphism acted. On the other hand, the local Lorentz symmetries – much like the Yang-Mills symmetries – only transform the fields at the same spacetime points into each other. The counterpart of the transformation above would need no primed coordinates \(x',y',z',t'\).

These are completely different transformations and the local Lorentz transformations are really unnecessary, optional. We may do general relativity without them. On the other hand, the tetrad formalism of general relativity requires both the local Lorentz symmetry and diffeomorphisms. What's essential for gravity are the diffeomorphisms which are completely different beasts than the local Lorentz transformations. Their generators are given by the stress energy tensor \(T_{\mu\nu}\) which has two vector indices (spin 2), unlike the generators of Yang-Mills-like symmetries \(J_\mu\) which are currents with one index (spin 1 of the gauge bosons).

There can't exist any purely field-theoretical unification of spin-1 fields and spin-2 fields (and of the corresponding symmetries) in the same spacetime that would be described by field theory. Only string theory and its diverse descriptions may achieve such a unification. They do so by attributing an internal structure of a sort to the particles including the messengers – for example, it's the string that may have internal vibrations and those may change the spin of the resulting particle, too. In this unification, one immediately generates an infinite tower of new states with arbitrarily high spins aside from \(J=1\), \(J=2\), too. And if we're "lucky", the excitations of the extended objects interact consistently, avoid divergences and anomalies, agree with the physics of gauge theories and general relativity. Only string theory in its different manifestations has been "lucky" so far and it seems likely that no other theory will ever join this "lucky" club.

The reasons why gravity can't be unified with the Yang-Mills forces in the naive, field-theoretical way is no string theory. In fact, it's not even rocket science. I find it strange that these men can't understand the reasons. I find it shocking that they still can't penetrate these simple things and isolate the simple mistakes they've been doing for years.

You may perhaps define some equations of motion that unify the (compact) Yang-Mills groups of the Standard Model (or similar ones) with the (noncompact) local Lorentz symmetry but the resulting theory will still have nothing whatsoever to do with gravity because the natural local transformations that allow us to write gravity covariantly are diffeomorphisms, not local Yang-Mills-like symmetries. Moreover, actual physicists have known for quite some time that in the real world, the unification of gravity with other forces critically depends on quantum mechanics which is why arbitrary games with the classical Lagrangians are no good.

Eric, Fabrizio, Garrett, please try to wake up and stop with this immensely stupid crackpottery and the embarrassing promotion of this crackpottery in the media!

14-dimensional fiber bundle

Incidentally, some sources suggest that Weinstein wants to construct his "theory of everything" out of a 14-dimensional bundle obtained by placing the 10-dimensional space of possible values of the 10-component metric tensor \(g_{\mu\nu}\) at each point of the 4-dimensional spacetime. That's a fun thing to present the identity \(10+4=14\) but it's otherwise completely empty. If you specify how many dimensions a theory should have, it is extremely far from actually having a theory – knowing a consistent description of the interactions of some particle, fields, or other objects in a given spacetime. Moreover, in some reasonable clarifications of the 14-dimensional theory, the 10 dimensions are spurious and the theory is still the same 4-dimensional theory with 10 fields we have known as general relativity.

Independently of that, there can't be any natural theories with a stable enough spacetime in 14 dimensions.


  1. Regarding the reference to Mathworld:

    the name there appears to be Weisstein.

  2. Wow, you are right, it is a different man! I've been living in this confusion for the years, not that MathWorld is that essential. ;-)

  3. Well at least this make more sense than Lubos's cold fusion debunking!

  4. Gott weiß es wird Nichtstheorie sein

  5. Exactly, you need new degrees of freedom and these can’t be new fields. String theory is the only theory that provides the correct dof which
    could incorporate gravity and the SM within the Quantum mechanical framework in a consistent reasonable way.

    In the past I was thinking that maybe the quantization of a spin two field on a fixed background was the reason for the non Renormalizability of gravity and thus LQG could be provide some answers but even then I never
    paid attention to TOE trying to embed gravity in a large gauge group together with SM. It’s just silly…

    And I came to realize that LQG also can’t work (although it's not a TOE). You just can’t take the gravitational field and try to quantize it, even if you do it non perturbatively.

  6. Aah, I always wondered why science journalism is so bad these days generally. But the bribery explanation did not come to my mind :-D. Now things seem clearer to me ...

    This is a nice clear explanation why weak unification can not work, I like this :-)

  7. I agree that science journalism is generally bad, but the fact that Jennifer Ouellette chastised the Guardian gives me hope. I think there is growing understanding that we are talking about models, and there is a limit to the general insights one can bring into modeling. The way one integrates different components of a model cannot be superficially arbitrary. Mechanisms for the combination of flows must be well defined and consistent in order to ensure convergence.

    I really like the explanation given above as well, very compact and clear.

  8. :D You, Lumo, provide me with so many opportunities for enjoying your bite and for mirth - and I don't miss or fail to take many of them. This reply of yours is only one small example it!

    Cheers and thanks again!

  9. It's impossible to criticize a hypothesis that nobody but a few seminar participants know anything about. For that matter, a truly new, and non-trivial, "theory of everything" would likely be impossible to evaluate after just one seminar. We can't be so wedded to string theory to rule out all alternatives when no physical evidence yet confirms string theory - by the way, I do not say that as a Woit-style critique. Physicists should pursue theories that are the most probable and logical, not just what is convenient from an experimental point of view.

    That said, everybody has a right to criticize the way Weinstein has promoted his claim and the media for being so stupid - this guy isn't Witten. If someone of Witten's caliber suddenly promoted some new TOE without a paper and seemingly out of nowhere perhaps a Guardian article would be worthwhile, but Weinstein hasn't shown he's worthy of this type of hype. I actually find these stories more disturbing because these are the same outlets that shape public opinion on political matters. 

    I do want to point out that it's weird that people who are skeptical of string theory, with it's "crazy ideas," would be so receptive to what Weinstein is talking about. All I've seen so far seems just as far out as anything string theorists would say. Now I have to be really vague here because i don't know the details. He's talking about a 14D universe where we are somehow just within some 4D portion of it. How is this less "not even wrong" than Randall-Sundrum or string compactification scenarios? He's talking about a bunch of new particles, including 3/2 spin ones - is this so much less "not even wrong" than SUSY?  Let's be clear, I'm not saying Weinstein and string theory are similar, I'm just pointing out it is weird that skeptic camps want to promote a theory that seems no less weird in its implications than string theory. 

  10. I have read it and my conclusion is in the same catecory as Yours is, and found it as to be a weird one, and somewhow the timing was peculiar, and I am an old grupy f.... and dont belive in coinsidents as this is, this is belive me, high level drivel and forgerys of Physics, and I belive it was FULLY intended to do exactly that.

    The theory You had, the previous day, is what I find as the best ever and above them all, and IT even describes the Planetary scale functions down to subatomic event horizons/zero point/flux.
    I belive this is it, and this attac was a haisty blend of different aspect from the latest debates and articles on the nett, collected and writen down as a genuin "theory" of, hehe, eveything. Dont it looks particulare weird when one know how conservative the present Media is on everything, and suddenly ONE person getts it all.
    This is nothing new, the same was done with and to give Einstein all the creditt, even thoe He rested his case on Others Works thats not been Media covered. Even the E=mxc2 is taken from a scientist nobody knows of to day, because their case was Highjacked, like this attemt to take credit for something Others have done.

    And the following verbal attacs are even more peculiare, and sorry to say, expecded.

    Why waist time and recources on tacling morronic consepts and comments, most are without a clue anyway, I have and others are focused on the CORE, not babbleing about Quarcs and other sob atomic entetys. Thats of no particilulare intress, and is not the case.


  11. Kaluza-Klein approach unifies GR and ED in classical fashion. No QM formalism is needed there. The description is of course not realistic but still the framework unifies GR and ED without QM. So WTF you are talking about if I may ask?

  12. You don't "need" quantum mechanics as long as you are looking at classical questions only. But the existence of particles is already a quantum phenomenon.

    In particular, charged particles in KK theories only exist in the quantum theory because charged particles are excitations of the field modes going like exp(i*n*x5) as a function of extra dimensions, or another non-constant function. Charged particles can't be introduced to KK theory in any other way. I find it a bit crazy to talk about "electrodynamics without charged objects" because charged particles are the ultimate causes of all electromagnetic phenomena.

  13. I used to put on Rammstein when I started blitzing chess online but for three-minute games it is too slow and soft so I switched to a group of French astrophysicists. For one-minute games, there is nothing better than hooking yourself up directly to the electrodes of a car battery.

  14. alejandro riveroMay 25, 2013, 9:39:00 PM

    Hey, I was also in the same confusion. Of course, yourself noticed, time ago, that there are a lot of Weinstein around:

  15. Does Weinstein model fall in the category of theories that are forbidden by the Coleman-Mandula theorem?

  16. Hi scooby, I don't know what the model is - there isn't any model, as far as we can see - but yes, the general class of graviweak unified theories is forbidden by the Coleman-Mandula theorem. My alternative no-go theorem (which has nothing to do with the Coleman-Mandula strategy but yields the same answer) was supposed to be simpler and closer to the actual would-be derivations that these folks try offer to justify that it can be done.

  17. There are lots of books. I doubt that it makes sense to study D-branes without quantum field theory. D-branes are an advanced topic in a generalization of QFT. What matters for D-branes isn't just some geometry but the equations of motion and the excitations, dynamics, quantization giving the dynamics etc. - one needs tools of QFT for all of that. You may Clifford Johnson's book etc.

    On the other hand, Calabi-Yau manifolds may be discussed separately from physics and QFT in particular. You should try to find your own book that looks nice to you. E.g. try

  18. Do you think that I should wait until I study nonabelian gauge theory and it's renormalization , broken symmetries etc to read about D-branes ? I wanted to see how fibre bundles , Kahler manifolds ,Connections and other very interesting topics show up in ST .
    About Calabi-Yau I'll look at these books I'll take a look at mirror symmetry by hori too.

  19. Paul sorry, but why
    you need D-branes to study all these mathematical concepts?

    This is the typical
    arena of Calabi-Yau compactifications and you can study them by just focusing on Heterotic String theory where you don’t have D-branes (there are no RR
    fileds in Heterotic).

    These compactifications were originally studied within
    the context of Heterotic ST anyway. Actually during the 80s and early 90s Heterotic
    Calabi Yau compactifications was the only game in town for constructing phenomenological models in String theory

  20. Lubos , I've read weinberg QFT up to chapter 7(Feynman diagrams ) Nothing in QED yet. I want to read about D-branes , Compactifications,Calabi-Yau and all other geometry in ST now . If my current level of knowledge is insufficient ,I would have to spend months studying QED and Non-abelian gauge theory to be prepared for ST while I'm very interested in the topic that I want to start reading about it now . I'm not in university or anything . i'm studying all on my own .I'm not trying to avoid QFT altogether . As you said , I want to figure out how string theorists use those geometric tools in their research even if I don't know those advanced topics in SUSY and how to quantize the non-abelian gauge fields.

  21. Weinstein's thesis is cited in:

    and in the subsequent CMP paper. Not that that really changes anything. Thanks for the explanation of why there is no graviweak unification.

  22. From the Guardian article: “(Weinstein) is now an economist and consultant at the Natron Group, a New York hedge fund.”

    There’s your answer as to why the Guardian hyped up Weinstein's TOE
    to the absolute hilt despite it being fully immersed in a crackpot full
    slimy bug-infested snake oil! As these moneybag sociopathic ‘media
    manipulators’ begin to express their new-found power, expect all sorts
    of thought-direction to come our way. What is art? Ask Blankfein! He
    knows because he’s a sociopathic billionaire who rapes women and
    children with rolled up wads of hundred dollar bills as he spews
    hysterical laughter, and then brags about it afterwards to his friends
    in Congress. If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s a sociopathic
    billionaire. I mean, my god, we see Warren Buffet as a grandfather
    figure! Even after seeing the Bill Gates deposition with federal
    authorities, people still revere the icky, sticky, horrid little
    creature. So get ready folks. These guys have stolen enough of the
    world's wealth that they'll now try to steal our culture: science, art,
    religion, literature, you name it, they want it! What should we think
    about that new Broadway musical? Let’s ask Robert Rubin! He MUST know
    because he's rich and profoundly evil!

  23. The "Theory of everything" mantra is the "Philosopher's stone" of present day's world. Also, TOE seems to me as totalitarian in principle...

  24. Tetryonics itself has 3 main laws.

    1) Energy itself is equilateral.

    2) The law of interaction and all energy in whatever form it is will seek equilibrium.

    3)once the system is in motion and it's seeking equilibrium, it will
    continue indefinitely as it cycles through it's various forms backwards
    and forwards.

    This is the foundation of everything. Once you get your head around the
    equilateral energy and its geometry, you can start putting things
    together without the math, and equally you can start using it to check
    the math of what people are telling you.

    What's been missing from the Standard Model of physics today, as it's
    been developed, is a tangible geometry in order to further develop a lot
    of our math. The current math at the moment relies on Gaussian
    formulations, where 4[pi] geometries are assumed to be spherical just
    like planets and stars.

    What Tetryonics will show and further elaborate on, is that the geometry
    or the [pi] geometry of energy is in fact equilateral triangles. It's
    the tessellation or joining together of these equilateral triangles that
    creates the quantum mechanics that we formulate our math on. It then
    goes on to create all the large scale Classical interactions of Newton
    and gravitation.

    Historically and even up to now, Physicists, particularly quantum
    physicists will tell you that square meters per second is a rotation
    around a point. A vector rotation, left to right moving about a central
    point. Tetryonics shows that square meters per second, is in fact a
    triangle measured in a radial unit of time, be it seconds or be it how
    fast a cow moves.

    It doesn't matter what the units of time are, what it comes back to is
    the geometry. Throughout Tetryonics you'll see that the geometry
    dictates what the math is. What's happened Classically and historically
    is that we've investigated quantum mechanics and worked things out via
    the math. But where it has failed us in the last century is that we've
    then tried to apply the math and mathematical rules to create new
    directions to go. Even though it is a logical framework, Mathmematics
    has no rigidity so far as which direction to move in. All things are
    possible hence mulitverses blackholes and things like that.

    Whereas the geometry that underlies the mathematics that we use, puts
    very rigid constraints on what you can and cannot do. It's a tangible
    fixed geometry. You can cut them out with little pieces of paper and you
    can build things. You can then use the math to describe what you have
    built, but in no way can the math suddenly say that a triangle is a
    square or a triangle exists in higher dimensions. The geometry is the
    foundation of our math.

    As you get further and further into Tetryonics you will discover more
    and more examples where mathematics has errored on it's assumptions and
    the geometry sets it straight again.

  25. Brian G ValentineMay 30, 2013, 7:33:00 AM

    I don't see how hyperbolic "conservation" laws can be written R^13 x R^1 without the characteristics spreading out in the extra dimensions so there is no real meaning to "conservation."

    There are so many Einstein pretenders out there you can't count them. The worst I have ever seen was the promotion of Rachel Carson as Einstein.

  26. Américo Carlos TavaresMay 31, 2013, 2:13:00 PM

    Eric Weinstein (Oxford)

    Special Lecture

    Geometric Unity | Mathematical Institute - University of Oxford

    "A program for Geometric Unity is presented to argue that the seemingly baroque features of the standard model of particle physics are in fact inexorable and geometrically natural when generalizations of the Yang-Mills and Dirac theories are unified with one of general relativity."

  27. In matters of science "never say never"

  28. For a broad overview of the theory's development an features see

    The Truth About Geometic Unity

    Geometric Unity is outlined in these three papers:

    A new approach to time unifies QM and GR. Einstein's equations and the fine structure constant are derived from one simple geometric principle. Tempus Edax Rerum

    A new 14D cosmological model is developed. A flaw in the ADM positive definiteness theorem is identified and a major outstanding issue in Kaluza theory is resolved.

    Geometric Cosmology

    The new theory predicts the structure of the standard model. A unique experimental prediction is derived. Quantum Structure