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Boundary conditions in the context of string theory

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Calculating the probability of possible solutions for the universe
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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In my book, The Quark and the Jaguar, I mention the possibility that the predictions are probabilistic, that our universe may have one out of a number of possible solutions, and that the probability of such a solution may be calculable. Perhaps it's e to the minus 2 script S, where script S is some kind of loop corrected and Euclideanized action for the situation under discussion. In that case, the lowest S would be… state… the lowest S solution would be the one with the highest probability, or if they degenerate, the lowest S solutions would be the ones with the highest probability. That would greatly reduce the predictive power of the theory, but not necessarily to the point where it would be unsatisfactory as a theory. It might reduce the predictive power. I don't regard it as such a horrible thing if that were to happen because it… we know that the history of the universe is co-determined by the fundamental laws and a very long sequence of chance events or accidents, this would just add an initial accident. It would adjoin an initial accident to the list, which is perhaps unfortunate from the point of view of predictive power, but it wouldn't invalidate the whole idea. I don't know whether it will turn out to be that way or not. Perhaps there's one phase that's selected in some… some clear manner.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann is known for his creation of the eightfold way, an ordering system for subatomic particles, comparable to the periodic table. His discovery of the omega-minus particle filled a gap in the system, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.

Listeners: Geoffrey West

Geoffrey West is a Staff Member, Fellow, and Program Manager for High Energy Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is also a member of The Santa Fe Institute. He is a native of England and was educated at Cambridge University (B.A. 1961). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1966 followed by post-doctoral appointments at Cornell and Harvard Universities. He returned to Stanford as a faculty member in 1970. He left to build and lead the Theoretical High Energy Physics Group at Los Alamos. He has numerous scientific publications including the editing of three books. His primary interest has been in fundamental questions in Physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles and their interactions. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena grew out of his work on scaling in quantum chromodynamics and the unification of all forces of nature. In 1996 this evolved into the highly productive collaboration with James Brown and Brian Enquist on the origin of allometric scaling laws in biology and the development of realistic quantitative models that analyse the influence of size on the structural and functional design of organisms.

Tags: The Quark and the Jaguar

Duration: 1 minute, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010