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物理学需要横空出世的天才

Why Can't We Find the Theory of Everything? Einstein, Rogue Genius, String Theory | Eric Weinstein

我认为 近40年来
In some ways we’ve been making amazing progress
我们在场论的数学方面取得惊人进步
for 40 years—in my opinion—in the mathematics of field theory,
某种程度上 数学是支撑起
which is the underlying geometric structure
粒子理论和广义相对论的基本几何结构
that undergirds both particle theory and general relativity.
这是一个激动人心的时代
So this has been an incredibly exciting time
因为数学这部词典已经打开
because this dictionary has opened up
带给我们最好的洞察力
which ports all of the best insights
从物理学到微分几何
from physics into differential geometry
再从微分几何回到物理学
and from differential geometry back into physics.
所以你很难否认数学的作用
So you’d be hard-pressed to say that nothing is happening.
问题是我们很想将广义相对论中的几何量子化
The problem is that we really wanted to quantize the geometry of general relativity but,
但最终的成果是几何化了量子
in fact, what we ended up doing was geometrizing the quantum.
这让理论物理学家有些失望
And so it’s been a bit of a disappointment for theoretical physicists
他们希望自己生逢理论物理的黄金时代
who hoped that they would be living through a golden age of theoretical physics
而非理论物理的数学时代
rather than the mathematics of theoretical physics.
所以某种意义上 粒子理论领域
So the field of particle theory has in some ways
在数学基础方面有了进步
seemed to be advancing in terms of its mathematical underpinnings.
但是在标准模型的精密性方面……
But the elaborations on the standard model
也就是在理论方面 我们对所生存世界的具体理解
which is our specific understanding of the world in which we live
从1973-1974年开始就一直停滞不前
has been all but stalled from the theory side since around 1973-1974.
所以这有点自相矛盾
So it’s a bit of a paradoxical situation
我认为 我们之前从未达到那种程度
and I think that, in part, we’ve never really been here before.
大约在1928年到19世纪40年代末这段时间
There was a period between about 1928 until the late 40s
理论物理学发现了量子电动力学
when theoretical physics had found quantum electrodynamics,
即有关电子和光子的理论
the theory of electrons and photons, where most of the
在量子电动力学方程式中 大部分计算出现了无限大的计算结果
calculations we wanted to do gave infinite answers.
这个基本理论似乎是合理的
The underlying theory seems sound.
我们只是不知道如何将理论和实验真正联系起来
We just didn’t know how to get real contact with experiment.
花了很长时间我们才认识到是遇到了技术问题
And it took a long time for us to realize that we had a technical problem
而不需要彻底颠覆广义相对论
rather than a need for an absolutely fundamental revolution of the kind that
和量子论
brought us general relativity and quantum theory.
所以我认为我们有些陷入困境
So I think that we’re a bit stuck
也不知道这个奇怪的时期会持续多久
and we don’t really know how long this very strange period is going to go on for,
这一时期为不切实际的希望所支配
and this period has been dominated by the sort of quixotic hopes
但是以下理论中可能有我们的出路:
that one of a number of theories—whether it be
超对称理论 大统一理论
super-symmetry theory, grand unified theory,
彩色理论 非对易几何
technicolor or even noncommunicative geometry—might be our way out.
但问题是这些高度推测性的理论都有一定的模糊性
But the problem is that all of these highly speculative theories have remained in limbo
甚至许多理论已经卷入一些奇怪而复杂的观念
and many of them have gotten rolled into this very strange complex of ideas
比如弦理论 或M理论 或某些理论的变型
that we call either string theory or M theory or some variant thereof.
所以这是物理理论的问题
And it is a question as to whether this is more of a physics-inspired theory
还是经济和社会现象的问题呢?
or whether it’s really an economic and sociological phenomenon,
也就是你生在这样一个时代
which is that you have a generation that
出生于婴儿潮时期的物理学家好像成了绝对让人惊讶的几何学者
physicists in the baby boom who seem to be absolutely astounding geometers
但他们的能力似乎有些欠缺
but appear to be wanting in terms of their ability
他们不能按照前辈的标准将理论与自然界联系起来
to make contact with the natural world by the standards of previous generations.
当然 我们内心可能跃跃欲试
And naturally that’s going to elicit some very strong feelings,
因为我们兼收了前代人的思想
because the idea that we would have had perhaps two generations
比如 40年前的物理学家虽然无法将理论和实验联系起来
let’s say in 40 years of physicists who can’t make contact with experimental reality
但他们的理论在现代也无人能超越
with their theories is completely unprecedented in the modern era.
这很有趣 同时也相当令人不安
This is very interesting and rather disturbing.
所以我关注了著名物理学家尼马·阿尔卡尼–哈米德的一两次谈话
So I was quite inspired by a talk or two that I’ve seen of the distinguished
他给了我很大启发
physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed
本质上 针对理论物理 他指出了3个主要的方程式
where in essence he points out that the three main equations that give us all of theoretical physics—
遵循了物质方程和力学方程的狄拉克方程
the Dirac equation for matter and then the force equations,
杨–米尔斯方程 爱因斯坦场方程
the Yang-Mills equation, and the Einstein field equations—
某种意义上 这些可能是方程类中公认的最好方程
are all in some sense provably the best possible equations in their category of equations.
由此产生了一个问题:
And so what happened was that we had a question:
有办法找到更好的方程式吗?
is there any way to go about finding even better equations?
我们基本上可以证实 这些方程式不容易被推翻
And we can essentially prove that these equations cannot be beaten in any simple way.
所以我现在要说的非常明显
So the possible elaborations I would say are now obvious,
我们尝试了所有可能
and we’ve tried all of them
但它们无一例外地
and none of them have seemed to
不能明显超出我们现在达到的成就
yield to anything that clearly advances our picture beyond where we are now.
所以问题是 我们还需要彻底重新思考吗
So the question is, do we need a radical rethinking?
基本原理出了什么问题吗
Is there something wrong with the fundamentals?
量子理论和广义相对论共同的物理理论基础
Is Einstein, in fact, wrong to slip in space-time on the ground floor of the theoretical physics
爱因斯坦引入时空概念错了吗
which is shared by both quantum field theory and general relativity?
或者我们处在这种情况下:
Or are we simply in that situation where you think
眼镜或钥匙丢失了 你认为自己遍寻整个公寓无果
you’ve searched your apartment everywhere for your missing spectacles or keys,
但事实是 它一直好端端地待在那里
but in fact, it was hiding in plain sight the whole time—
你只是没找对地方而已
You just didn’t think to look in the right place?
问题仍未得出定论 但有些人觉得
And I would say the jury is really out and the problem is that this is in some sense–
但我说这话不是以行内人的身份我实在是个门外汉
and I say this not as an insider in physics but really as an outsider
因为我本人没有受过物理方面的培训
since I wasn’t trained in that subject per se—
但是物理界是知识界的翘楚
But this is the world’s most accomplished intellectual community,
尽管有些物理界精英很好相处 有些不大搭理人
whether you find them easy to deal with or sometimes rather unpleasant as I occasionally do.
在我看来 没有任何一个团体能取得
There is no question in my mind that no other group has ever achieved anything
像物理界这样的成就
like the theoretical physics community.
但问题是 他们为什么被难住了
But the question is, why are they stumped?
他们需要的帮助来自何方
And if they do need help where can it come from?
尽管物理学家在化学 生物学领域有所贡献
It doesn’t seem that any of the chemists or the
但化学家和生物学家在物理学领域
biologists would have enough to contribute even
好像没什么大贡献
though physics has contributed to both of those fields.
所以真正的希望要么来自理论物理学家本人
And so the real hope is that it’s either going to come from theoretical physicists themselves,
要么来自那些孜孜不倦的数学家
from mathematicians who struggle to make any kind of contact
因为物理学教育相当严峻
because the pedagogy in physics is quite forbidding
总而言之 它没有数学教育那么“和蔼可亲”
(and I would say it’s not quite as good as the pedagogy in mathematics generally speaking),
对物理学有贡献的还包括一些陌生人
or it is going to come from some completely strange source,
比如名不见经传 闻所未闻的自学老师
maybe somebody who is a self-teacher, off the grid, that we’ve never heard of.
但我们已经了解物理界所有权威人士的成果
But we’ve heard from all of the leading lights and I would have to say that
而且我不得不说 关于如何推进物理学的发展
almost no one from the traditional community really has any kind of a great idea
传统物理界几乎没人有伟大的想法
as to how to make the next progress.
你可能觉得爱因斯坦的理论抽象
Well I think that if you think about Einstein’s vision abstractly, properly,
最后十有八九他的抽象理论被证明是正确的
in all probability I think he’ll be proved right in the end in the abstract.
但关键是 他的理论细节是否经得起推敲
But the key question is, did he get some of the particulars wrong?
爱因斯坦说过一句很漂亮的话
He has a beautiful quote where he says that
他说他的方程式就像一座两翼的大厦
his equation can be viewed as a mansion with two wings,
一翼由精美的大理石制成
one of which is made from fine marble
另一翼由廉价的木头制成
and the other is made from cheap wood
也就是大理石(引力)=木头(时空几何)
(being the two signs of the equality).
现在大多数人已经看到了廉价的木头
Now most people have looked at the cheap wood
他们说 物质的应力–能量张量理论
and said well, our theory of matter and the stress energy tensor
也就是时空几何可能需要更新
as it’s known technically is probably what needs to be upgraded
这样方程式两边就都是大理石了
so that the equation is pure marble on both sides.
爱因斯坦还提出了更扰乱人心的等效原理:
There’s a rather more disturbing possibility which is that
引力理论是由几何语言建立而成的
the marble is, in fact, a premature codification of the geometry
但我们不能一直沉醉于爱因斯坦方程式中
and that, in fact, it is not impossible that we have been so beguiled by the beauty and
大理石的美丽和优雅
elegance of the marble side of Einstein’s equation that
以至于没有时间和精力弄清真正的问题所在
we haven’t put nearly the time or the energy into figuring out whether that’s where the problem is.
但问题在于 如果我们沿着这条路走下去
But the problem for us if we do go down that route
那么爱因斯坦理论就会因此而无法发展
is that Einstein’s theory is so locked in at this point through path dependence.
我们的一切都建立在爱因斯坦的洞察力上
We’ve built everything upon his insights that
所以我们并不是很清楚
it’s not really clear how you could make a modification
如何在周围的一切崩塌以前修改物理基本原理
to the foundations of physics without having the whole thing collapse around you.
所以即使你打算突破常规
And so even if you have an idea that you’re going to do something very heterodox,
比如你质疑了几何学的基础
which is to question the bedrock or the marble of the geometry,
可问题是摩天大楼一直建立在坚固的几何基础上
the question is can you even get to it given the incredible skyscraper
你的理论哪里有立足之地呢
that has been built on his solid geometric foundations?
所以从某种意义上说
So this is in some sense the route that I’ve gone down,
我已经走的路就是试着思考新方法
which is to try to think about novel approaches.
如果你打算和传统物理界分道扬镳
If you are going to break with the community
那么在没有其它保证的情况下
it’s very difficult to keep up with that level of neural horsepower
你很难跟上物理界的马力水准
if you have any other commitments on your time.
所以在某种意义上 如果你选择了持不同意见
So in some sense if you choose the path of the dissident
走上非传统的 曲折之路
or the heterodox or the crank,
你会发现你唯一的希望和机会
you will find that your only hope and chance
就是持有一套关于游戏规则的新奇的想法
is to have a really novel idea about how this game goes
这样你就能给别人留下发展的空间
so that you have some time and some breathing room for everyone else.
当然了 大家都觉得前景不乐观
And, of course, nobody’s very optimistic about that prospect
因为你很难像爱因斯坦在专利局工作时一样
because it’s very difficult to do work on one’s own as Einstein did in the patent office.
实际上 自从爱因斯坦在专利局一鸣惊人
In fact we haven’t seen a second version of his story
我们还没见过他的故事有第二个版本
since his famous emergence from the patent office.
然而 实际上传统物理界也陷入了停滞
However, the fact is that the traditional community is also stalled out.
此时你有两匹马 两匹好像都没能力完成比赛
So you have two horses, neither of which seems to be capable of finishing the race,
所以当务之急是寻找更多的异端之路
and the question at this moment is should we be looking more to the heterodox—
是冒疯狂和曲折之险
running the risk of craziness and cranks—
还是寄希望于所谓的弦理论 M理论 超对称
or should we be looking more to the traditional community
这些好像已走进死胡同的传统物理理论呢?
which seems to have gotten itself in a cul-de-sac that we call string theory, M-theory and super symmetry?
问题仍未得出定论 但我觉得更有意思了
The jury is out but I think it’s become a much more interesting question
因为按照惯例 我们得和专家们一决高下
because traditionally we would have bet on the experts.
但专家们已经在该理论上耗时良久
But the experts have taken more time researching this theory
我觉得比任何团体花费的时间都多
than any group I think has ever taken to research a theory.
所以他们不能找到新意了
And the fact that they have been unable to find anything, in fact,
这意味着这场比赛的胜算已经发生了变化
means that perhaps the odds have changed in that race.

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视频概述

传统物理学已陷入了困境,我们将如何走出这个困境呢?是继续完善原有的理论,还是另辟蹊径?

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收集自网络

翻译译者

ccz

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LD

视频来源

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw88utUCx9M

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