NATURE’S ULTIMATE QUESTION

The science writer Natalie Wolchover recently interviewed the well-known theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed and wrote a discussion of that interview in the New Yorker magazine.

A key point that Dr. Arkani-Hamed made was that nature offers us multiple potential answers to various problems, and that what theoretical physicists need to find is THE question that leads us to the unique correct answer that explains the many enigmas we are faced with today.

Here is a relevant section from Wolchover’s article.

To Arkani-Hamed, the multifariousness of the laws suggests a different conception of what physics is all about. We’re not building a machine that calculates answers, he says; instead, we’re discovering questions. Nature’s shape-shifting laws seem to be the answer to an unknown mathematical question…

Arkani-Hamed now sees the ultimate goal of physics as figuring out the mathematical question from which all the answers flow. “The ascension to the tenth level of intellectual heaven,” he told me, “would be if we find the question to which the universe is the answer, and the nature of that question in and of itself explains why it was possible to describe it in so many different ways.” It’s as though physics has been turned inside out. It now appears that the answers already surround us. It’s the question we don’t know.”

I would like to offer Dr. Arkani-Hamed, and the theoretical physics community, as well as anyone else who ponders such questions, a possible candidate for the ultimate question, and its answer.

THE QUESTION: How does nature, which always maximizes symmetries, achieve relativity of scale and avoid the outlier asymmetry of absolute scale?

THE ANSWER: Nature gives us the answer in the physical, dynamical and kinematic properties of the cosmos. The problem is that we have always limited our paradigms to those that require absolute scale.

Here is what is possible if we look at nature without the blinders of absolute scale, and its many limitations on our theoretical modeling.

Nature, if we are willing to observe it without theoretical bias, shows us how nature solves the ultimate question in a very elegant and surprising way.

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Student of Nature

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