Garrett Lisi has a new paper, “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.” Many people seem to think that I should have an opinion about it, but I don’t. It’s received a good deal of publicity, in part because of Lisi’s personal story — if you can write an story with lines like “A. Garrett Lisi, a physicist who divides his time between surfing in Maui and teaching snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, has come up with what may be the Grand Unified Theory,” you do it.
The paper seems to involve a novel mix-up between internal symmetries and spacetime symmetries, including adding particles of different spin. This runs against the spirit, if not precisely the letter, of the Coleman-Mandula theorem. Okay, maybe there is a miraculous new way of using loopholes in that theorem to do fun things. But I would be much more likely to invest time trying to understand a paper that was devoted to how we can use such loopholes to mix up bosons and fermions in an unexpected way, and explained clearly why this was possible even though you might initially be skeptical, than in a paper that purports to be a theory of everything and mixes up bosons and fermions so casually.
So I’m sufficiently pessimistic about the prospects for this idea that I’m going to spend my time reading other papers. I could certainly be guessing wrong. But you can’t read every paper, and my own judgment is all I have to go on. Someone who understands this stuff much better than I do will dig into it and report back, and it will all shake out in the end. Science! It works, bitches.
For a discussion that manages to include some physics content, see Bee’s post and the comments at Backreaction.