'The Theory of Everything' by Wolfram Gets Criticized by Physicists

The researcher and entrepreneur wants more recognition from the scientific world, but that's not happening right now.
Fabienne Lang
Stephen WolframJoi Ito/Flickr

Last month, physicist and entrepreneur Stephen Wolfram in essence claimed to have created a theory of everything. Wolfram went on to publish a 448-page paper explaining his "path to the fundamental theory of physics." Quite the manifesto!

However, the scientific community isn't buying into this theory quite yet and has been questioning his thought process and theories. 


Convincing peers

According to Scientific American, who first reported on the matter, many of the scientists who have read Wolfram's paper are not convinced. They have stated that the main issue with his ideas is that they're too computational. The Universe and the laws of physics are treated like a computer that's running code.

So, for now, these scientists are sticking closely to the tried and tested theories, which they believe are more accurate than Wolfram's.

Wolfram's ideas were in fact first put forward in his 2002 book "A New Kind of Science," which was well-received by the press, but not the physics community. 

"I do fault myself for not having done this 20 years ago," Wolfram told Scientific American. "To be fair, I also fault some people in the physics community for trying to prevent it happening 20 years ago. They were successful."

Wolfram explained his to-the-point thinking about his new ideas "Even when the underlying rules for a system are extremely simple, the behavior of the system as a whole can be essentially arbitrarily rich and complex. And this got me thinking: Could the universe work this way?"

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Wolfram has yet to identify these rules, however, and without rules, concrete new predictions can't be tried and tested. 

"The experimental predictions of [quantum physics and general relativity] have been confirmed to many decimal places—in some cases, to a precision of one part in [10 billion]," said Daniel Harlow, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "So far I see no indication that this could be done using the simple kinds of [computational rules] advocated by Wolfram. The successes he claims are, at best, qualitative."

As seen by Harlow's comment, which is echoed within the scientific community, sticking to the tried-and-test rules they already know is more appealing at the moment. It looks like the theory of everything will remain right where it's been for the time being.

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