There is a lot of controversy over the existence of a Theory of Everything (ToE), and as far as I know, we are a long way from having a possible candidate. But what interests me is, what after that? If a Theory of Everything is truly found, will there be anything left for physics to do? Is a ToE actually the end of Physics? Or are there things that will remain unexplained even after a ToE is found out?

Edit (7/1/2016): Just to make it fit for this site, my question is What are the areas of physics that would require working on, even if a ToE is discovered?

I hope I have been able to "isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs".

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    $\begingroup$ Something to ponder: what exactly do you think most physicists do with their careers? I assure you, the vast majority of professional physicists are not working on anything remotely like a theory of everything, despite the publicity such people might get. Most physicists study complex phenomena where we already know all the "fundamental" ingredients we need, but there are still plenty of problems to be solved. Having the fundamental theory in hand won't change their lives in the slightest. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Jan 6 '16 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ I've edited the question now, is it still "too broad"? $\endgroup$ – Aritra Das Jan 7 '16 at 8:37

No, I think. There are many open problems in condensed matter physics. For example, I heard from my professors that the mechanism behind new superconductors is still a mystery.

Also. To understand the underlying rules does not always explain the system as a whole. There are complex systems that obeys simple underlying rules but cannot be explained directly by these simple rules, like biological systems.

And even simple rules could develop complex results. Examples like the game of life and the cellular automata. So I think there are still much more for physicists to explain.

  • $\begingroup$ Precisely. TOE is foo's gold, a trap. Michio Kaku should be stripped of his power for ever mentioning TOE ideas. $\endgroup$ – BananaCats Author Oct 12 '16 at 19:29

We effectively have a TOE (Standard Model + GR, combined perturbatively) for almost all experimentally accessible conditions. And there is currently lots and lots of non-particle non-string-theory physics research (most physics research, in fact) where we essentially know the fundamental equations, but where these equations don't let us find the answers immediately.

So, unless we get to the point where we can deduce the behavior of any system from the TOE, there will still be lots of physics left to do.

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    $\begingroup$ Is the unavailability of experimental methods or their high expense (ie like the LHC ) to test newer more advanced theories also a cause for the alleged stunting of the growth of science ? (P.S I'm a total layman in these matters, please excuse me for my audacity) $\endgroup$ – Gaurav Jan 6 '16 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ Even if we could deduce the behavior of any system from the TOE, there will still be a lot of physics, engineering, mathematics, and teaching left to do. The TOE therefore is not a great achievement. If any one gets a Nobel for a TOE, the Nobel's importance will be completely devalued. No physicist can go into TOE land without quacking out. $\endgroup$ – BananaCats Author Oct 12 '16 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ "We effectively have a TOE (Standard Model + GR, combined perturbatively)." Do you have a reference for this? $\endgroup$ – Luke May 30 '18 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Luke: The fact there are no proposed experiments that physicists generally agree will test a theory of quantum gravity shows that the Standard Model + GR, combined perturbatively, is enough to predict everything currently experimentally accessible. $\endgroup$ – Peter Shor May 31 '18 at 9:49

One may have a TOE, but is it the best or only TOE? There are arguments that we cannot know the answer to these questions.


It's a question of definition what really is a physics, where the engineering and applied sciences begin etc. In this point of view:

$A)$ There is really lot of uncertainties and blank spaces when it comes to human senses and cognitive sciences and their connections to "objective" physics.

$B)$ There is much of cases that is not "staring at the face of creation" but are still unsolved (or not fully solved). The most significant cases (in my humble opinion) are solutions of Navier-Stokes equations. And there are plenty more of this topics waiting for new formulations (as e.g. Lighthill did for vortex sound generation in case of Navier-Stokes equations).


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