Also on The Portal Wiki.

Eric and Lee Smolin join Dr. Brian Keating on the Into the Impossible podcast to discuss theories of everything, including Eric’s Theory of Geometric Unity.

Also on The Portal Wiki.

Eric Weinstein joined via Clubhouse in the last half hour of this conversation between Brian Keating and Dan Hooper regarding Fermilab’s recent muon g-2 measurement.

The description below was excerpted from the original YouTube video’s description by Dr. Brian Keating.

As the new field of astro-particle physics rapidly develops, we are witnessing an exciting time in the history of science. In addition to the progress being made in the traditional areas of experimental particle physics (accelerator experiments), exciting developments are also taking place in the use of astrophysical experiments to study elementary particles. The most striking example of this success is the measurement of the neutrino masses and mixing angles that have been made over the last decade. Many of the questions asked by particle physicists are difficult to address with collider experiments and are being explored ever increasingly by astrophysicists. These efforts include the development of particle dark matter searches, ultra-high energy cosmic rays detectors, gamma-ray telescopes and high-energy neutrino telescopes. Professor Hooper’s research is focused primarily, although not entirely, on studying and exploring particle physics beyond the Standard Model using astrophysics.

Also on The Portal Wiki.

The description below was taken from the original YouTube video’s description by Dr. Brian Keating.

#GeometricUnity#EricWeinstein#ThePortal​ Eric Weinstein, host of the Portal Podcast, reveals Geometric Unity, his provocative new Theory of Everything. First discussed in 2013, later explored on the Joe Rogan Experience and Lex Fridman’s podcast, I am delighted Eric revealed the published version FIRST on The INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE Podcast.

See this Collection of Videos in Support of Geometric Unity​

Watch Weinstein’s “April Fool’s” 2020 episode of The Portal, where he explains his theory of Geometric Unity:

Watch Weinstein’s latest interview on The Joe Rogan Experience.

Table of Contents


This transcript was generated with by Aardvark from this content’s YouTube version. It was edited by Aardvark. Further corrections and contributions were provided by Brooke.


Brian Keating: [Inaudible] And we are pleased to bring you a longtime friend of the campus, a friend of this cosmologist, a friend of physics, and that is none other than Dr. Eric Weinstein, who today is joining us from an undisclosed location, but maybe we’ll get into that. We have already 114 people watching with many thumbs up. One thumbs down from my mother, Mom, how could you do that? That’s wrong, Mom. Don’t do that. It’s just to me she said, not to you. Eric, how are you doing today?

Eric Weinstein: I’m well Brian, good to be with you. 

Brian Keating: It’s great to be with you. It’s been four months exactly, or three months exactly, since we last conversed via this medium when we had on our mutual friends Max Tegmark and Garrett Lisi. And that was of course very enjoyable for me, to go over this, go over some of the long standing questions I’ve been having in this exploration of the multiverse of brilliant minds that grace me with their presence on the Into the Impossible podcast. 

I have been not a stranger to the work that you’ve been working on. Some say it is the work of a lifetime. Some say it is revolutionary, and could have tremendous implications. Some have questions about it, because of its far reaching implications. And we’re talking about universal theories of everything, perhaps a new one created by today’s guest, Eric Weinstein. And that goes by the moniker Geometric Unity (GU), and I’ve been fascinated with this ever since I heard about it probably ten years ago, almost ten years ago now. And today, I thought it would be fun to get Eric on the show, as he has promised to at least be interested in coming on to discuss recent developments that the listenership of this fine podcast would be interested to know. And as you know Eric, we go deep. 

Should a Theory of Physics Say Anything about God?

So first of all, I want to say thank you, and I want to ask you what is new in the theories of everything space? In particular, we’re hearing a lot of talk nowadays from people like Michio Kaku, who will be a guest on my podcast next week, about “the God equation”. And my first question to you, which is always of interest to me personally, is why does a theory of physics have anything to say about God, or any relevance to God whatsoever? Before we get into the nitty gritty details.

Eric Weinstein: Well, there are two things that I think that are up, which are—one is man’s rigorous attempt to understand his circumstance necessarily intersects you with God, which is a traditional explanation for why is everything here, and the other is that God sells. Part of the problem is that if you name something “the really important particle that we just discovered”, that’s not going to sell as many books as “the God particle”. And so we want to know God’s thoughts, we want God particles, and then we back away from them. We claim, “No no no, I didn’t mean God particle, I meant god damn particle.” This is a game that we play with the public, where we try to amp the public up and get them hot and bothered, and once they’re sufficiently in a lather, we try to educate them about the real nature of the universe. So think about it from a computer perspective as syntactic sugar. We’re pouring God all over something hoping that people will swallow it.

Brian Keating: And of course, I’m holding up on the screen right now—on my screen I’m sharing a highlighted section from that great work of literature known as A Brief History of Time. This was one of the books that got me interested in cosmology and astronomy by the late great Stephen Hawking, who passed away exactly three years ago on Einstein’s birthday, on Pi Day, at least here in the United States the 14th of March. By the way, do you know what other famous figure he shares his demise date with Eric?

Eric Weinstein: I don’t. 

Brian Keating: A Jewish intellectual by the name of Karl Marx. So Karl had an impact on universal capitalism, and Einstein, of course, was born that day, and Hawking died that day. And in the final paragraph of the book, he says if we can discover, if we can all have part in a final theory, “Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why is it that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.” And, as you said, these things sell. It was rumored that he said every equation cuts your audience/readership in half, every mention of God doubles it. So at some level, there’s conservation here, but I was always taught—

Eric Weinstein: [Inaudible]

Brian Keating: Sorry?

Eric Weinstein: Go ahead.

Brian Keating: I was always taught physics is not for “Why” questions, and yet there it is. He’s bringing up “Why” questions. What do you make of that? Can physics provide the “Why”?

Eric Weinstein: I feel like, when you are talking in these terms, you are reasonably confident that the person is not trying to read the mind of God, because one wouldn’t trifle with God in such a way. I believe that in some sense, if you’re really worried that the telephone is connected, you’d probably speak about this differently. You might be humorous, you might—I don’t know. There’s something about the fact that we talk in this way, and it feels to me like when Moses is seeing a bush that is not consumed by flame but appears to be in flame, he knows pretty well that you should be a little careful. And I just, I don’t understand the impulse to constantly God-ify everything.

Experiment and the Scientific Method

Brian Keating: And certainly, I’ll have on Michio Kaku next week on the Into the Impossible podcast, and I hope maybe we’ll get a cameo from you. But in his book, he writes something very provocative. And he says at the end of his book, he quotes those lines from Stephen Hawking, which is kind of like this infinite regress, which kind of strains credulity, so to speak. But he says, at one point he says, “It’s not fair to test string theory, to ask to test string theory experimentally, because we don’t know its final principles.” But the same, I claim, could have been said about quantum mechanics. Do we know the final principles of quantum mechanics? Does that immunize it from experimental test?

Eric Weinstein: Again, these are the same questions over and over again. There’s something very wrong about the simplistic nature of the scientific method, and the relationship between experiment and theory, and instance and idea. We’re effectively playing through the exact same set of problems: where we hold up one theory to some sort of experimental threshold, we give a pass to another theory. We’re all the time pretending that we’re not actually doing what we’re really doing, which is observing who believes in what theory. 

One of the reasons string theory got such a boost is that the brilliance of the initial volunteers for the first string revolution around 1984 were so good that we were inclined to give them a huge pass, at least at first. And then, we have this differential application where the string theorists become paradoxically the most persnickety about what is a prediction, because they don’t want to give up the fact that they aren’t really making predictions. So if you, for example, predict internal quantum numbers of the next particles to be found, but you don’t come up with an energy threshold, and you don’t say what will invalidate your theory, they get angry. Because, in fact, what we’ve done is we’ve given them an asymmetric relationship with the scientific method through special pleading. 

So we have a really unfortunate situation, which is that we have highly simplistic Popperians, highly simplistic devotees of the scientific method—and I really think that people need to go back to Dirac’s 1963 Scientific American article to understand that the real issue is very weird, and we haven’t really talked about it. There were three big names in the 20th century in my mind, who contributed something like physical law. And leaving Dr. Mills out of it for the moment, I would say that Einstein, Dirac, and Yang tower, not necessarily that they’re the best physicists, although I think I could make a pretty good claim in all three cases, but that physical law is different than the consequences of physical law. And the people who seem to do well with physical law employ mechanisms that would drive Sabine Hossenfelder to distraction. They talk a lot about beauty, and elegance, and simplicity. And what Dirac said was don’t force people who come up with new physical laws to play the game of agreement with experiment, because the instance of an idea can easily be off and not agree with experiment.

And then you have a problem whereby you’re pushing people initially. The instant you open your mouth, “Say what it is that would invalidate your theory so we’ll know that you’re wrong if you’re wrong.” And I don’t know who this is intended to fool. It’s completely irresponsible. And what it is, is an attempt to constantly take anyone who would come forward with an idea and put them instantaneously on the defensive. I think that the right thing to do is to sit people down and say you’re supposed to be adults. If we look at our history, everybody who has proposed new physical law and gotten it right had errors. Einstein didn’t get the divergence free part. He was vague before that with Grossman. Famously, Dirac’s theory of quantum electrodynamics took almost 20 years before the renormalization revolution supplied the ability to compute with it. We had a confusion between the bare and the dressed mass. And famously, the degeneracy between the electron and the proton: we had two particles that Dirac claimed to be anti-particles, because he was too timid to suggest a positron and an antiproton, which Heisenberg [inaudible] has the mass asymmetry. Yang’s theory, if left massless, wouldn’t come up with the right rates for beta decay if you didn’t impart mass to the W and Z, to the intermediate vector bosons. 

So I think that you have a situation by which new ideas are always not properly instantiated, and the community that is constantly trying to make sure that… I think that the idea is that people are foolish enough to play this game with the most aggressive members of the community, because the implication is if you won’t come up with a testable prediction that invalidates your theory, you’re anti scientific and we have no time for this. And so people, well like, you know, with the \(\text{SU}(5)\) theory, they immediately said okay, well it predicts proton decay. Well, grand unification is a larger idea, and some versions and instantiations do predict proton decay, and some do not. So what are you going to say about that? I think that the problem is that we’re not in an adult phase where we’ve faced up to the fact that we have almost 50 years of stagnation, and what you’re seeing with this proliferation of new claimants to have fundamental theories is, in part, that string theory has finally weakened itself, and the aging of the particular cohort—which is Baby Boomers, who are the string theory proponents—they’ve gotten weak enough that effectively other people feel emboldened. And I think Stephen Wolfram said this recently, that in a previous era, he would have expected to have been attacked. But we’ve been waiting around for so long that perhaps the political economy of unification and wild ideas has changed somewhat.

Approaches to a Theory of Everything

Brian Keating: And before we get off the subject of the “Why” questions, I do like a framework that I’ve heard you, and almost no one besides you, portray laws of fundamental physics, and that’s using the good old fashioned mechanism we were all taught in high school journalism: the “Five W” approach. And I wonder if we could start there, with why that is a good deconstructivist approach to ascertaining the realm of validity of a physical law, of a purported new theory, a theory of everything—which I dislike that moniker as you know. But nevertheless, can you talk about that framework and how, for our up and coming but bright listeners, of which there are many currently watching right now, how you approach that using the “Five W’s”, why that’s so important, and then maybe that will segue into a description of the actual physical instantiation of that framework.

Eric Weinstein: I will point out that how has the “W” on the end. Yeah, I think that… I usually do it as “Where” and “When”, “Who” and “What”, “How” and “Why”. And let’s just say, first of all, what we generally speaking mean by a theory. What we’re usually talking about is a way in which waves can propagate and interact in various media. All right? The theories of the world are theories of waves and interaction. Waves imply a medium. So the “Where and When” is sort of a particular kind of a substrate, usually, which Einstein imbued with the name spacetime, “Where” being space, “When” being time. The “Who” and the “What” I take to be fractional spin and integral spin particles; every particle that we know of that’s fundamental is one or the other. So, let’s say that the “What” is the fermionic, fractional spin particles, and the “Who” is the integral spin, generally speaking force particles, non-gravitational—but then we also have to throw in the Higgs and the metric for spin-0 and spin-2. And then there’s the “How” and the “Why”, the “How” would be the equations of motion, and the “Why” would be the Lagrangian that generates the equations of motion. 

And so, in some sense, it’s not surprising then that the theory has to conform to the basic idea of when you’re trying to tell somebody something, these are the questions that we want to ask, and it’s a surprisingly tight mapping. And I just find that people can better remember that, because very often what we’ve done is we’ve taught people to focus on the wrong things when we talk about fundamental physics. They’re overly focused on entanglement. They’re very focused on quantum measurement. They have no idea about bundles, they don’t have ideas about symmetry groups or why symmetry groups are important. And so, for some reason, when people learn about theories of everything, they’re very animated, but they’re very animated as to on the grounds of what has sold books recently.

Limits and Methods for Constructing the Universe

Brian Keating: That’s right. And we have no shortage of multiverses, double-slit experiments, spooky action at a distance, and other invocations of this gentleman [Albert Einstein]. I point out that Einstein is Weinstein with[out] a W. Okay, you have a fascination with W’s, obviously. So, I want to go starting with Einstein, to something that I know is very influential to you. And it’s sort of a provocative question that has inspired you, apparently. And that was a question, a stylized question, posed to Ernst Strauss by Albert Einstein, regarding the amount of freedom present in our field theoretic universe. What is that question?

Eric Weinstein: Well, the question is how much freedom is there in what we take to be the Standard Model—and I’m sorry, I’m using a term of art accidentally. How much freedom is there to construct the universe? And is this one of many that could have been constructed, or is it effectively unique? And are we talking about the God concept, if you will, as a design constraint, where things are the way they are because they could not be otherwise? And I think that it’s a very interesting question, because in some sense, I don’t know that he meant it this way, but I took it to be a research program.

Brian Keating: And in terms of it providing this direction for you, is the question itself the research direction? Or is the overarching theme, of sort of freedom, flexibility within physical laws, the programmatic kind of marching orders that you took unto yourself?

Eric Weinstein: It’s an interesting question. I mean, I think that what I don’t understand is that people talk about theories of everything casually, as if a theory of everything is sort of—it may not be a very artful term. It’s sort of theories of all the rules, not what can be played with once one knows all the rules. I guess what I take it to mean is that we have a problem of even conceiving of what a non-effective theory would be. Well, what is an ultimate theory? I mean, I think that in large measure I see two kind of canonical versions. One of them I would sort of associate with Garrett Lisi’s E8 idea, although I don’t believe that that works. You start with something incredibly rich that exists by necessity, like a large exceptional Lie group, or maybe a large finite group, or something that is somehow distinguished. And then you attempt to milk it for peculiarities that can be identified with our world, and that’s how you get the richness of our world. Whether or not you believe in Garrett’s theory, I do think it’s emblematic of an approach. 

Another approach is closer to embryology, where you start with something that is deceptively simple, like a single fertilized egg. Then you ask, does that attempt, in some sense, to bootstrap itself into the totality of existence? And that’s much closer to what I ended up doing. I mean, I considered Garrett’s E8 thing before I ever met Garrett, because E8 is spinorial, it’s chiral, it has lots of stylized things that seem to fit our world, but I couldn’t figure out how to really make it into a theory, and then I went the other direction. I think it’s pointless to ask why is there something rather than nothing, unless I’m mistaken. I think that the point of a fundamental theory is to get the scientists to accept the initial input is so uninteresting to go beyond that they put down their pens, and the theologians and philosophers take over.

If you imagine that the initial input to the universe is just 4 dimensions, for example, I don’t think that many scientists would be motivated to say “Why are there 4 dimensions?” at a scientific level, because that sort of begs the—it’s not enough of a clue for anything to proceed scientifically. I mean, maybe all versions have multiple dimensions, maybe there’s 17 dimensions too. So I think that in large measure, the gambit that I’m trying to follow, as misguided as it sounds, is, “Is four dimensions on its own, in the form of a manifold with a few extra mild conditions,” like a single unique spin structure, something like that… Orientable. “Is a nice 4-dimensional manifold sufficient to start the universe from effectively no other major assumptions?” And that’s how crazy this is.

Brian Keating: So when you say “this”, we’re talking about Geometric Unity. A reminder, we’re talking to Eric Weinstein, Dr. Eric Weinstein, proprietor of The Portal Podcast. And you can find his YouTube channel at nobani88, which is a cryptic reference to the year I had my first kiss. I don’t know why it’s called that, but it should be The Portal, we’ll get that fixed. Eric, if in the meantime, could you tilt your webcam down just a tiny bit, so your head is not at the bottom of the of the frame? That would make it—Yes, very good. Very nice. 

What is Fundamental?

So, what is fundamental? I’ve had these conversations just recently on my podcast with Dr. Stephen Meyer, who you know is a proponent of the intelligent design hypothesis, I’m not going to get into that. I am a critic of that, and then we are yet good friends. But he makes the case that in things like the Guth Vilenkin conjecture, or in the Lawrence Krauss universe from nothing, we always start with the laws of nature and instantiation thereof. So too with debates I’ve had with Sean Carroll, a friend of mine, and a greatly respected mentor in the field. That God could have chosen to start the universe with an empty Hilbert space is his conjecture, and therefore, there’s a simpler universe than the one we inhabit. We’re not going to talk about Sean necessarily, we’re not going to talk about Stephen Meyer. But I want to talk about what is the fundamental element, the yealm, the thing from which emerges spacetime? Or is the spacetime, or observerse if we can go there now, is that truly fundamental, or is it emergent? What comes first, the observerse or the observer?

Eric Weinstein: Well first of all, I mean, let me just say a few words. What we’re talking about is crazy. And I think it’s really important to just own up to the fact that for people who want sober physics, this is probably not the channel for you today. Now… No, I mean, I take this stuff very seriously because I don’t like the bullshitty aspect. And we’re using April 1st as a contrivance, because I think that many people are induced to self-inhibit, because particular members of the community are incredibly aggressive in making it extremely expensive to explore ideas. And I’d like to think that living outside the community, I could start a tradition to make it at least inexpensive one day a year to throw the middle finger to those people who like to play Simon Says games, or reputational destruction games. Now—

Brian Keating: A purge. A purge for physics.

Eric Weinstein: Well, there should be many more such days, and I’d love to get there. But let’s at least start with one a year. So, this is my second year round trying to hit this. Look, I believe, that at some level, that the initial ingredient may just be a 4-dimensional manifold. And then things emerge from that. A 4-dimensional manifold with a little bit of extra structure—but that’s why this is crazy.

Brian Keating: So it starts from very modest inputs, and from such modest inputs comes a rather extravagant universe. Let’s talk about the inputs. I don’t know how closely you want to follow, if you want to share screens or anything like that, we’re free to do that. What are the inputs? There are the players, the matter players, there are the gauge bosons, there are new predictions, there are new concepts that Geometric Unity has provided. And so the question, I guess first of all, is how close do we want to follow this prescription of what has been portrayed in the past? And/or do we want to talk about what is new in the preceding year since the last episode of April Fool’s purge podcasting began with The Portal special episode?

Eric Weinstein: Well, it’s very interesting to consider that we’ve had a year where there’s been a fair amount of interest in it. And, let’s be honest, very little of the interest has been particularly detailed. I would have thought that maybe what I said was ununderstandable. And then, oddly, a paper purporting to critique the theory managed to demonstrate that they had understood fairly well what I had said, and that it was understandable. Unfortunately, there was one named author and a [sic] imaginary friend, and I don’t respond well to people posing behind pseudonyms. But part of that was constructive. And, you know—I’m attempting to share a bit of screen now. 

Brian Keating: Okay. Here, I’ll add that. Okay. So now it’s full, you’ve got the full screen on the paper.

Forgotten Problems in Physics

Eric Weinstein: So effectively, what I’m asking is, can a manifold \(X^4\) produce the baroque structure of the Standard Model? Now—and gravity. And if you think back to the famous mug popular in the CERN gift shop, there really isn’t that much going on in the Standard Model if you group terms in particular ways. But there’s a lot of weirdness. Why the Lorentz group, why \(\text{SU}(3) \times \text{SU}(2) \times \text{U}(1)\) for the internal symmetries generating the forces, why three families? I thought that something that many younger viewers may not be aware of is that things really changed around 1983, ’84. If you think about the original anomaly cancellation of Green and Schwarz in 1984, I believe, you could ask what was physics like right before that moment? And I think it’s absolutely shocking, because we don’t realize the extent to which the string theorists really redefined what the major problems in physics were. I think most people in the post-string era somehow believe that the major issue is quantum gravity. And I don’t really, I just find it astounding, because that’s really what the string theorists were selling. 

So this is from Murray Gell-Mann’s address to the second Shelter Island conference, where they’re trying to recapture the magic from Ram’s Head Inn after World War II, when the young physicists were invited to—feeling that they had done well on the engineering project that was the Manhattan Project, they were buoyed in their confidence. And years later in 1983, Murray Gell-Mann says well, what are the big problems? “As usual, solving the problems of one era has shown up the critical questions for the next. The first ones that come to mind looking at the standard theory of today are,” and then, I think this is absolutely shocking and indicates the extent to which the current generation has really given up on doing what we would typically have called physics, relegating the things that are relevant to the physical universe that we see usually to the realm of particle phenomenology.

Okay, so what are his big questions? Why this particular structure for the families? In particular, why flavor chiral with left- and right-handed particles being treated differently by the weak force, rather than say vectorlike ones left and right transformable into being treated the same? Next, why three families? That generalizes Robbie’s famous question “Who ordered that?” as if the universe was a Jewish deli, commenting on the muon. How many sets of Higgs bosons are there? We talk about the Higgs boson, but maybe there are multiple sets and there are multiple different scales at which symmetry is broken and mass is imparted through soft mass mechanisms. Lastly, why \(\text{SU}(3) \times \text{SU}(2) \times \text{U}(1)\)? Remember, \(\text{SU}(3)\) is the color force for the strong force, but \(\text{SU}(2)\) here is weak isospin, which has not yet become the W and Z’s. And this \(\text{U}(1)\) is weak hypercharge, which has not yet become electromagnetism through symmetry breaking. And in some sense, I just feel sort of sad that we don’t think of these as questions because we know not to ask them. 

And somehow we got convinced that we were being called to quantize gravity, not necessarily—if gravity is geometric, you could just as easily have said should we be geometrizing the quantum? And if we geometrize the quantum, you would notice that this era would have been triumphant, because that’s really what happened. We didn’t do a lot of physics, but we really did put the framework of physics—that is quantum field theory, quantum measurement, classical field theory—all in very geometric frameworks. In fact, I would say that there were three really big revolutions, although we don’t talk in these terms. One was the discovery by Simons and Yang of the Wu–Yang dictionary, I’m blanking on Wu’s name, which Is Singer was also instrumental in taking to Oxford. Then there’s the geometric quantization revolution, where the quantum was understood to be intrinsically geometric because the Heisenberg uncertainty relations should emerge from the curvature tensor of a prequantum line bundle, but the sections being the states of a vector space once polarization is taken into account. And then lastly, the geometric quantum field theory revolution, in which we came to understand the quantum field theory really isn’t about the physical world, that it gets applied in one particular set of inputs to the physical world, but it’s actually a mature mathematical enhancement of bordism theory from topology, strangely. So, those three major revolutions all went exactly counter to quantized gravity. They said, “Let’s geometrize the quantum instead,” and so they did.

Brian Keating: And did—how successful should we regard this? The resulting byproduct or lack thereof progress, lack thereof in the intervening…? 

Eric Weinstein: This is very unpleasant to have to say this, but I think that we are talking about a great era with heroes. The top hero among them is undoubtedly Ed Witten. But I do believe that Yang and Simons, I think Yang and Simon’s discovery of Ehresmannian bundle theory, which has a precursor—and I’m blanking on the gentleman’s name (Robert Hermann), all the self published books from from the ’60s. It’ll come to me, but there was a man in Boston who probably got there a little bit earlier. And then I would say that you have accidental physicists. Dan Quillen, for example, did a huge amount to talk about connections on determinant bundles and the like, which come out of various quantization procedures, particularly with Berezin integration of fermion sectors. So I think that a lot of things got done to shore up what we do to mature input into a quantum theory. It just, it wasn’t physics, per se. It was sort of the mathematics of physics. And I think that that was very frustrating, which is, you know, it’s sort of, to physicists it’s yeoman’s work. They wanted to go to Stockholm, and they ended up winning the first Fields Medal won by a physicist, and I think—it’s weird. It’s like, what is your time? Your time is whatever it is that can be done. And they thought their time was to quantize gravity. “Well guess again,” nature said, “we have something incredibly important.” So I feel like I’m trying to rescue their legacy. They want to go down as string theorists for the most part. And they want to say that string theory was the most successful of any claimant, even though it wasn’t very successful. And, my feeling is—

Brian Keating: Now, can you say it’s not—Go ahead.

Eric Weinstein: Well, yes, I feel like we can say that it’s not very successful, because they gave us the terms in which we should evaluate it. You know, I remember being told “Give us 10 years, we’ll have the whole thing cleaned up. Don’t worry your pretty little head, we’ll be fine,” or, “We have a finite number of theories to check.” And then lo and behold, there’s a continuum, or why is it called string theory when there are branes involved? And it was because if you asked once upon a time, they’d say, “Well, it’s not like mathematicians think about higher-dimensional objects beyond strings.” There was an explanation for why there were no branes. And, you know, that—yes, string theory has failed in its own terms. Now is it salvageable, are there pivots beyond? Yeah, sure. I’m not saying that they didn’t stumble on a tremendous amount of structure, maybe that structure ultimately carries the day. But I do think that the idea that they’re entitled to this many pivots without having to become self-reflective is preposterous. And I think many people feel that way, and they know that they might pay for such a statement with their career. And since I’ve prepaid, it falls to people like me and to you, perhaps, to say look, the string theorists weren’t able to confront their failure.

The Grand Nature of Physics

Brian Keating: When we talk about these things in rather, some say, grandiose terms, I think sometimes we do lose sight.

Eric Weinstein: [Inaudible] I really don’t want to use the word grandiose. Like, are we going to talk about grandiose unified theory? Let’s be honest about it. Physics is the most honest way to ask the most grand questions in the universe.

Brian Keating: Absolutely.

Eric Weinstein: If physics is grandiose, then we’ve got real problems. Then grand doesn’t exist. And if grand doesn’t exist, then grandiose doesn’t exist. So, my feeling is no. This is the actual grand quest, and we’re not going to back off it and be pussies about it. This is not grandiose, this is the real deal.

Brian Keating: I was thinking, speaking of myself, being a self-aggrandizement of seeking these ultimate questions, but we do, and I was gonna give physics a good deal of credit, because we do ask these ultimate questions. And yet, of course, day to day basis, I remember wanting to help you out as little [a] role I could play in the exposition of this magnificent opus that you’re working on, and saying, “Eric, this is great, but I got a bunch of kids that I gotta go pick up.” And you said “Well, maybe that’s why we’ll never get off the planet, because guys and girls”—

Eric Weinstein: Everybody has to pick up their dry cleaning.

Brian Keating: Every time you gotta pick up your dry cleaning—but when we lose sight of it, I find with my colleagues, and I’ll speak, because I doubt many of them are listening. I really don’t feel like they’re that curious, intellectually. I think it is a job. I think their their job is the dry cleaning. And I can sort of prove that in some ways, because I often hear them say things like well, Eric is a showman, he’s a podcaster. He’s a host, and he’s had training, and he’s very smooth, and he can speak well. And I say “Well, do you think he do you think he emerged from the womb like that? And by the way, Mister or Missus Professor, Doctor Professor, you have got a lot of training in quantum field theory and string theory yourself. That was presumably a challenge for you. You didn’t emerge womb-like, you know, from the caverns of the womb, knowing quantum field theory, so you had to work at that.” So it’s all about prioritization. Why do you think physicists aren’t more troubled by the lack of progress, that our mutual friend Sabine has pointed out, in the last 50 years, at least in fundamental physics? My colleagues will rightfully point out tremendous advances in cosmological theory, in condensed matter theory, etc. But why isn’t that more troubling? I think the answer is we’re not that curious. You have a vision of us that’s maybe more more refined than I think we deserve, and that’s because you’re not a professional physicist.

Eric Weinstein: Look, I feel very similar about my feelings about physics as an outsider to the way I view the UK. When I go to the UK, very often they they seem to be defeated, because they lost their empire which they should never have had in the first place. But my feeling is if you really look at the UK, it’s an amazing place, and any outsider should be able to see that. I guess what I think about here is that any outsider who really takes physics seriously should be able to see that this is our premier community, intellectually. It is the most accomplished of intellectual communities. And it’s also very badly behaved, and it’s fallen on hard times. 

It’s like seeing a grand family that’s forgotten itself, because it has to constantly submit to the arXiv. We now have the snarXiv, as you know. The snarXiv is filled with papers that are indistinguishable as a Turing test from arXiv papers. I think I looked for like, I don’t know, the Gell-Mann–Nishijima formula on hep-th, and I realized that people really weren’t doing physics. You know, there’s certain things that you would have to do if you were going to do physics. I don’t mean to say that no physics is going on, but my God, it’s really people that just don’t believe anymore. I think that when you’re talking about almost 50 years of a particular kind of failure in fundamental physics, where theories and predictions effectively become accepted as being the likely explanations for the universe. We’re getting to the point where everybody who’s contributed to the Standard Model after this year will be over 70.

Understanding Geometric Unity

Brian Keating: What do you say to the younger people who say they can’t understand it, they can’t comprehend Geometric Unity. Our friend Sabine, she can’t understand it. Is it too complex for her?

Eric Weinstein: No, there’s a bunch of different games. One game is the “I can’t understand all this fancy pants stuff.” Another game is “Be hyper specific so we can invalidate you.” There’s another game, which is, “Well, we know that you don’t know quantum field theory really well, so what energy level do these things kick in at?” And I find all of this incredibly dispiriting and exhausting, because it’s also transparent. We can say what Geometric Unity actually is. We can draw a picture and people can get it. And in fact, I was talking to my good buddy Joe Rogan earlier today, and a particular group of people that listen to my podcast put up a site for Joe called If you want to navigate to—in part, this is below Sabine’s level. But I’m happy to, you know, if you got her on the horn, she could understand what’s being said.

Brian Keating: Yeah, I have no doubt about that. The question is, when we talk in the language of bundles, of fibers, etc, at what level do people kind of lose the physics for the geometry, for the pure mathematical? And I think—

Eric Weinstein: Let’s walk the first step, and then let’s watch people who are technically capable claim that they can’t follow what’s going on, because I don’t think it’s true.

Brian Keating: So…

Eric Weinstein: You have \(X^n\) for a manifold of n-dimensions. Make it orientable with a particular orientation, make it have a unique spin structure, whatever you need to do to set it up as a decent manifold. Replace that manifold, momentarily, by the bundle of all metric tensors pointwise on the same space. And that way, spacetime would be a particular section of that bundle. Let me see if I can find a…

So the first thing is that the observerse replaces spacetime. And, again, you’re not trying to kill off Einstein, you’re trying to recover Einstein from a different structure. So I’m looking…

Okay. So right here, I’ve got a 4-dimensional manifold. Imagine that I’m interested in looking at the bundle of all pointwise metrics, which is going to be—if the base space is 4-dimensional, make \(4 = n\)—it will be of dimension \(n^{\frac{n^2 + 3n}{2}}\). So \(4^2\) is 16, plus \(3n\), \(3 \times 4 = 12\). So \(16 + 12 = 28\), divided by 2 is 14. If you have a \((1,3)\) metric downstairs, I believe that you are naturally courting a \((7, 7)\) or \((9, 5)\) metric upstairs. And that is the first step in GU, which is that you replace a single space with one particular metric by a pair of spaces, a total space and a base space of a fiber bundle—this is in the strong form of GU—and physics mostly happens upstairs on the bundle of all metrics, not downstairs on the particular space that got you started. 

Here, \(U^4\) is an open set in \(X^4\). Okay, so effectively, what are we saying? We’re saying that physics is going to dance on not only the space of four coordinates, typically \(x\), \(y\), \(z\), and \(t\), or thinking in a coordinate-independent fashion, simply four parameters, it’s also going to dance on the space of rulers and protractors at every given point. And so that structure is the beginning of GU, and then you can recover Einstein, spacetime, by simply saying that if I have a section of that bundle, that’s a spacetime metric.

Brian Keating: So when you say in the simplest form, or in the reduced form of GU, what do you mean?

Eric Weinstein: Well, I gave three forms of GU. One form is the trivial form, in which you have the second space \(Y\) the same as the first space \(X\). That means that you can easily recover everything Einstein did as a form of Geometric Unity by trivially making the observerse irrelevant. You’re just repeating the same space twice, and you’ve got one map between them called the identity, and now you’re back in your old world. So without loss of generality, you cover that. Another one is a completely general world, which I think—What did we call it here… Well, I called the middle one the Einsteinian one, where you actually make the second space \(Y\) the space of metrics. And that’s the one that I think is the most interesting, but I don’t want to box myself in, because I don’t want to play these games of Simon’s “You said this,” or “You said that.” You know, I can play the lawyerly game as well as anyone if that’s what we are really trying to do. I thought we were trying to do physics. 

The thing that I’m trying to get at here is that I believe you and I are somehow having a pullback of a 14-dimensional conversation right now. My guess is that there is a space, with a \((7, 7)\) metric, probably more likely than a \((9, 5)\) metric, on 14 dimensions, where not only are the waves that are relevant going over the original coordinates \(x_1\) through \(x_4\), they’re also going through four ruler coordinates on the tangent bundle of the original \(x\) coordinates. So there are 4 rulers to measure the 4 directions, and then there are also going to be 6 protractors. Because if you name the directions John, Paul, George, and Ringo, you’d have John with Paul, John with George, John with Ringo, Paul with George, Paul with Ringo, George with Ringo. Right? And so, those 6 protractors are actually degrees of freedom for the fields, and the fields live on that space. 

Then the question is why do we perceive 4 dimensions and complicated fields? And the answer is pullbacks. When you have a metric, you have a map from the base space into the total space, so Einstein—we don’t think of it this way—is embedding a lifeless space which is without form, \(X^4\), into a 14-dimensional space before Geometric Unity ever even got on the scene, and giving him the ability to pull back information, which he may say is only happening on that tiny little slice, that little filament that is the 4-dimensional manifold swimming in a 14-dimensional world with a 10-dimensional normal bundle. But why not imagine that actually the fields are actually spread out over all 14 dimensions, and then all you’re seeing is pullback information downstairs. Now the metric is doing something new that it wasn’t doing before. It’s pulling back data that is natural to \(Y^{14}\) as if it was natural on X, but I call this invasive fields versus native fields, just because some species are invasive, and some species are endemic, or native. The interesting thing about the bundle of all spinors, sorry, the bundle of all metrics, is that it almost has a metric on it. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone mention this.

Brian Keating: The space—repeat that. The space of all metrics almost has a metric on it?

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, nearly.

Brian Keating: Explain?

Eric Weinstein: So in other words, assume that you haven’t chosen a metric on \(X^4\). What you have then is you have a 10-dimensional subspace along the fibers, which we can call the vertical space. And that 10-dimensional space at every point upstairs, every point is, in fact, a metric downstairs, being by construction. So that means it imparts a metric on 10-dimensional vectors along the fibers. Now those are symmetric 2-tensors, effectively, because it’s a space of metrics. You have this really interesting space here, call that \(V\). Well that \(V\) has a Frobenius metric based on the particular metric at which you are looking at the tangent space, which has got a 10-dimensional subspace picked out. If you map that 10-dimensional subspace into the 14-dimensional tangent space of the manifold \(Y^{14}\), you can take a quotient and call that \(H\). And that \(H\) will also have a metric because it’s isomorphic to the dual of the pullback of the cotangent bundle downstairs. And the cotangent bundle has a metric because at that point that you picked in \(Y^{14}\) is itself a metric downstairs. 

So now you’ve got a metric on \(V\), you’ve got a metric on \(H^*\), and you just don’t know how \(H^*\) becomes the complement to \(V\) and \(T\). That’s the only piece of data you’re missing for a metric. So you’ve got a 4-metric, you’ve got a 10-metric, the 10-metric is sitting inside of the tangent. The 4-metric is naturally sitting inside of the cotangent bundle. They’re weirdly complementary, you’ve got a metric on the nose but for one piece of data, which we call a connection. So up to a connection, the manifold \(Y^{14}\) has a metric on it without ever having chosen a metric because it’s made out of metric data.

Now spinors have a really interesting property, which I would call an exponential property. That is, the spinor of a direct sum is the tensor product of the spinors on the summands.

Brian Keating: That’s not true for any spin, or is that true for any spin, or just half integer, or…?

Eric Weinstein: Well, that’s true for any—no, it’s true for the spin representation. It’s not true generically, for any representation. But it allows you to build the spinors on what should be the total space, because now you’ve got a 4-dimensional… So, I think it’s here at 3.12. If the spinors of a sum are the tensor products of the spinors on the summands, and I create a new bundle, which is the 10-dimensional vertical bundle inside the tangent bundle direct sum the 4-dimensional bundle inside the cotangent bundle, then the spinors on that thing—which is isomorphic and in fact semi-canonically isomorphic to both the tangent bundle and the cotangent bundle, being chimeric, it’s isomorphic, but it’s not fully canonically. It’s only semi-canonically. So spinors on that will be identifiable with the spinors on \(Y\) as soon as you have a connection that completes this and makes it fully canonically isomorphic. 

So the take home message, there is a spin bundle up on the bundle of all metrics, which is nearly the spinors on the tangent bundle, that exists without making a metric choice. And if you’re really serious about quantum gravity, you should be very freaked out about the idea that once you quantize the metric, you’ve got a whole lot of pain, because the electron and the hadron bundles, and all the spin-1/2 matter, the medium in which these particles are disturbances, are excitations, doesn’t really exist in the absence of a metric choice. If you allow the metric to become quantum and allow it to blink out, the spin-1, spin-0, and spin-2 particles may be indeterminate between observations. But the bundle itself, the medium, is indeterminate between observations of the metric for fermions. So now you’re in a really different conceptual world. Everybody should want to free fermion bundles from dependence on the metric if they’re serious about letting the metric blink out in some supposed quantum gravity regime.

Implications, Expectations, and Communication

Brian Keating: Let me ask you about that for a second. So it seems like this is a huge, you know, “Huge if true,” I always like to say.

Eric Weinstein: Well we say that, but I don’t know whether I just missed one hell of a meeting. I just don’t understand why everybody isn’t worried about—

Brian Keating: So this is huge, right? This is, what you’re saying is that you can get spinors—

Eric Weinstein: If I haven’t made a boneheaded mistake.

Brian Keating: Well, this is where I’m going to. I don’t think you have, but I’m just a simple experimental cosmologist, okay? 

Eric Weinstein: I’m just a podcast host.

Brian Keating: I traffic in [the] nuts and bolts of cosmological experiments, telescopes, as you know, detectors and fields. I am out of my depth in many cases, but this struck me like a freaking thunderbolt that you were deriving—essentially, spinors can be defined without choosing a metric. That is new. I don’t think that any critic, any anonymous, pseudonymous, or anonanononymous person can really criticize that. I mean, that’s just a fact. So why wouldn’t physici—if it’s not true, it would be, you know, almost surprising, but if it is true, why haven’t physicists noticed this before and why aren’t they making a bigger deal out of it? Partially, it might be your fault, because you haven’t published this.

Eric Weinstein: Blame the victim. 

Brian Keating: Who else? 

Eric Weinstein: So what I usually hear about this is, people say “Oh, you don’t understand, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon told us how to move spinors under variation of the metric.” But he’s varying the metric continuously, there’s always a metric present. What if there’s no metric for a little while?

Brian Keating: Which could be the universe before before God intervened.

Eric Weinstein: Are you going to do a Feynman integral over all variations of the metric? I mean, I don’t know what kind of pain you’re signing up for, but I’d certainly rather free—look, here’s the basic statement. If we’re serious about quantum gravity, we should be very serious about trying to get fermions that don’t require their bundles to be dependent on the existence of a metric at all times. And I’m sure that either there’s a brilliant explanation that I don’t understand, and I’m eager to hear it, or it’s a key sign that the community really dropped the ball. Remember, for example, that the Bohm–Aharonov effect—I’m sure that when, when Aharonov–Bohm said “Hey, shouldn’t there be an effect of this zero field strength?” they probably thought ‘Have I lost my mind?’ I’m sure that Yang and Lee, when they proposed that maybe the weak force was left-right asymmetric, probably thought, ‘Are we were going to be laughed at, did we just not understand what everybody else understood?’ Physics gets things really spectacularly wrong occasionally, and I’m curious to know if this is one of those moments.

Brian Keating: Yeah. I mean, you might also say oh, there’s 26 dimensions in heterotic string theory. That can’t be right. No, it’s only 10, or 11, or 5-brane, m-brane theory. I want to ask another question, which is frequently used in criticisms, both anonymous and nonymous, which is that this doesn’t—

Eric Weinstein: I, can I actually, can I just say something? I really don’t want to talk about anonymous trolls with PhDs criticizing the theory. And I also don’t want to talk about non-constructive hit jobs on new theories. Last time I checked, physics was in a crisis that some people were admitting to and other people were sweeping under the rug. 

Brian Keating: Okay, well— 

Eric Weinstein: If you have a crisis—wait wait wait—if you have a crisis, for God’s sakes [sic], open it up. We don’t need one more talk from the same crowd of people who have been keynoting every conference of note for the last 30 years who haven’t got the new ideas. Let’s at least hear crazier, weirder, wilder people. And if you guys don’t have the guts and courage to do it from inside the community, hear it from a podcast host.

Brian Keating: Okay, well, this is my podcast, and I do want to respond to these criticisms, because for me, I don’t find them legitimate. And you can choose to be silent as is your want. No, it’s rare to—

Eric Weinstein: No, I wish to punish dysfunctional cowards who attempt to snipe, pretending to be helpful. You can do better at it.

Brian Keating: I can do better as well. But I do want to say that this is maybe a general comment, not for pseudonymous and anonymous people, bananymous. But this is a general complaint that I’ve heard: it has to reproduce quantum theory. And I think, forget about that with regard to GU, it could be said about other theories, loop quantum gravity, etc. First of all, I think GU does produce what we would say is a relativistic quantum field theory in the Dirac equation, which is manifestly resplendent and produced and predicted. So I don’t want to hear from you just yet, Eric, I do want to get your response. But this notion that a theory of everything has to subsume anything—I said this to our mutual friend, Stephon Alexander, professor at Brown University and esteemed cosmologist, and close friend to both Eric and myself, I said, “Look, I don’t think it’s valid to say that any theory of everything, string theory or whatever, has to predict every manifestation of physics,” and this is where I take issue, and I make truck with Professor Kaku, who says things like, “The one-inch-long God equation will predict everything.” I don’t think that’s possible, (A) I don’t think it’s useful to think about the goal of physics is to predict every phenomenon in physics.

Eric Weinstein: Because it’s an incautious statement. Really what you’re trying to say is that there’s stuff that you should be able to read off in the basic setup of theory directly, and there’s stuff that you should work your ass off in order to get from the theory. Now, you know, we don’t see quarks running around free the way you might imagine, naively, you would if you were looking at the hadronic part of the Standard Model Lagrangian, and so you have to work pretty hard, I would imagine, in order to find these bound states that we call protons and neutrons, and try to understand infrared slavery, etc, etc. Now, that’s part of the hazard of saying I can predict everything. No, even computationally, you don’t think so. Really, it’s just a question of, we should be able to recover everything that we’ve already done. And actually, I think that that’s pretty fair. 

Brian Keating: So even— 

Eric Weinstein: I think there’s a dumb way of doing it, where you try to say, “Show me this, or then you don’t have anything.” And I have to say, I encounter a tremendous amount of that from people who are old enough to drink, and it gives me pause as to who’s raising the young. That’s not the issue. The issue is, they’re right, they should be saying “Look, here’s what we know how to do, and you should be looking to recover what we already know how to do from what you’re saying,” and I think that’s actually fair. There’s a question of should you be able to do everything on day one? Should you be able to do it when you’ve been cut off for 27 years working completely on your own under totally weird circumstances, where every month you feel you get farther and farther away from the literature, and your brain hasn’t spoken this language in a million years? Those are questions that I feel like—that’s really sad, because people don’t understand what the cost of isolation is. I do think, however, that working in a context with competent people who aren’t constantly trying to rename everything after themselves, there’s no question that that’s a reasonable and fair thing, if we had a collegial world based on a desire to advance our understanding. And I’m happy if I fail at that with a collection of constructive colleagues to say that that’s a black mark against the theory, that’s fine.

Brian Keating: Now, when I look at the corresponding, shall we say, implications against string theory, I would say things like the swamp land, the multiverse problem, these may be issues that cause stillbirth in many people’s minds. I’ve talked to you about Paul Steinhardt, the Einstein Professor of Natural Science at Princeton—he regards the string theory as essentially bad for society, not just for physics, not just for science, but bad for society because of the extravagance in a truest sense of the word, in a bad sense of the word, of the multiverse and string landscape. Now I know you’re shaking your head—go ahead.

Eric Weinstein: No no no. Let me be very clear about it. We’re wimping out from what needs to be said, and it’s really important the community gets it right. I don’t think string theory is a problem. string theory can’t harm anyone, string theory doesn’t—it’s the string theorists when they’re in their triumphalist mode, that it’s an insufferable state of being. But even then, you know, I’m sure Feynman was insufferable, and I think Murray Gell-Mann was insufferable, and Pauli was pretty insufferable. We’ve had insufferable members of our community for a very long time, and we should not be getting rid of insufferable people. The problem is, what happens when people become insufferable and they don’t constantly check in with the unforgiving nature of the universe. I mean, Pauli predicted the neutrino in an insufferable fashion.

Brian Keating: And apologized. He apologized profusely, “I’ve done something which should never be done.” Now, I asked you though, should string theory—let’s just be neutral to GU for a second. Should string theory, from string theory, emerge the Aharonov–Bohm effect? I mean, a true theory of everything, it would, right?

Eric Weinstein: Look, and if it took a while to recover certain features of the world that you had in an effective theory—I mean, look, let’s put it this way. If you look at Marshallian demand in economic theory, should you be able to predict that from the Lagrangian of the universe? No, it’s in a different strata of the world. You should be able to predict things that are within the adjacent strata of the theory, and then you might have to appeal to some higher effective theory. 

Look, I want to defend both the string theorists and string theory. These are incredibly smart people who found some real structure, and who never knew when to quit when it came to trumpeting just how much better string theory is than everything else. Even there, they had a point. They were smarter and deeper, in general, than everyone else. They just weren’t as good as they claimed to be, and they weren’t as successful as they claimed to be, and what they did succeed that they didn’t want to take credit for, because it was really mathematics done in physics departments rather than physics. 

So we have a problem that sociologically, nobody wants to say that the Institute for Advanced Study has the smartest guys around and a lot of what they do isn’t physics, in standard terms, it’s the mathematics of physics. These are uncomfortable truths, just the same way that it’s uncomfortable that we’re taking seriously somebody who’s been out of the field for 27 years. But these are end times, we’re having end time conversations. I think that it’s—we don’t need to be mean about it. I think it just needs to be more honest.

Concept Animations

Brian Keating: Okay. With that, I give some applause here. Let’s see if we can hear that. [Applause sound effect] Got some applause, Eric. A smattering. That just was a smattering. I want to take a pause for the cause, and to have a pause to recognize our guest today is the esteemed Dr. Eric Weinstein, who is a seeker after truth, a seeker after my own heart in the authentic tradition of the old one—his namesake, Albert Wein… Now they say this is not a serious podcast until you break out the puppets. Now I know Rogan has a supply of bows and M16’s, and all sorts of other things. I don’t have any of those accoutrements, I only have my sock puppets and my gelt Nobel Prize. But, I do want to say that this is a special conversation with Eric, because it really fulfills a promise that was made basically a year ago, and then again about six months ago on this podcast, which is to release a stunning amount of new technical details, and you’ve really surpassed that. 

Our mutual friend James Altucher, podcaster extraordinaire, he says that you should never under promise and over deliver, you should never under promise and under deliver. You should over promise and over deliver. Meaning that if you say you’re going to get it done in three months and get a million customers, you should get it done in one month and get ten million customers, or as one Peter Thiel said once, what do you think will require ten years but could be done in six months. So, what you’ve done is released a tremendous amount of technical information that will be fully released at some point to the public. But also, I want to take our audience through some of these delightful animations. I put the link in the chat for now, but I’m going to share my screen right now. Hopefully you can see it as well, Eric. These are now movies I want you to animate—I’ll put you in the lower corner. Let’s see if I can do that, I’ll do that in a second. Let’s see, I’ll add Eric. Nope, I’ll swap these. There we go. I’m going to swap Eric, if you’re willing to swap. There we go. I want to walk us through—which which one of these many videos should we should we take a look at? I was fascinated by the Shiab, but that’s just my—

Eric Weinstein: Let’s do the first three.

Brian Keating: Okay, so the first one is called an Ein—

Eric Weinstein: Go to Einstein’s Great Insight. We’re going to do this for people who are somewhat physics-minded, but who like to complain that none of this is understandable. By the way, there are some names associated with these videos. Brooke Dallas has been shepherding the project. Brandon Stone has been incredibly helpful technically. Boqu, a mysterious German man who animates many of these things. There’s a list of people who’ve contributed. Tim, the mirthless swagman, from Australia, a math student down there. So, what they’ve done is they’ve tried to interpret what it is that I’m saying, because I tend, because of learning issues, to not think symbolically—stop, Brian.

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: Let’s blow that up. Full screen 

Brian Keating: It is full screen here, yeah.

Ship in a Bottle Animations

Eric Weinstein: Okay. That ship that you’re seeing is called curvature. It has three masts because it has three irreducible components, usually. One mast is called Weyl curvature, one mast is called traceless Ricci curvature, and one mass is called Ricci scalar. The first greatest insight of the 20th century was the way in which we could feed back the curvature of the Levi-Civita connection into being a co-vector field on the space of all metrics. This is depicted as a boat going into a bottle that has a rather wide opening. So let’s run the animation. 

Brian Keating: Okay.

Eric Weinstein: So we’ve got a metric. The metric has a connection, the connection produces curvature that’s Riemannian. We find that by identities, it’s got three components. It tries to go towards metrics and the Weyl curvature is snapped off. Afterwards, the scalar curvature is lowered somewhat, or adjusted, by scalar curvature over 2 times \(g_{\mu \nu}\). And so symbolically, what we’ve done is we’ve said Einstein threw away the Weyl curvature, readjusted the Ricci scalar curvature, and fed metric information through to the Levi-Civita connection, through to the Riemann curvature tensor, and then played these projection games to feed it back to the space of metrics. And that particular combination is perpendicular to the action of the diffeomorphism group on the space of all metrics, leading to a divergence free condition via our friend the Bianchi identity. 

Now, why can’t we do that and feed this information back to the space of connections rather than the space of metrics because we would love to link spacetime games with gauge potential games. So, let’s see whether General Relativity and gauge theory have an incompatibility problem as we try to play the same game. We start off with the Riemann curvature tensor, but now the neck is narrower. What’s really going on is that this is kind of evocative of trying to feed it into the space of connections, but the gauge group acts differently on two different factors: namely, if connections are ad-valued 1-forms and curvature is an ad- or Lie-algebra-valued 2-form. 

The problem here is the gauge transformations act on the Lie algebra component and don’t touch the form component. But Einsteinian projection, or contraction, or summing over \(g_{\mu \nu}\) indices, is democratic: it deals simultaneously with the form piece and the Lie algebra piece. So if you treat only the Lie algebra piece under a gauge transformation and you don’t touch the form piece, then contraction followed by gauge transformation will never be the same thing as gauge transformation followed by contraction. And so that’s the puzzle, which is if Geometric Unity is really about the idea of trying to say maybe it’s not so much quantizing gravity, maybe it’s a fight between the different geometry of Riemann and Ehresmann, because gauge transformations are Ehresmannian geometry but contractions are Riemannian geometry. 

So here’s a GU approach, how do you get geometric harmony between General Relativity and gauge theory when you have the ship in a bottle problem? This is almost a tight analogy. You’ve got the curvature tensor, you apply a gauge transformation to two of the masts and you pass them through into ad-valued \((d-1)\)-forms, and then you do an inverse gauge transformation, which is exactly how you do the ship in the bottle trick—by the way, Brian gave me a wonderful ship in a bottle, thank you very much—raising the mast inside. And then you can potentially, if need be, adjust one of the two masts again in order to get agreement. 

So in part, the idea is how do you get harmony? What you need to do is to promote the gauge transformations initially to field content in order to make sure that you’re carrying around enough information, effectively, to ensure that contraction is compatible with gauge transformation. Now, that is a very tight idea of how these operators function inside of the theory. 

Gauge Theories as Calculus Done Right Animations

[Keating pulls up “Penrose-like steps” video] 

Well this is just—for some reason, whenever we talk about gauge theories, we don’t give people very concrete examples. Many of you who are not professionals will not know what a gauge theory is. May I make a recommendation, Brian?

Brian Keating: Yeah, of course.

Eric Weinstein: Let’s go to another animation, which is something like Gauge Theories as Calculus Done Right, and blow that up as big as it can be before starting the animation. Okay, start the animation. Let’s imagine that we have a salary that is constant in dollar terms over time, [and] that somebody is facing inflationary pressures on their basket of goods. Now the question is—pause please. What we now have is a $10 an hour salary, and if we claim that it’s constant, constant means derivative equals zero. But, we know that it’s not constant purchasing power. So we have two notions of constancy, how are they related? Let’s go back to that please. 

We do a gauge transformation. And what you see—pause please. You now see that these little hash lines are the reference levels that we call a connection, and we decide that rise over run should not be measured from a naive horizontal, but should be measured instead from a custom reference level represented by the hash marks. Now, if you let it go a little bit, and then stop it, stop. Now you see that derivative equals zero, if we measure rise over run above the hash marks, is a salary that keeps pace with inflation. And the current $10 an hour is actually a negative derivative because the rise over run is measured beneath those hash lines. That situation is actually an application of gauge theory to a very simple problem in economics, completely depicted by stretching the fibers in the x-y plane. And if you look online right now and say “What’s a gauge theory?” you’ll be bamboozled by a bunch of stuff that nobody can understand unless they’re actually insiders. 

So I think it’s very interesting that again, just as it was elementary to ask the question, “What happens to the fermion medium while we’re blinking out the supposedly quantum metric?” why is it that we don’t actually explain to anyone what a gauge transformation and visualize it? I’m very proud of our team for taking this very simple example and showing what a gauge field is—it’s those little hash lines, effectively. Those things in higher dimensions would be the electromagnetic potential, which becomes the photon under quantization. And if you’re thinking about QED (quantum electrodynamics), effectively, the electron is a function and the photon is a derivative, because what you’re specifying is the levels above which you’re going to measure rise over run. Now you can go back to the original floating plane.

Brian Keating: Floating plane…

Eric Weinstein: What you were doing before.

Digression on Academic Misbehavior

Brian Keating: I just want to take a second here. This is Brian Keating now speaking. So, if you look up Juan Maldacena, you will find only one podcast that he’s ever been on, and that is the Into the Impossible podcast. If you look up gauge theory and an intuitive way to understand gauge theory, something like that, you’ll come up with this really brilliant economic analogy that sounds like Eric has copied from from Juan Maldacena. And in fact, this came up recently, where people were talking about inflation-stabilized items and Bitcoin and so forth, and then—it was very frustrating to me, and I imagine much more so for Eric, although he doesn’t have to comment, he’s too much of a gentleman. This is Eric’s work. This gauge theory applied to economic transactions. 

Eric Weinstein: Eric and Pia. 

Brian Keating: Eric and Pia Malaney. Yep, Pia Malaney, of course, the beautiful talented wife of Eric Weinstein. Eric is known as the husband of Pia Malaney, mostly. This work is brilliant and is deserving of attention in its own right, independent of the brilliance of it as an analogy to explain a very complicated subject such as gauge theory, or a very simple subject like calculus, as Eric is now explaining to us. I wanted to say that, you don’t have to respond if you don’t want to Eric, I find it very frustrating when I see “Oh, Eric, you’ve got to learn what Maldacena said,” I’m like F you. That’s very frustrating to me.

Eric Weinstein: That’s what was hurtful, because Juan knew that he had gotten this—knew about Pia Malaney, he needed to reference her. He did reference her, but in a very slight, minimal way in a [Inaudible] version.

Brian Keating: It’s a footnote. It’s a footnote. He knows better than that.

Eric Weinstein: The problem that I’m having with it is that the professional community does not understand that it has impulses that it hasn’t faced, which is that it tends to brutalize those that it doesn’t need to cite, that it doesn’t see. It just doesn’t see people. And so to have—look, I’m a huge Juan Maldacena fan as are we all, but I’m not going to sit around and have people say “What you really need to do is to listen to Juan Maldacena, whose brilliance knows no bounds. He did something really profound about markets and gauge theory,” because quite frankly, Pia Malaney deserved to have an entire career built around it. I think it could easily be the most deep insight in mathematical economics in the last 25 to 50 years. Please show me another, given that the Marginal Revolution, originally, was the penetration of differential calculus into economics. Her thesis, which is largely joint work, but was not even allowed to be what it was supposed to be, rebased the field of economics on gauge theory as the correct form of calculus. I’ll tell you what, I don’t really want to bitch about Juan Maldacena, but what I would really love to do is to have Juan Maldacena, who showed so much excitement when I confronted him about this—he says, “Oh, you know who that is?” because he had no idea who Malaney was. It would be really great if Juan Maldacena did this work, and I won’t say another word this podcast about it.

Brian Keating: Okay. And I will say only one word because it’s my podcast, and I can do whatever the hell I want. I had on Cumrun Vafa, as you know, who wrote a book called Puzzles to Unwrap the Universe, in which he cites Juan Maldacena. I called him on that. I said this is actually original work by Pia Malaney, Eric Weinstein, and it almost doesn’t matter. And I find that very frustrating, because the very same people—and you don’t have to respond. Please don’t respond. Again, I’m a blowhard on my own podcast. It’s one of our prerogatives. We get so little of these things and treats in life. But I find it very disingenuous of the community. I love Cumrun too, but to say that “This isn’t serious Eric, you have to cite this paper, you have to put out a paper about GU, you’ve only done things on Joe Rogan,” I find that disingenuous. You don’t have to respond. Let’s go on.

Eric Weinstein: What I will say is this. When you have gatekeepers in the form of advisors, if you have job market meetings, where people wield incredible power and they hold other people’s careers in the palm of their hand—if you use these places to crush people, you have no right to comment after the fact as to why are these people behaving bizarrely and strangely. Because in essence, whether you submit things to journals and have a perfectly reasonable relationship with peer review, or whether you find that peer review is basically a tool to exclude you, and your insights, and your claims from the world, depends in large measure on who you are, where you’re coming from. It’s human dependent, it’s not independent of who submits and how protected they are. 

The thing that I want to get across is that the community is producing trauma in people and then claiming that it’s paranoia. You have to recognize that trauma and paranoia look exactly the same when you can’t see what the source of it is. If you want to understand what happened to this theory, read The Physics of Wall Street by James Weatherall, chapter 10 and the epilogue. It’s rather clear about the fact that four gentlemen and one lady tried to steal a trillion dollars over 10 years by pretending to fix the CPI because social security and tax brackets were indexed. They came up with 1.1% adjustment that would be needed, and then they broke into two teams to find exactly out the 1.1% that they wanted. This was admitted to by Robert Gordon. And, the most brilliant thesis that probably came through Harvard in terms of mathematical economics was destroyed so that Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bob Packwood could have a back end run around the third rail of politics, which is slashing benefits and raising taxes, using economists to destroy, funnily enough, a bright promising woman of color from the developing world in an essentially all male field. These people should pay with their reputation.

Concept Animations 2

Brian Keating: Okay, I want to lighten things up again. Let’s talk about Jeffrey Epstein. No, I’m just kidding. I made you laugh, come on. That’s a big accomplishment. 

Eric Weinstein: That was good. I like it.

Brian Keating: Alright, let’s look at one last video here. Let me call up a—let’s go to the videotape as they say. Go here, I’m gonna go to Safari, Rastafari… Nope, it’s not coming up. Oh, maybe that’s because it already thinks that we’ve done it, let’s see here. All right, zoom out. I’m gonna…

Eric Weinstein: Do you want to do an observerse one, down at the bottom?

Brian Keating: Yeah, I’m trying to get up the—tell me when to stop here. Well you can’t see it, right?

Eric Weinstein: I can’t see anything.

Brian Keating: Let me let me get my screen back here. Let me kill that. Let me kill… what else is going on here? Screen share, show Safari. Show primary display, secondary display, there we go. Can you see that? 

Eric Weinstein: Yeah. 

Brian Keating: Okay. So at the bottom, I see 5D Observerse, Spinor Dance… Which one would you like? Observerse 5D?

Eric Weinstein: Let’s do 5D. Yeah, I think I’ll explain what they’re trying to depict. It’s not exactly how I would have done it, but keep in mind that these are artists who’ve been trying to learn what this is by bypassing typical—okay, so pause it. 

Brian Keating: Yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: Can we get rid of that bottom bar?

Brian Keating: Yeah, it’s, they need to disable it on their side, but I can kill it off here. There we go.

Eric Weinstein: Okay. And can you blow that up? Or is that as blown up as it can go?

Brian Keating: Let’s see here. I think it’s fairly blown up.

5D Observerse Animation and Pati–Salam Connection

Eric Weinstein: Alright. Imagine that that torus that you see in the lower left corner of the screen is a 2-dimensional model, toy model, of spacetime. So going around through the center is like Groundhog Day, you come back to the same place and it’s a repeating time cycle, and space is simply a circle. Now in such a world, we would normally think of quantum field theory or gravity as taking place on that object. You’d have fields, you’d have effectively functions called sections on that object, and what you’re seeing here is something that’s very hard to picture because it’s 5-dimensional, but one trick here is because the torus has a property called parallelizability… The object on the right is a depiction of a metric. Each point that isn’t on one of those two sheets is a potential metric at any given point on the torus. So in other words, if a metric is a symmetric non-degenerate 2-tensor, if you think of it as a matrix, it would be of the form \(\begin{bmatrix} x & z \\ z & y \\ \end{bmatrix}\). Non-degenerate means that \(xy – z^2 \ne 0\). So that’s what’s cutting out that variety, if you will, the zeros of the of the determinant would be points, given that there are 3 degrees of freedom in the metric.

So instead of actually having a metric spacetime, GU would say replace the torus by the entire space in that sort of hourglassy region. So the top region would be like space-space metrics, the bottom below that sort of weird, diaphanous scarf is time-time metrics, and the weird middle region, which is sort of around that singularity, would be space-time metrics. Every way you can stick that donut into that middle region without touching one of those two sheets is a valid spacetime metric. And what GU would do is to say don’t only dance on the points of the 2-dimensional torus—again, the surface is 2-dimensional, even though it seems to be 3-dimensional to naive investigation—you should actually have fields that are dancing on all of the points of the torus and, simultaneously, all of the points in that middle region of what we call the Diablo diagram, no to the right. To the right. Yep. 

So every point in that region is in play, and if you mapped—imagine that the stuff in that weird hourglassy region on the far right was like very warm and on the far left was very cold. Then if you map the torus in to the far left region, it would show up as being cold. If you mapped it into the far right region, you’d see it as being very hot. So every way of mapping the torus in pulls back different information from that hourglassy region. That is in large measure, in part, one of the things that may be going on with the illusion of many worlds, is that what you’re seeing is that the metric may be capable of pulling back data that is dancing on the space of all metrics as well as the space of all points on the original manifold \(X\). So in this case, you’ve got 2 degrees of freedom on the torus, you’ve got 3 degrees of freedom around the hourglass, and \(2 + 3 = 5\). 

Now notice that thing up in the top left, which is a ruler-protractor combination that I just gave a copy [of] to Joe Rogan. Those two sliders are recalibrations of what it means to be one unit. And that protractor is a recalibration of what you’re going to define to be 90 degrees. So every way of keeping that bottom arm in a single horizontal position, moving the top arm, and moving the two sliders, that’s 3 degrees of freedom in the space of metrics. So that’s a different depiction of the space of metrics. 

So the big take home from the restrictive version of GU that we’re exploring here is that if you allow fields to dance on the space of metric apparatus—measurement apparatus—then the paradoxes of measurement start to make a lot more sense. You could also, potentially, try to keep the metric classical, because we have two spaces. We have a space downstairs \(X\), which is just the torus, and we have a space upstairs, which is the torus, in this case, cross the hourglass region, as long as it doesn’t touch the two sheets. So you’ve got a 5-dimensional manifold hovering over a 2-dimensional manifold, and fields on the 5-dimensional manifold will be perceived on the 2-dimensional manifold when you pull them back via a particular Einsteinian spacetime as fields on the tangent bundle of what you will call spacetime, together with fields on the normal bundle inside of the 5 dimensions. 

The normal bundle of a 2-dimensional manifold in a 5-dimensional space is 3-dimensional, so you’re gonna see fields that look like spinors on 2 dimensions tensor spinors on 3 dimensions. If you were in 4 dimensions, make that torus in your mind represent a 4-dimensional spacetime, then that Diablo region would be a 10-dimensional region of metrics, because 4×4 matrices that are symmetric have \(\frac{4^2 + 4}{2}\) [Inaudible] for different degrees of freedom. In other words, you get a 10-dimensional normal bundle. 

Now you’ll notice that if you have ordinary spinors on 14-dimensional space and you pull them back via a metric, which is a mapping of 4 into 14, it looks like spinors on the 4-dimensional space tensor spinors on the 10-dimensional normal bundle. If the normal bundle inherits the Frobenius metric from \(X(1,3)\), and you glue in the trace piece in the right way—well, if you glue it in the wrong way, you’d get a \((7,3)\) metric on the normal bundle. But if you glue it in the right way, you’d get a \((6,4)\) metric on the normal bundle. 

\(\text{Spin}(6,4)\) is a sort of nasty non-compact group, so you might want to break to its maximal compact subgroup like Witten and Bar-Natan discuss. And the interesting thing about \(\text{Spin}(6,4)\) is that it has different names. By low-dimensional isomorphisms, \(\text{Spin}(6)\) is the same thing as \(\text{SU}(4)\). \(\text{Spin}(4)\) is the same thing as \(\text{SU}(2) \times \text{SU}(2)\). And \(\text{SU}(4) \times \text{SU}(2) \times \text{SU}(2)\) is the Pati–Salam theory. So you can argue that ordinary spinors on the induced metric in 14 dimensions, glued in the right way, pull back as Pati–Salam. And I don’t know if anyone’s ever discussed the connection between Einstein and Pati and Salam. 

Brian Keating: No. No.

Eric Weinstein: Well no, I can’t say no, I don’t know of it.

Brian Keating: I don’t know, that’s what I’m saying. People have brought it up, but yes, has it?

Eric Weinstein: Has anyone? I don’t know. 

Brian Keating: I don’t know. Yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: So the point is that spinors on 14 look like spinors on 4 tensor spinors on some version of 10. 

Brian Keating: Yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: And whether you’re talking about \(\text{Spin}(10)\) models, \(\text{SU}(5)\) models, or \(\text{SU}(4) \times \text{SU}(2) \times \text{SU}(2)\), which is \(\text{Spin}(6) \times \text{Spin}(4)\), isn’t that exactly what we see in the Standard Model? So Frank Wilczek—let me just see if I can find this beautiful quote from him, because he definitely brought this up. And what I recently did when I had him on my podcast, which we haven’t released—so, if we go over to my screen share…

Brian Keating: Give me one second. Let me do this. Here we go. And… There we go. Yep.

Eric Weinstein: Let me read it. “A particularly intriguing feature of \(\text{SO}(10)\),” which is really \(\text{Spin}(10)\), or it could be \(\text{Spin}(6,4)\), “is its spinor representation, used to house the quarks and leptons, in which the states have a simple representation in terms of basis states labeled by a set of “+” and “-” signs. Perhaps this suggests composite structure.” Now here’s the sentence that just floored me. “Alternatively, one could wonder whether the occurrence of spinors both in internal space and in space-time is more than a coincidence.” And then he pulls back immediately, “These are just intriguing facts; they are not presently incorporated in any compelling theoretical framework as far as I know.” Geometric Unity is that compelling framework.

Brian Keating: Awesome. Very interesting. So as we wrap up, I do want to see if there are any other videos you’d like to show that would help the reader, or again, I’m going to put this in the chat box so people can peruse it. I did put it in the actual YouTube box description, so people can find that at their leisure. Let me see here. Oh I see what’s going on.

Geometric Unity Document

Eric Weinstein: Well I should say that I… Look, let’s be honest. I said I was going to release a document, and clearly we haven’t. Okay, April Fool’s. April Fool’s. 

Brian Keating: Uh oh, the big reveal!

Eric Weinstein: Go to

Brian Keating:

Eric Weinstein: And, yeah, call that up. And then Brian, why don’t you be the first to put your email address in to request a copy? I wouldn’t call it a paper, I’d call it a draft. One of the things I’m looking to do is I’m looking to get constructive feedback from people who want to help me succeed, as opposed to people who just want to be dicks and take me down, because that’s just, to be honest, not very interesting to me, and I’ve had a little taste of that, and I’m not that interested. What I would love is to bring your positive energy. Download it, read it, recognize that more or less, I’ve been cobbling this together from a million and one different scraps, and that my ability to talk in this way has been degrading for years because I have no one to talk to. I’m not in a department, I’m doing this completely on my own. And I was a little bit frightened to figure out just how much I’d forgotten. 

So we’re still finding scraps of paper, and files on old discs, and things like that. I hope that the notation is getting more and more standard, that there are fewer errors. But there’s clearly, you know, this is basically me going back to 1983, ’84, and all the time in between, where mostly I didn’t talk about this with anybody. And this has been really terrifying, because you know, I’m not a physicist, I don’t come from this community. I revere the community. I don’t think the community has been behaving well recently, I don’t love saying that. But I think the community is in a desperate situation, and let’s find out whether I have anything to say or I’m just blowing hot air. I’m not afraid of that. But you know, what would really be meaningful to me is for people to bring kindness, benefit of the doubt, hope, and recognition that it’s pretty tough to try to do all this on your own, Be constructive and take a look. I think there are two email addresses on the paper in draft form, one for technical feedback and one for general feedback. So I hope that there’s a lot of food for thought. 

I do think that—let me just close this out. I think it’s a coherent story. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard a coherent story about how a very simple beginning would produce something that would look like our world. There are things that I would call predictions in it, that talk about what internal quantum numbers you would expect to find, likely next in terms of, there’s much more matter, there’s matter that should be dark, there’s matter that might be luminous but not at the right energy level yet. You would have to, in order to compute with it, be able to figure out what fields have acquired VEVs (vacuum expectation values) and where we are in anthropic spaces in some places. But the internal coherence is much sharper than a few, you know—there’s still some things that I’m trying to locate my favorite version of. One is the Shiab operator. I know how to produce Shiab operators in general, but I had a sheet of paper with—do you remember paper with feeds, with holes on either side?

Brian Keating: Oh yeah, loose leaf, oh feed, oh printer paper. Printer paper. 

Eric Weinstein: Not loose leaf. Printer paper. 

Brian Keating: Dot matrix.

Eric Weinstein: Yeah. So I did some calculations in representation theory that came up with the projections that I used to use that I’m looking for. And the thing that I remember is that they’ve got yellow highlighter and these perforated holes on either side. I haven’t been able to find it yet.


So it’s a very long process, taking about 37 years of speculation, sometimes more active than others, and trying to put it in one document.  So I would really appreciate it if people wanted to take a gander through it. Try to see some of the ideas, and recognize that if we are going to get off this planet with its hydrogen bombs and crazy leaders, and diversify and take some some bets, rockets are not going to do it. There is no real “Mars or Bust”, or “Occupy Mars” strategy. There’s one quote that keeps coming back to me, “Our home is in the stars or not at all.” If we’re gonna sit here on a hot, crowded planet with thermonuclear weapons, maybe we have hundreds of years, but we don’t have thousands. If we’re going to get off this planet and go someplace interesting, we’re going to have to recognize that we don’t have the source code yet in Einstein, and it’s very limiting, and we’re going to have to actually say, “What is the source code?” And if it turns out that we can find it, we’re gonna have to be good stewards, and we’re not going to do the same thing that we’ve been doing by handing the stuff over to leaders who don’t take seriously the burdens of godlike powers that we the technical people bestowed. So Brian, thanks for having me on, and it’s a pleasure to interact with your audience.

Brian Keating: Eric, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. As always, you’re welcome back anytime. I do love the fact that you made this promise back in early or late December of 2020, that year that may it soon be forgotten.

Eric Weinstein: I didn’t promise, I said I was gonna try. I said I was gonna try.

Brian Keating: That’s right. Well you succeeded, you succeeded for sure, Eric. I want to thank you for your generosity of time, and spirit, and advice that you’ve given to me. I hope I can help to serve you in this, wherever this project may take you. It’s now out of your hands, it’s into the world, and it’s going to hopefully sprout many many delightful new discoveries for the benefit of all mankind as our friend Alfred Nobel so warmly engendered upon the world. Eric, best of luck, congratulations. We’ll do a part three next year on this date, on this auspicious date, and let it forever be known as a day of famy, not infamy, for years to come in physics, if we can follow the lead of the generous, the mercurial, the genierrific, Eric Weinstein. Thank you so much, Eric. Enjoy the day, and we look forward to seeing you on Joe Rogan… tomorrow? Or when will that podcast be out?

Eric Weinstein: I think so, L’Shana Haba’ah in the electron layer.

Brian Keating: Okay, inshallah. Goodnight everybody. Please do subscribe and like this podcast, we have Michio Kaku coming up. John Mather, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize—[Video cuts]—Magnificent ideas to the space, to make it safe for new ideas and for creativity, because we do have this one universe, this one life, and it is eminently precious. So for now, thanking you all, enjoy the rest of your evening, and thanking you Eric, here’s a musical outro from our friend Miguel Tully, proprietor of the Yeti Tears podcast, Spotify, and YouTube channel. Good night, everybody.

A unique live conversation with Eric Weinstein & Garrett Lisi.


Brian Keating: The Into The Impossible podcast, featuring a triality of guests. A threesome of the best kind. I don’t know if that’s true, actually. But I’ve heard things from Eric, no doubt. We’re gonna be joining—hundreds of people are watching out there in YouTube land. It’s such a treat. Whenever I gather with physicists to share good ideas, good company, and so forth, let me get a thumbs up out there if you guys can hear me. And I’m going to introduce my friends, doctors. Two doctors, actually three doctors if you include me as well. And that is Dr. Eric Weinstein, joining us from Los Angeles. How are you Eric?

Eric Weinstein: Doing well. Good to be with you.

Brian Keating: And it’s nice of you to dress up. Unlike Garrett and myself. I’m in the Hawaiian Islands mood we just finished with—

Eric Weinstein: What the hell has happened to your show, Brian? You can’t get dolled up for me to talk physics? 

Brian Keating: This is dolled up. This is my dress code nowadays. This is island time man, shakalaka. All right, Eric’s enjoying his vodka tonic, and I am enjoying a Mai Tai over here in San Diego and Garrett Lisi, welcome back. Welcome back, Garrett. Long time no, see, it’s been about four minutes. And you guys go way back as both friends and friendly arch nemeses. We’re gonna get into what does that actually mean. Your infamous appearance on The Portal, which was so well received. And this is kind of maybe a part two, an option for our guests on the Into The Impossible family to ask some questions about different competing theories of everything. And as I said earlier, we’re gonna have a nice clean fight. We are going to go toe-to-toe. 

Garrett Lisi: That’s a good one. 

Brian Keating: TOE to TOE getting—

Garrett Lisi: Well you know, I mean, Eric, it looks like you’ve trimmed down a bit. Did you end up adopting a ketogenic diet? or what have you been doing?

Eric Weinstein: You know, Garrett, it looks like you’ve been struggling a little bit. I think this has to do with some sort of a blockchain effect, where whatever weight I lose has to go over to you. I’m sorry to do that to you, buddy.

Garrett Lisi: I’ve built up the COVID 10, Yeah.

Brian Keating: Conservation of mass.

Eric Weinstein: How’s the surf been this winter?

Garrett Lisi: Oh, it’s been frickin fantastic. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been really, really good. Also, we’ve had fewer tourists here than normal, which is actually been nice, if not for nice reasons.

Brian Keating: Yeah, indeed, maybe we’ll talk about that, the impact on culture and physics as a whole. First, I want to be—I always like to be a little bit provocative if I can be indulged by YouTube guys. And that’s, you know, this conversation that Garrett and I had, you know, was sort of predicated on this question that I received a new book in the mail today, Eric, and it’s entitled, The Theory of Everything, by Norbert Schweitzer. And this is a very dense book. It’s full of equations and graphs, and I can’t wait to read it, and put it next to, you know, next to the stack of books behind me that I’ve been doing in pandemic podcasting. But why do we need a Theory of Everything, Eric? Why is it that people are so betwixt by theories of everything, and yet, as Garrett and I just finished, and you and I have talked about, there’s less attention to Experiments of Everything? Why do you think that is?

Eric Weinstein: Well, first of all, I don’t know that it makes sense to say an “Experiment of Everything”. One of the crazy things that we found out from our experimental friends, is that there is so much more order that appears to be present in the Standard Model, and in General Relativity, that, in a weird way, all of these disparate experiments have strangely added up to something unexpectedly coherent. And so I don’t think it’s important to focus on a Theory of Everything generally, because you’re usually not in position to get one. If you think about the time before Dirac, they knew about the proton and the electron, perhaps, but they didn’t know about anything else. And if they had tried a Theory of Everything, it would have almost certainly been wrong, because there was just no—they were nowhere close. Now, the problem that we have here is that we appear to be tantalizingly close, for reasons that we can get into or not, according to taste. And I think that, you know, there’s both a silly hope that you happen to be in the right generation to do a Theory of Everything, and an informed hope. And I think one of the things that you can tell when somebody attempts it is, do they appear to be well motivated in seeking a Theory of Everything? Or do they appear to just want to jump to the end of the book, no matter how many chapters they have to skip over? And I, you know, I would also just say, lastly, that it’s been so long since we’ve made progress, that it does sort of—one interpretation that one could make would be that we seem to be at a point where we have to get something huge because we’ve been stalled out with all the incremental measures which in previous areas have worked so well. And so one way of thinking about this is that we’re finally at the point where the conceptual difficulty, like, what would a Theory of Everything even mean? It’s one thing to say that you’re hunting a Jabberwocky. It’s another thing to realize that you have no idea what a Jabberwocky looks like.

Brian Keating: And when I think about this, you know, we talked a lot about our mutual friend, and I say that with all sincerity, Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder, who does great work, and, but as a known critic, I talked to Garrett about this before—maybe you and I have talked about this too, Eric, in reference to Professor Frank Wilczek’s recent trolling of of Sabine last week where she put out you know, “beauty is a terrible guide to physics”. And Frank wrote back, “it worked out pretty well for me”. You know, Garrett and I were kind of bemused by that trolling of Sabine by Frank. But of course, it was meant in a friendly way, I’m sure. But nevertheless, the question of, you know, kind of survivorship bias came up, and maybe Garrett, you can just kind of reiterate that. You’ve been, you know, lucky to be privately supported to do these things. Sabine even says it’s a good thing to have these things, but she doesn’t go deep. She’s claims to say it’s maybe not worth her time. But tell me something, Garrett, first of all, what when you think about, you know, how do you spend your time, you know, besides the stuff outside of academia, which we’ll talk about, hopefully, you’re the Richard Branson, of physicists, of course. And that comes with problems as well, as we talked about in the previous hour. But I want to ask you, when when you think about dividing your time, how much time do you spend thinking about Geometric Unity, about the Wolfram physics project behind me, and this giant book in the back, about this new book, this new Theory of Everything by Norbert Schwarzer, and Max Tegmark mathematical—how much time do you spend on it? And if you say “none”, why is that? Why wouldn’t you think about other people’s theories? So first, how much time do you spend on other theories?

Garrett Lisi: I think most theoretical physicists spend enough time on others’ theories in order to dismiss them.

Brian Keating: And so you dismiss like, Wolfram’s theory?

Garrett Lisi: Oh, yeah. So I’m not most physicists. I spend, for Eric, especially since we’re arch nemeses and friends, I’ve spent more than enough time to dismiss it.

For Wolf—

Brian Keating: Yeah, look at Eric’s reaction.

Garrett Lisi: For Wolfram, I’ve spent probably less than enough time to dismiss it. And that’s not because I don’t respect his work and the direction he’s going. It’s just that the direction he’s chosen to go in with cellular automata is so foreign to my area of expertise, that, although I could dive into it, and disentangle it and try to make sense, instead, what I do is I look at, all right, well, we have a rich model here with some grand claims. What’s the actual connection to known physics. And what I see, as I see over and over again, is that the connection to known physics is extremely tenuous, if there’s much there at all. And that’s usually the easiest way to dismiss work, is how—what’s the connection to actual physics? What’s the connection to the Standard Model? Are you getting three generations of fermions? Do you—are you getting a CKM matrix in some easy, nice, elegant way? How close is it? And by that metric, you can almost dismiss String Theory. I mean, it’s a very, it’s a very high bar. You can also dismiss my work. I’m not there yet, but that’s what I’m striving for. But that’s really what you want to look for. And, but in terms of how I spend my time, I do spend a fair amount of time looking at others’ papers. It’s mostly papers centered around the same area I’m working with, or the area I’m exploring. I’ll be spending a lot more time exploring papers, mathematicians’ papers on generalized Lie groups, colleagues’ papers, working on applying them to particle physics. I spend my—that’s how I spend a lot of my time. I’d say probably 90% of my time is spent reading other’s papers and only 10% working on my own stuff.

Brian Keating: So is it the case that you have spent so much time looking at Geometric Unity or sufficient time that you’ve achieved the necessary amount of time to dismiss Geometric Unity, or to maybe not not dismiss it, but not pay attention to it as much as say, you know, something more close to E8? Can you expand upon what you meant by that?

Garrett Lisi: Um, I—all I was banting, I was joking that I have spent some time looking at Eric’s work, more than I normally would if we weren’t so disturbingly close. 

Brian Keating: Well, let me let me follow up on that. So when I, when I look at these as an outsider as an experimental—

Eric Weinstein: You have to ask—you have to ask me the question too, Brian—

Brian Keating: I’m about—I’m about to get to that. So I want to I want to ask that question, but I want to ask it in a provocative way, because as Garrett knows, he started flying lessons, and one of the first things you learn in flying is to be very careful about flying into instrument conditions, namely, into clouds, which can obscure things but make you feel nice and comfortable, because everywhere you look, everything is nice, homogeneous, isotropic and uniform, like the inside of a ping pong ball. But Eric, you know, when you look at it, is there sort of a, you know, an outgroup bias, in that there’s so much groupthink in physics as it is, that now you’ve got these possible alternatives from Wolfram, from you, from Tegmark, etc. And that you guys are just gonna fight but really the the people who you are seeking are these people occupying this behemoth Cathedral called String Theory. How do you decide your time and how you spend it? 

Eric Weinstein: Well, I think that we have to clear something up. I don’t take Stephen Wolfram as having a Theory of Everything, or even a candidate. I take him as having a program to search for one. I don’t take Max Tegmark as attempting a Theory of Everything. I view him in some sense as a mathematical and physical philosopher, looking to make sure that when the theory is found, it will fit within the Tegmarkian perspective at some particular type of multiverse or some type, you know, because if ultimately the description is mathematical, the claim will be the Tegmark was correct, because he’s now somehow laid claim to the Mathematical Universe hypothesis, which I think almost every Platonist has considered. So I don’t quite understand that as a Theory of Everything. I certainly don’t see the Loop Quantum Gravity people as being serious about particle phenomenology. We know a lot about the particles in the universe. And actually, I believe that the two that I really take semi-seriously are Garrett’s and String Theory. So while Garrett may be claiming that he knows enough to dismiss mine, certainly that’s not true.

Garrett Lisi: No. What I said was that I’ve spent more than enough time with yours than needed to dismiss it.

Eric Weinstein: Okay. I forgot that Garrett is very spectrumy!

Garrett Lisi: That’s not imply I’ve dismissed that implies I spent more than that amount of time with it.

Eric Weinstein: Fair point, but to steelman Garrett’s point—and I do feel like there was a misimpression created by an artifact that happened when he appeared on my show—I don’t think that Garrett is the best person to extol the virtues of what he is up to. And I would say the following, you would have to give it to the String Theorists, if your principal concern was the idea that you wanted a renormalizable theory of gravity, however far away they may be from that. That is their leading contribution. You can say a few things about what they predict from black holes, and then you can also mumble something about how it’s useful in mathematics. 

Clearly, the String Theorists have gotten hold of a lot of advanced mathematics by going to geometry and infinite dimensions. And, in fact, it’s sort of like Finland finding Estonia and saying, “My God, these people, you know, are remarkable. This is confirmation.” But, in fact, Fins and Estonians are pretty much the same people just separated by some water. So I think that String Theory is largely an exclave of mathematics that is done and performed in physics departments. Garrett is doing something very different. If you asked what Garrett’s principal contributions were Forgive me, Garrett, you can correct me, given that you’re here. I love talking behind your back in front of you. 

Garrett’s principle selling points are the following: he is the most phenomenological of any theory that is not Geometric Unity. That is, his theory does the following sorts of things. First of all, it makes use of a unique and canonical structure that attempts to tell us why this world and not others, because he begins with something called E8, which is easily distinguishable in the mathematical universe as being the strangest of objects—the platypus, if you will, of mathematical symmetry. And second of all, he incorporates something that was found in the 1950s, by Madame Wu and Yang and Lie, which is the curiosity of the universe because one of the four forces seems to know what’s left from its right, that is, the weak force, it is astounding that there is this asymmetry. And E8 contains some of this asymmetry, which we might call Weyl fermions, as opposed to Dirac fermions, because E8 seems to know its left from its right, so he gets that right. And then there’s a subtle property of E8, which is actually disguised, and so most mathematicians and physicists don’t know about it. It’s manifest in something called Spin 8. And that’s the principle of triality. And so the idea that triality is present, and that we have three families, is tantalizingly close together. So I would say that, if you look at what Garrett—oh, furthermore, Garrett is focused on something called Cartan connections, in which you co-mingle something called an Ehresmann connection, which is what we have learned to use for the forces in the Standard Model since the work of Simons, Yang, Synger and Wu in SUNY Stonybrook in the 1970s. He combines that with this sort of Einsteinian perspective, built on Riemannian Geometry and the Levi-Civita connection. And somehow the Levi-Civita connection and this other object, the Ehresmann connection are combined in something called a Cartan connection, which is not really that standard, it fell out of favor in mathematics. So if you look at what Garrett is doing, and I believe even that Garrett has now strangely moved towards something called Superconnections, introduced by Daniel Quillen and others, and Jean Bismut

Garrett Lisi: Really, yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: So this, in fact, is some hope of incorporating the difference in quantization of forced particles and particles, which is one of the original failings of Garrett’s original first attempt at this, which is that he too tightly integrated matter and force, in some sense, into the E8 structure, so that the matter that was present, in fact, had to be looked at as force. 

So I think if you look at all of the things that Garrett is doing, well, maybe lastly, even another one, the fact that he’s trying to drag a canonical Lagrangian or master of the equations, from something like Yang-Mills theory, is yet another attempt at simplicity. And so you have him starting out with something that’s canonical, that knows its left from its right intrinsically, that seems to have three encoded into it when we see three copies of matter that we’re confused by, that combines General Relativity and the principle bundles that we’ve learned a second form of geometry, not due to Riemann, due to Ehresmann, and, in fact, the simplest of lagrangians. That is really why I’ve chosen Garrett for my archnemesis, because I don’t think anybody’s actually said this properly about Garrett. And so it’s important that Garrett also be curated, because, if you have to promote your own theory, it’s always suspicious that when a book is mailed to you, by its own author, then the idea is that a second person hasn’t said, “I see what that person is saying”. Now, the fact that Garrett is hopelessly and tragically wrong, in my opinion, is a secondary concern. But the fact of the matter is that I think I’ve chosen my nemesis well—

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: —and he may be more challenged in certain aspects of quantization and equations, but you have to admit that what he’s pursued has been completely outside of the norms, and, in fact, phenomenologically does far more than any other theory to attempt to come close to why we see the world that we do. And I just don’t think that there’s a single other person, including Lee Smolin, who can make the case as eloquently for Garrett, who is not Garrett himself.

Brian Keating: See, Garrett, you thought this was gonna be an intervention, but it’s not, don’t worry.

Garrett Lisi: I’m still waiting for the knife.

Brian Keating: That’s coming soon. That’s coming soon. But I want to ask both of you guys, and how you look at each other, because you guys have remarkable lives. I’ve gotten to know Eric extremely well over the last year. I feel blessed to do that. Garrett, I know you obviously by reputation. We’ve met a few times. And we’re obviously, you know, very affiliated with UC San Diego, and I enjoy that. But I also know that, you know, time is limited, and I’ve always been curious to get perspectives on people. So Eric is an incredibly courageous, brilliant person who doesn’t restrict himself to just thinking about physics. He goes on talk shows like Glenn Beck and gets, you know, half a million views, because he is just the exact person that is needed at this troubling time in America, to talk to people on the right about what people on the left, you know, think about the world and to reach consilience, but not just for its own sake. Garrett, you’re known for starting institutions, you’re known for having another set of influences on your time and on your life. Do you guys ever look at each other and say, God, that guy just spent more time on physics, we’d really advanced physics by a tremendous amount or do you look at it’s a guy that guy’s not that serious. Like if he was serious, you know, he’d be he wouldn’t be doing what that Keating guy does and just podcast all day, he would be doing stuff, you know, in his wheelhouse in his lane. What do you guys think about each other, and be candid, what do you feel, Eric, that Garrett should spend more time, you know, on the chalkboard and less time on the surfboard? Eric, you know—Garrett, how do you feel about what Eric’s involved with? Should he—is he denying, you know, physics or math, some sort of attention that it really rightfully deserves? Let me start with Garrett first. I know it’s uncomfortable, but let’s go there. 

Garrett Lisi: I think both of us have made extremely unusual decisions in life and push them to a extraordinary and successful degree. I think Eric has made choices early on that I didn’t. And I’ve made choices that Eric didn’t. And I think we’ve both found, perhaps unreasonable amount of success in that. And I really respect Eric a lot for his decisions. What he’s done in creating The Portal and basically bootstrapping himself to become one of the world’s leading intellectual voices has been fantastic. And I think a lot of people, especially our mutual friend, Lee Smolin, which is, who introduced me to Eric, saw this potential early on and, really, it’s been just inspiring to see Eric find such great success with that. Me, I’m a little—I’m a little less social. I’m a little bit more of an introvert, even though I sort of founded an institute here, it’s an institute for introverts with, like, separate cabins. So people can stay away from each other.

Brian Keating: The most social introvert in the world.

Garrett Lisi: There’s lots of social distancing, and I’m very comfortable social distancing. Eric has decided to form himself a independent intellectual online army, which is freakin fantastic. I’m a little terrified what he’s gonna do with it, which direction that’s gonna go in. But it’s been amazing. And I would be extremely hypocritical to look at someone else and say, “Hey, they should really be spending more time on physics is what they should be doing.” Because I’ve been spending most of my time for the past year actually working on like surfing and kite surfing and just trying to enjoy life, in the midst of a horrible pandemic. It’s been hard for me to concentrate on juggling equations. Right, and for Eric, he’s got, you know, he’s grown a wonderful family, who I enjoyed interacting with a great deal when I visited. And it’s, that’s been a wonderful thing to see grow. As well as, you know, he went off to work in Wall Street and financial management, and he’s had a wonderful career that way, and now working for Peter Thiel, who is also a maverick. That has been a great partnership to see. And he’s grown things in, you know, incredibly different directions than I’ve gone in. At the same time, I still know he’s a skateboarder down there underneath.

And I love seeing him, you know, I love seeing him on an electric skateboard. I love seeing him paraglide. I love seeing him do fun stuff. And if I influence them in some positive way, that’s probably the most positive way I can influence him.

Brian Keating: All right, enough of the kumbaya. Eric, should Garrett spend more time on the chalkboard?

Eric Weinstein: Sure, but that’s—but there’s a sort of a hidden problem in the question, which is, the people who send you books and who send you, you know, equations written in red crayon, you know, declaring themselves the next Einstein, in general are not very self conscious, they don’t understand where they are. And one of the problems is that when you’re actually working independently, if you’re doing it honestly, it’s almost impossible not to succumb to one mental problem or the other. Either you come to believe that you are the unique voice of God on earth. Or you come to see yourself as, you know, a failed loser outside of the system, scribbling things that mean nothing to anyone. And if you’re smart, you oscillate between them, in order to, you know, keep your sanity. So you do it dialectically, because it’s very hard to find a Schelling point in the middle. And I think that you have to look at what Garrett does as sustaining his ability to work outside of the system. The number of us who are serious and working outside of the system is certainly less than I can count on one hand. And so I believe that in part, just keeping your sanity while you attempt this, with everyone telling you that you’re an effing idiot, or a crazy person or an imposter or a grifter, or that you’re thirsty, all of these sort of insults that are hurled by people who don’t actually live this life.

Brian Keating: Have you been reading my mom’s text messages to me? How can ya—?

Eric Weinstein: Well, I have a pack of hyenas that follows me around the internet, so you’ll forgive me. The the point that I’m trying to get at is that if you think about what makes what we do beautiful, it’s perhaps best exemplified in places like Cloudbreak and Teahupoo and Ship Stearns, and, in particular Jaws, in Maui. These are waves, they follow wave equations and the ability to interact with, let’s say, the differential geometry of a ski slope, and the luxurious aspect of sitting in Maui and eating tropical fruit with a whiteboard is sustaining. And so this is what Garrett’s been on about with the Pacific Science Institute, which I heartily recommend people check out and try to get behind, is that Garrett has not only been amusing himself to death, but he’s also in fact, attempting to share what he’s figured out with the renegade scientific community. And I think that you have to view this as admirable when billionaires have stepped away from the private funding of science. When Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner can only come up with the Breakthrough Prize for giving people who are already in the system a little bit more encouragement to keep doing what they’re doing that doesn’t work, I think you have to look at what Garrett’s doing as being an incredibly constructive attempt to take a small amount of money that he’s turned into a larger amount of money through, I would say dumb luck, but he would call it investing, and that he effectively is trying to found something like Xerox PARC, or, you know, Tuxedo Park, or any of these great private endeavors in order to keep physics alive, which—it’s clearly in danger of dying. So I think that Garrett needs more encouragement. And if he was more encouraged, he would spend more time in physics, but it’s almost impossible to spend your time doing this, when it appears that what’s really going on is that your mind is unraveling, that you think that there’s something peculiar about you that will allow you to succeed where everyone else has collectively failed. And I think Garrett’s doing a marvelous job of staying in the game. The fact that he “wastes” most of his time on other pursuits may not be a waste at all, it may simply be, you know, a way of saving your sanity. 

Brian Keating: Now, we just had a conversation with Garrett that I asked the same question I asked of you a long time ago, but I’ll ask it again, and maybe Garrett can reiterate his opinions afterwards. Do we need a Theory of Everything? So people go on and on about these different theories of everything, because we don’t believe that in the current understanding of the laws of physics, that gravity is commensurate, compatible, and fits into a quantization scheme, wherein the wave like properties and Graviton like properties of a quantum truly quantum theory of gravity would take place. However, I always point out, and you guys have pointed out, you know, most of the scenarios where people talk about as Cameron Botha did on my show, as Juan Maldacena did on my show, they’re talking about gravity in anti de sitter space, and five dimensional, you know, spacetimes—

Eric Weinstein: You’re talking about an abstraction that is not gravity.

Brian Keating: I’m talking about abstraction that is not gravity, number one. And, two, they are solving, you know, they’re answering a question that I don’t believe anybody has fully asked from an experimental perspective. I’ll explain what that means. I said this to Garrett, so Garrett, bear with me, but John Preskill was on the show last week. And I said, John, you know, we say we need a quantum theory of gravity because we don’t understand gravity at the center of a singularity or in the beginning of the universe, if indeed, it had a Big Bang singularity at its origin. But what if, you know, we just—the universe is not described by a single Big Bang, it’s more described as Roger Penrose’s conformal acyclic cosmology or Paul Steinhardt, and Neil terex act parodic or bouncing, classical cosmologies. These have no singularities whatsoever, they’re not manifest at all. So that’s one motivation. 50% of the motivation of quantum gravity destroyed, nuked, wrecked, but, and similarly, we don’t believe there any such thing as naked singularities where we could probe a singularity visible. And I said John Preskill, you are the Richard P. Feynman professor of physics at California Institute of Technology, a small Technical College in Los Angeles County. I said, Feynman said, “I don’t care how beautiful your equations are, if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong”. Now, I asked you guys, we can’t ever hope to access these two different domains, which are the only two domains, to my knowledge, that quantum gravitational effects are manifest. Why would you guys spend so much time on this field where it may not even be necessary to unify gravity with quantum mechanics or is there a bigger project at work?

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, would you mind if I took that one first and then you back clean up?

Okay, first of all, let’s dispense with this issue of the task of this generation being to quantize gravity. This is a very particularly quantum field theoretic perspective, where the children of Bohr have always been pissed off that Einstein did so much better in some sense on his side of the ledger, that he cleaned things up, so that his children were impoverished where his Bohr failed to clean things up, so his children have had a much richer world to mine, okay. So the idea of getting Einstein to submit to Bohr has been a long held dream of a subset of the community. If you think about it differently, you could ask the question of, instead of “Why do we have to quantize Einstein’s geometry?” why not geometerize Bohr’s quantum, which is exactly what actually happened. So part of the problem is, is that when you get your information and your news updates from Ed Witten, or the Institute for Advanced Study, which has gone on—gone in heavily with String Theory, Nima Arkani-Hamed perhaps notwithstanding, what you start to realize is that you’ve been sold one particular story about physics. And it’s time to destroy the dominance of that narrative in favor of other narratives. Let’s talk about the Feynman quote. Feynman, I believe, was at Cornell when he made this comment that if your theory doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. No, not right. Your—the instantiation of your theory is wrong. But this is the point of Dirac’s 1963 article in Scientific American where he talks about Schrodinger not incorporating spin, and failing to get agreement with experiment. The theory was basically correct, but, in fact, the instantiation was wrong. This is why the scientific method doesn’t get you out of as much when you apply it naively, nor does Popper. So people are not only in love with Popper and the scientific method, they’re in love with very simplistic versions of that, with the idea that you can always go home, and that rationality and the scientific method is enough to clean up physics. No, your copy editing physics, that’s not where the real magic happens. The real magic happens in a tiny number of places. And Sabine is generally, by the way, correct, that beauty tends to lead almost all physicists onto the rocks, and destroys their career and makes sure that they’re not very productive. The only problem with their theory is that it doesn’t work for the far right tail of physics, where it succeeds beautifully. And by the way, I don’t believe that Wilczek’s work is beautiful in the way that, let’s say, Garrett’s work is beautiful. It may be that Garrett’s work is wrong, but his ideas are definitely beautiful. The way in which Wilczek’s work is beautiful has to do with particular properties of, let’s say, QCD at an analytic level. And I think there are even different forms of beauty. Unfortunately, Sabine has decided that she doesn’t want to target String Theory directly, and so she’s decided that she’s going to be tilting at the proxy of beauty, because beauty is invoked by String Theorists in an attempt to shut everybody else up. Well, she’s quite correct that the attempt to shut everybody else up about the cosmic failure of String Theory to deliver on its promises is, in fact, a huge danger, and may threaten the destruction of the theoretical physics community, which we need for a variety of reasons, because it is our most accomplished intellectual community ever, full stop. Then you have this problem about Feynman. Now, Feynman, in many ways, exemplifies for many people, various things. His aphorisms, which I don’t think he would have taken as seriously as his followers seem to, are wielded as weapons. If you can’t explain it to your grandmother, then you don’t understand it. I do not, you know, “that which I cannot create, I do not understand,” blah, blah, blah. Well, okay, but then again, if you look at the conversation between Feynman and Dirac, it’s very clear that Feynman really never had a fundamental law of physics. And the number of people who’ve done that have been extremely few in number, it’s a very different club, and all of them appear to subscribe to the concept of beauty, which is what I view Garrett, for example, as pursuing. Now, Garrett is not going on to the rocks. His theory may be wrong, but it’s certainly something that needed to be explored. It’s a canonical theory, and I don’t mean Garrett any disrespect, but when I met him at a conference that I think Sabine actually hosted with Lee Smolin, I’d actually looked at E8 myself, for exactly the reasons that Garrett has. Now, I think I’ve detailed a number of things that Garrett did, that I didn’t do with that theory, I think it’s the second most interesting and promising idea. I don’t think it works. But it needed to be explored. And it needed to have an actual physicist exploring it. And I’m very, very happy, and you know, if my stuff—the only reason I want Garrett to be wrong, is that I want me to be right. If I turn out to be wrong, I would like nothing better than for Garrett to be vindicated in what he—what it is that he’s doing. 

Brian Keating: So you think he’s— 

Eric Weinstein: That is the real basis of this rivalry, right. But the issue is that I think that we’ve got all of these incredibly simplistic ideas. The most interesting thing that’s happened is that all of the people who’ve been telling you that they know how science works, it’s all about peer review, that it’s all about agreement with experiment, that you have to be able to explain it to your mother, that there doesn’t need to be a Theory of Everything, that beauty is a problem. None of these people have succeeded. Okay? So at some point, when you haven’t really succeeded in pushing things forward in 50 years, almost, in certain terms, you have to say, maybe all of the crap that we say is wrong. There’s this marvelous scene—I’ll close with this—in No Country for Old Men, where Anton Chigurh asked the character played by Woody Harrelson—I’ve forgotten his name, unfortunately, was it Carter? Can’t remember. He says, “if the path you took led you to this, what have what use was that path? And that’s exactly right. With all of these things that we quote, Popper, or “agreement with experiments”, “scientific method.” If everything has stalled you out for 50 years, why is it that you’re not listening to people who actually have new ideas? Ask yourself that.

Brian Keating: I think one might say, you know, that, that people are maybe overwhelmed with Popper. I mean, I use this example with Martin Rees when he was on the show, you know, if you look at the pinkening and the reddening of the sunset, as the sun goes down to the horizon every night, that you would be led most naturally to believe that the round Earth has been falsified, because it’s much more consistent with a flat earth, that the such behavior should take place in an atmospheric slab approximation. So I wonder if people aren’t overwhelmed by Popper, and overwhelmed by—this is the counter that someone like Lenny Susskind gave on the show, that people are obsessed with it. And I can give another example, so astronomy—astrology which I’m often confused for, you know, when I’m not confused for being a cosmetologist because of my awesome Weinstein-like coif, I am usually confused with being an astrologer. And I usually say yeah, oh, you’re a Pisces. That’s very interesting. That lump on your butt is cancerous. Go check it out. But seriously, I, you know, astrology has been falsified by numerous double blind tests, including one in Nature magazine. Does that mean it’s science? Because Popper says it’s not science unless it’s falsifiable. And obviously, that’s meant to be a supplement and augmentation. But Garrett, I wonder, what would it take to get you—and this, maybe—maybe it is an intervention. I’m sorry, Garrett, sorry to spring this on you—what would it take for you to put all your chips, all your Apple stock, all your Bitcoin into Geometric Unity? You know, for example, at what point would it rise—you say you’ve you’ve studied it enough. And you, tongue-in-cheek, say, you know, it’s, you know, enough to be wrong, but not to be right. I don’t know. But tell me, what would it take for you to pursue—because at the end of the day, we’re here on this blue marble for, you know, 120 years, hopefully, but probably, you know, less in some cases. So, tell me, what would it take for you to pursue, you know, another theory? Wolfram? Let maybe let’s not even make it personal, but, you know, with Eric, but what would it take 

Eric Weinstein: No, make it personal. 

Brian Keating: All right, so yeah— 

Eric Weinstein: That’s the point of having the two of us on this show.

Brian Keating: All right, let’s go for it, TOE-to-TOE, Theory of Everything.

Garrett Lisi: Eric has taken a—using a lot of the same tools that I’ve been playing with, he’s built up a very interesting theory in a very different way. So he has started with a 14-dimensional manifold that incorporates the metric, and then sort of gauge the metric in a way that accommodates its interaction with fermions in a way that is very different than any—and then how gravity is usually introduced to interact with the fermions. So right off the bat, he’s starting with a kind of outlandish structure, that nevertheless matches up well with known physics from a very different approach, which is a sort of thing that absolutely I feel in the same way should be explored, and I’m glad he’s exploring it, because it’s not the way that I would approach things. I wouldn’t start out by gauging the metric, I would gauge the frame, which is equivalent to the metric but is more natural for use with fermions. But Eric chose to start with a metric, and I think that’s a very valuable way to look at things, and to proceed. For me to jump onboard within going and swallowing and looking more into Geometric Unity than I have, I’d really like to see him get something like the CKM Matrix out, with mixing angles appearing in some natural, reasonable way. That’s a high bar. As far as I know, nobody can do this in a natural-looking way. I can’t do it. Others haven’t been able to do it, String Theory can’t do it.

Eric Weinstein: So do you want to just briefly say what the CKM Matrix is, for the kids at home?

Garrett Lisi: Right, so the CKM matrix basically tells you that for your three generations of matter particles, right, when you have like your you have your Up and your Down quarks, in your in your first generation, and your Strange and your Charm quarks in your second generation, and your Bottom and your Top quarks in the third generation. What are the masses of these things? Well, they don’t have distinct masses, if they’re identified as unique particles with respect to the forces. So instead, their masses are mixed between those three generations. And there’s a mixing matrix that allows them that describes how their masses are assigned between them, and how they can oscillate between them. And we also now have a similar matrix called the PMNS Matrix after the first theorists to write about it, for neutrinos and electrons, and getting these matrices out of a theory is necessary for matching up with known physics, and is necessary for—and this is where probably the new predictions will come from any successful unified theory, is with these, the parameters in these two matrices, and how they relate. And it’s very difficult to build your structure up, or break it down from existing symmetry, going the other direction, and get something like these matrices and their mixing angles out in a nice way. And it’s a very high bar. But if that were to happen, for a geometrically based theory, in a natural way, that didn’t sneak them in by hand, somehow, that that would immediately command my attention, and I would swap all my investment into looking at that. And I’d also see if it related to my stuff, because that’s what theorists do, theorists also always try to relate new stuff to theirs. But that would immediately command a whole lot of attention. And, like I said, it’s a high bar, and—

Eric Weinstein: Well, and I think Garrett is also, if I—I feel comfortable putting words into his mouth, since he can take them out, given that he’s here. I think that Garrett is using the CKM Matrix as but one of many examples. In other words, there are things that are concrete, that show that there is a new idea present. And what is particularly bizarre is when people say that they have a Theory of Everything, and there is no new idea that you can hear coming out of their mouths. 

Garrett Lisi: That’s right. 

Eric Weinstein: So a different way of saying the CKM matrix—keep in mind that I’m an imposter, rather than a physicist, so I feel uncomfortable saying anything to the folks at home. But you have a situation whereby the algebraically natural object, which might be called a flavor eigenstate, let’s say, and the observed object, the mathematically massive object in the theory are not necessarily exactly lining up. And one of the problems is that we don’t really know how to generate mass, except for this as-if mass that we call the Higgs mechanism. So, in fact, it’s not even real mass, the way we thought we were going to find mass, it has to do with another object called the Yukawa Coupling, whereby this Higgs field is lured away from its zero value, which would have all of us zipping around at the speed of light, to some finite value called a VEV. And then the idea is that it’s this VEV that requires explanation. The reason I bring this up, is that the old reductionist hopes that you would find the CKM Matrix, and other things of that nature, as fundamental values has been shown, in some sense, to be a very naive hope. That there’s some things that are encoded into the equations of physics, and there are other things that are encoded into the particular region and time of space that we find ourselves in, in the happenstance. So you’re never sure, if you have a number hard coded into the theory, as to whether or not that number exists as a scalar? Thinking of it in computer science terms, how do you cast that? Is it an integer? A ratio of integers? Is it a float? Or is it a field? And one of the problems is that we have these two things, the Cosmological constant, and the Higgs field, and maybe the inflaton, maybe three things, that may in some sense, be disguised as real numbers, but may, in fact, vary the way you wouldn’t say, “what’s the temperature on earth today?” You would say, “well, what’s the field of temperatures distributed over the earth?” So in our region, you might say, it’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit, but you might be fooled into thinking that it’s 76 degrees everywhere, because you’re just too focused on your own navel gazing. So if the CKM Matrix, in fact, is encoded field theoretically, as a bunch of numbers, that happen to be relatively constant at our particular moment in space and time, you know, that’s one thing. We don’t know fundamentally what it should be. We don’t know whether Yukawa couplings and the Mexican Hat Potential come from. All of these gadgets that feel artificial may, in fact, be accidents of an anthropic principle that they happen to be at these values for us to observe them. So one of the problems that’s developed of late in theoretical physics is how do you split up the things that are fundamental to the equations and the Lagrangian which governs the equations, and how many of these are emergent accidents having to do either with anthropics or the the good fortune just to be alive at this time and in this place? That said, I believe that Garrett will be working on Geometric Unity by the end of this year.

Brian Keating: Well that was a bold statement! Well, first of all, I want to take a little brief pause when that haymaker was landed. Let’s take a quick break to ask people to stretch your fingers. Do not get carpal tunnel syndrome. Do not succumb to carpal tunnel syndrome. Press the like button. Subscribe to the Into The Impossible podcast so I can get great guests like this. I’m going to have Carlo Rovelli on next week, I’m going to have Avi Loeb on in the next week. I’ve got a short track to maybe get on gjerde to PhD at OU ft. I don’t know how to pronounce it. He and I have been communicating and many many other great episodes, it would be great to have it hooked on this channel. By the way,

Eric Weinstein: Garrett, can we do something that Brian cannot do? And just—can you say what you think the quality of Brian’s guests, other than the crazy people working outside of the system has been?

Garrett Lisi: I went through his guest list and I was more than—more than impressed enough to come and be a guest myself.

Brian Keating: That’s right. And, and that was enough, actually— 

Eric Weinstein: It’s astounding, Brian.

Brian Keating: Thank you, Eric. And you were—I said on Twitter recently, you’re one of my main role models, as is Sabine and Lex Fridman, and all those great podcasters out there. But Garrett didn’t realize— 

Eric Weinstein: I want to say a little bit more Brian—

Brian Keating: Go ahead.

Eric Weinstein: You can’t say this.

Brian Keating: Alright.

Eric Weinstein: Your willingness to go outside of the system, and your ability to get the top people in the system is unparalleled anywhere else. You know, Lex Fridman is doing something like that, but you’re actually doing it from inside the system. And I don’t know of a single other person who is—maybe Max Tegmark would be the other person, through FQXI and his—and Anthony Aguirre, cofounder of FQXI. But, so far as I know, there are really two or three people who are risking their reputations to talk to people from outside of the system, and able to bring people into the system, I would say Perimeter, FQXI, and the Into The Impossible podcast. And it needs to be said that Brian is taking a huge risk talking to people like us, and taking it seriously, and that he’s managing to do it with so much integrity that he’s still able to get you the top people. And I just think it’s an amazingly courageous thing to do from the position of a chaired professorship. 

Brian Keating: Well, thank you very much. And that will do a long, good bit of help for me when I have people on like Deepak Chopra, who is also on the show in the following weeks, and I do get a lot of criticism, how can I have this crackpot on and, and actually, you know, one of the most most delightful things about this podcast is that I get to talk to people I want to talk to, people that excite and interest the mind, and that satisfy the intellectual curiosity of this podcast, is to create the university I wish I went to. And, although Garrett did go to this university called UC San Diego, one of the best in my opinion in the known multiverse, and he doesn’t know that actually Alumni Relations has a request for his donation of Apple stock later in the podcast, but we won’t get into that. No, I do appreciate that, Eric. It is—it’s not so—it’s not as courageous as the things that you guys are doing, but it is interesting to me, to keep my brain going, and talk to the people that I wanted to talk to ever since I was a kid. People at the forefront that have intellectual curiosity, and have courage. That’s an extremely rare trait. So yes, please help me spread the message about the podcast. Subscribe to my mailing list, I’m sending out life lessons from Jim Simons, and for Michael Saylor, and from Eric Weinstein, and I’m gonna write up some life lessons I learned from Garrett Lisi as well. 

Let’s get back to this. I often hear, as I did, when I talked to Stephen Wolfram by himself, and then Eric and Stephen got together for a live debate over the summer as well. But I said, “which of you guys really thinks that this Theory of Everything is doing a disservice?” Because it’s actually, in my opinion, what Stephen has is not going to come up with the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Or maybe it will, but maybe it won’t come up with Bell’s inequality. In other words, it’s not really a Theory of Everything. It might be a unified theory, or something like that. So Garrett, let me ask you, is, you know, E8, is exceptional theory that you’ve developed, is that really going to come up with things like the double slit experiment? Is it going to come up with strange spooky-action-at-a-distance? Or is it, is it—and I’m saying this “merely”, but it’s not pejorative in any sense—is it restricted to unification via mathematical structures in this representation theory fashion?

Garrett Lisi: The short answer is no, because E8 does not inherently contain a geometric description of quantum physics, which is something that Eric said he was—that ultimately we’re going to need to go for. So if you really want a unified theory, and not be faking it, you also need a description of quantum physics in a natural way that includes the things you described. So that’s what I’m working on next. So I’m next working on structures such as generalized Lie groups that inherently contain descriptions of quantum physics that would start to be able to give you exactly the things that you described.

And Eric would it emerge from—you and I’ve talked about this, but for the record, let’s say it in front of Garrett, what—wherein lies things like the spooky-action-at-a-distance like Bell’s Inequality? Does that lie within the Geometric Unity purview?

Eric Weinstein: I don’t even understand Garrett’s response in his own theory. So let’s first of all criticize Garrett, before we put me in hot water. 

Brian Keating: Alright, go for it. 

Eric Weinstein: All right. The thing about I don’t think Garrett is actually accurate. One of the really important things about what happened in the 1970s, where we actually made progress, but we pretend that we didn’t make progress in the structure of mathematics, because we’re embarrassed where the progress happened. It happened around the mathematics of Field Theory, rather than in the specifics of the field theory that seemed to describe our world. In fact, if Garrett has a Lagrangian, which he does, and that Lagrangian is applied to the fields, which it is, Garrett will find that he will have something called a phase space. He’ll have a configuration space, he will have a phase space. The phase space will inherit a structure called a symplectic form. That symplectic form will become the curvature of a differential operator on something called a line bundle. And that line bundle is something like the xy plane, where you can look at functions. And those functions will become the quantum states of a quantum field theory. So I think that what Garrett just said is not actually accurate—

Garrett Lisi: But you have to—but you still need— 

Eric Weinstein: Even without—

Garrett Lisi: Where does Planck’s constant come in there? I mean, you don’t have quantum—quantum mechanics you have to add. It’s something you have to add. It doesn’t come out naturally from—

Eric Weinstein: No, I don’t agree with just necessarily. I believe that geometric quantization. There are some things that we say about Quantum Theory that I have not been convinced of one is that it’s an art rather than a functor. But I think the geometric quantization goes a long way towards saying that, just as vintners claim that wine is what happens when you stop grape juice from becoming vinegar, well, in some sense, classical field theory is what happens when you stop a mechanics from quantizing itself. And I think that Garrett’s theory is entirely capable of quantizing itself in a geometric quantization format, simply by virtue of the fact that, through a legendre transformation, he’ll get from a Lagrangian into a Hamiltonian picture, the Hamiltonian picture will turn out to be affiliated with a line bundle, and then the spooky-action-at-a-distance will come up in the multi-particle theory as his theory quantizes itself, and I don’t understand his pessimism. That’s not his problem. He’s got bigger problems.

Garrett Lisi: I think of quantum mechanics as bringing in a whole bunch of structural elements that either have to appear by hand, or I guess, I can see—

Eric Weinstein: There are a few pages out of Woodhouse, and I think that you’ll find you’re in far better shape if you can just get your stuff in order.

Garrett Lisi: Happy to have a look. I still think of quantum mechanics as a structure that most physicists would bring in as a toolkit to use with other things, rather than something that emerges naturally from a geometric system. 

Eric Weinstein: We’ll see, I’m a little bit—

Garrett Lisi: —from your point of view, how you’d see it that way.

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, I’m more sanguine that because Garrett has hugged the shore of geometry, he will be richly rewarded if he can ever get his stuff to really work.

Brian Keating: Well, let me ask some questions from the audience, because there’s over, almost—yeah, there’s 1100 people watching live. Thank you, we treasure each and every one of you. And I want to ask a question about the impact of String Theory. Why is it so worthy of at least somewhat muted derision, perhaps by basically everyone who’s got an alternative grand unified or super unified theory? Why is it—make the steelman case for String Theory first, Eric, and then and then I’d like to hear from from Garrett, although we did discuss that, so we’ll maybe ask an alternate question of Garrett so as not to repeat himself. But ask you, Eric, what’s the case for String Theory, even if not to devote—even if we ignore the amount of resources that have been devoted to it? Let’s just take the case of String Theory. Qua String Theory. What’s good about it? 

Eric Weinstein: Well, I mean, first of all, there’s a certain amount of naturality at the beginning of it, which is, “Why just generalize hard little balls, which aren’t exactly right? Why not start from things that are more interesting than hard little balls, like tiny little pieces of string and circles vibrating in some other space?” I think that then you ask the question about, “Why did gravity not succumb to the same tools that worked well for what we would call spin 1/2 matter, and spin 1 forces other than gravity, and now for the Higgs field, so, which is spin 0. Now, there are two other cases, there’s spin 3/2 and spin 2 before you crap out of this game, in which everything in the theory has to come with some fraction between zero and two.

In that situation, there’s a puzzle as to why gravity doesn’t easily submit to this quantum imperialism. And the hope was that if you found any circumstance in which gravity appeared to behave better, then, in that framework, then that would have to be right. And that was supplemented in the early 1980s, by some very bizarre discoveries, where there were some very narrow constraints, called an anomaly cancellation, which appeared to pick out a tiny number of candidates. And so what was tantalizing was that if somebody had actually found a way to circumvent the problems with quantizing gravity, and there were a tiny number of coincidences that were necessary, clearly, you know, the Good Lord Hashem was urging us on a path to find these things, and you could do it through process of elimination. At that point, String Theory turned murderous. And the murderousness is really the problem. It’s not String Theory, per se, that’s the problem. It was the behavior patterns of the physicists who became so drunk on power, and so completely, thoroughly obnoxious—and I want to talk about obnoxious above the obnoxious level that physicists are usually at. Physics is a very—physics is a very dangerous and difficult subject, and because it is the most accomplished of communities, arrogance has been a fundamental aspect of doing theoretical physics, just as humility has been an important aspect. And those two things are commingled. When physics had been failing for a relatively brief period of time, about 10 years, and String Theory was found to have this anomaly cancellation, the String Theory community went into some level of obnoxiousness that has never before been seen in physics. They became completely intolerable. They also started doing things like saying “Everything is String Theory”, just sort of like Bitcoin maximalists, where the Bitcoin solves everything. “I’m having a problem with my children.” “Don’t worry, Bitcoin solves that.” If you find anything that isn’t String Theory, don’t worry, we’ll just call it String Theory. Everything that you can do, we will write a paper called “Blank-Whatever-You-Did, Plus Its Stringy Origins”. It is that complete intellectual dishonesty, and the failure of the String Theorists who embraced it, to face it, and the fact that it’s concentrated in the Baby Boom generation, as a means of deferring the ultimate tango with reality, where they can keep pumping out papers and saying, “look, this is a bit of the 21st century that fell into the 20th century—it fell into the 20th”. No, it’s not. The fact of the matter is, it’s a bit of the 20th century that’s still hanging around in the 21st century. They refuse to ship a product for different reasons than other people who are struggling with it, and more neurons have been spent exploring this theory and failing to find a way to connect it to anything other than mathematical reality. So on the one hand, it’s been incredibly interesting because it backfired on the physics community. The people who thought that they would quantize Einstein’s geometry, in fact, got it exactly wrong. What they did is that they geometerized the quantum. And so people who earned as geometers, doing an infinite dimensional differential geometry, and the like, spent as String Theorists. They would accomplish things in mathematics, and then they would say, “this is exactly why String Theory is correct”. This is a bit what Milton Friedman did, when he earned as an economist, and he spent as a polemicist telling people what they had to do for their social society. Very often people earn in one place and spend somewhere else. So in part, the problem that we’ve had is that we have these people who we absolutely love, who have been doing amazing work, but it’s not the work that they claim that they’re doing. They’ve been advancing the mathematics of Quantum Field Theory. They’ve been exploring extensions of Quantum Field Theory. They are not—when they say that we’re doing something in gravity, usually, it’s not about gravity. When they say that they’re talking about particles, they’re not talking about particles. As I’ve joked, many String Theorists, I don’t think, could find the men’s room at CERN if their life depended on it. They are not in contact with the physical world. They forget things, you know, like the Gell Mann Nishijima formula, and things that, you know, Garrett probably still cares about. I think that the serious problem is that there’s no one in a position to tell some of the world’s most brilliant people that there’s an aspect of Q-anon in physics. This is the cargo-cult science that Feynman warned us about. And the fact is, we can’t necessarily just go towards Brian’s preferred answer about depending upon experiment, and we can’t trust the people who’ve claimed beauty, the way Sabine has been going after the String Theorists. And the fact is that the String Theory community has not been economically powerful, because we have economically undermined the physics community, as with every other academic science community. In order to have this work, you have to go back to the Political Economy of physics. The Political Economy of physics demands that the middle finger be accessible to every generation, so that we don’t wait for funeral-by-funeral. What’s happening now is that the Baby Boomers are eventually going to age out. The key dividing line is 1951. Frank Wilczek, who you’ve just had on your show was the last person, in some sense, to make contact with the Standard Model. Ed Witten, born in the same year, a little bit later in the year, is a guy who could not possibly have been denied a Nobel Prize at this age, in any other time period. This guy is one of the most brilliant people, and I hope to God, Brian, that you have him on your show. Despite my frustrations with him, it has been an honor to live in the same era as Ed Witten. 

Brian Keating: Well, he says there’s only room for one EW on the Into The Impossible podcast.

Eric Weinstein: And my response to that joke is “EW”. The point is that Ed Witten is one of the most important minds alive, and he has earned a tremendous amount of respect, based on what he’s done for geometry, but, more importantly, the mathematics of field theory to show that Quantum Field Theory, rather than a grab bag of strange things that happen to work, is a canonical and necessary mathematical structure. But what he has not done is to show us that String Theory is the likely winner. And the key problem is that we have got to have open debates in the community, where the people in the Holy of Holies, the Institute for Advanced Study, are actually on the same stage with people who can competently disagree with them, for the same reasons that it is important that many of us who do not support what’s going on with the Democratic Party of the United States, because we don’t think that it any longer represents a real and workable Left, and that we think that it is gone down an incredibly dangerous path, have to be allowed on the same programs as people like Brian Williamson—Brian Williams, rather—or Don Lemon, because what we have is an illusion. And the illusion of String Theory is what’s causing the bitterness. It’s not the String Theory, and it’s not even the work that the String Theorist has done. It is the murderous intent by which they have stunted other communities that have sought to challenge them, and say, “You know what, you haven’t gotten as far as you claim, and you’re not correct that other avenues shouldn’t be pursued so that you can gobble up the resources.” 

Brian Keating: Yeah, when I had the conversation I did with Shelly Glashow, and we’ll get to in a minute, you know, basically I said, you know, he’s a leader, and I actually communicated this with Ed Witten the first time. I’m not so easy to get—to dispose of, Ed Witten. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for more requests to have you on the Into The Impossible podcast. But I also said to Nima Arkani-Hamed, who is going to come on the podcast, I’ve got a lot of Institute adjacency to Ed. I’m hopeful that Edward will come on the podcast. But I said to Nima, “he’s a leader” and I started to think, “what is a leader?” and there was a wonderful statement made by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who Garrett Lisi, I’m sure, knows all about being a good Chabadnik, that Garrett—Garrett, you don’t know any of these words, probably. But there’s, there’s a form of Judaism—like Garrett, you know, you’ve done most of the hard work, you had the circumcision, you’re fine, that the rest is all downhill get. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a great, great leader. And he said, “good leaders—good leaders”—to Eric’s point—”create many followers, great leaders create many leaders”. And I see that as kind of happening, at least, not nearly to the same extent in theoretical physics as it is in my field of experimental physics. I know so many talented experimentalists that are far better than me, more creative, harder working, or more imaginative. The future of experimental physics I think is extremely bright, despite what certain naysayers will say. However, I think there is this reluctance to relinquish the stage, to enter and bow out, as Eric is alluding to, from some of the Boomers and so forth, and I’m getting up there myself, but nevertheless, in the theoretical community—and I wonder your reaction to that this following statement, for an experimentalist, it’s ironic, because I don’t believe that experimentalists do their best work by the time they’re 30, the way it’s often rumored to be true for mathematicians, and maybe theoretical physicists. In fact, experimental physicists get better with age, because we get better and better at knowing which experimental techniques work, which applications based on accumulated shared wisdom, etc., take place. So actually the opposite takes place. Your easier job of getting into experimental physics after having, you know, some exposure to it, than maybe theoretical physics, although you guys might debate that, but I want to talk about leadership in the field. You guys are both known for making prolific amounts of money and sums of money that are from your bets—from your bets with Nobel laureates, in fact—and I want to talk about the two bets that are most prominent in my mind. 

Eric Weinstein: Garrett really got paid. I got $1 off of Shelly Glashow after 27 years. Talk to Garrett.

Brian Keating: I know that well, that’s right. So Garrett, got a subscription to play—Nah, nah, I don’t know what he got. But I want to ask you guys, so let me first say this, the public bet that Garrett made with Frank Wilczek was that super particles would not be detected by the eighth of July, 2015. He gave him a one year extension for more data collection. Frank Wilczek conceded the super particle bet to Lisi in 2016. I had Frank on the show recently, I had on Shelly Glashow on the show recently. We were talking about the failure of of supersymmetry. So in this case, why isn’t it true that these Nobel laureates are taking the advice of their fellow laureate Richard Feynman? In other words, we know that it doesn’t agree with experiments. So why is this still so persistent. Is it an illusion? Let me ask Garrett, why do you think these things, like, Frank still believes that supersymmetry has a chance for success, even despite his pecuniary dilemma that he is in, and now, courtesy of you—actually, how could you take his whole salary? I mean, that he only gets five salaries from the five different institutions that have hired him.

Garrett Lisi: It didn’t even put a dent in it. But it did have four digits. So I was happy to receive it for the Pacific Science Institute. So yeah. And I was very—and he was a wonderful person for honoring that bet, and certainly for not bolting on it. I do have, I think, a good perspective on this. When I first built up this, you know, the the algebraic structure of the Standard Model and gravity into one algebraic hole, and just saw how perfectly it fit into E8, I was like, there’s got to be something here. There’s no way this is coincidence. Just algebraically is just—it would be an outlandish thing if this just was a coincidence. 

Brian Keating: Too beautiful to be wrong. 

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, exactly. It’s too beautiful to be wrong. And I think Frank Wilczek experienced—and I’m just guessing here—but I think he experienced something very similar when he did his calculation with a SO 10, Grand Unified model, extended with supersymmetry, and saw that the coupling constants, the way they run at higher energies—and if you do it just with SO 10, they just miss each other. But if you do it with supersymmetry, those coupling constants, when they run, they converge much more closely. And when he saw that, I think he had the same realization that this has to be true. This is too beautiful to be wrong. This supersymmetry, combined with this Grand Unified Theory, with the coupling constants merging to one value at high energy, that’s too beautiful to be wrong. I think he’s hung on to that ever since. What he doesn’t—may not have respected is that, you know, the super particles haven’t shown up. When you look more closely at the convergence, when you go to higher loops in the renormalization calculation, these coupling constants don’t merge perfectly with supersymmetry added. So it’s not as great of a coincidence as he first appreciated. And he just, you know, he had a very personal experience that caused him to have these beliefs. I think this is very similar to people, I mean, I do not mean this an insulting way, but I think many people can be misled this way, if they have personal experiences that lead them to believe weird things that aren’t true. I think people believe in God for this reason, I think people believe in astrology for this reason. It’s like, oh, I met this person there this sign, they match all the things in the sign, there must be something to it. It’s like, because of personal experience, we tend to draw unrealistic models.

Brian Keating: Eric, would—

Eric Weinstein: Does that apply to you?

Garrett Lisi: It does. I think that because I had this experience of seeing the Standard Model fit into he ate perfectly the first time, with this hint of triality for the three generations, I think that gave me unusual confidence that something along these lines had to be true.

Eric Weinstein: I think what Garrett is saying is profound here. This is really an important point. If you take the anomaly cancellation, if you take the triviality, together with the chirality of E8 for Garrett. If you take the running coupling constant convergence for Frank Wilczek, and probably also cancellations in the perturbation theory of supersymmetric theories when the supersymmetry isn’t, you know, too far off, or badly broken, in order to say why it isn’t here already—another one would be the convergence inside of spin 10 that Garrett is referring to of Georgi and Glashow, and there’s another version due to Pati and Salaam—all of these things have been extremely tantalizing, and the problem is that everything smells like we’re almost finished, if not with this whole story, certainly this chapter of the story. And I believe that that is driving many people crazy, which is really the steelmanning of Sabine’s point as to why this is happening. Now, Garrett, can—may I just ask, and sort of take Brian’s role here for one second? Why did you become confident enough to bet against Frank Wilczek, that, clearly, I know you have no penchant for losing money, and you put yourself in a very vulnerable position—what gave you the confidence that super partners would not be found? 

Garrett Lisi: Alright, I looked into— 

Eric Weinstein: You know what’s coming next, right, which is the fact that you’re using super connections, so that you are starting to move a little bit in the direction of supersymmetry—

Garrett Lisi: There is—

Eric Weinstein: Just as Wilczek’s money is moving into your pocket.

Garrett Lisi: —stuff that I’m not—that I’m aware of in my own work. But for supersymmetry and super particles specifically, it was work that I read from a paper in the 90s, I think by Peskin. And that work, just took the last stone out of the structure that was holding up evidence for supersymmetry. There are arguments for supersymmetry. And that stone was that with supersymmetry, you get a more successful renormalization for the Higgs field. Okay, that you get—that you can balance things better with supersymmetry, that super particles perform this role where you can get renormalization to work out better and more successfully in a more natural way. And this has been one of several arguments for supersymmetry that has been used to support it theoretically. And what I found in this paper by Peskin, I think it was from ’97 or something, was that if you just have more Higgs degrees of freedom, you can get the same sort of—same sort of balancing in renormalization. And that’s like, wow, that’s right. This argument really just comes down to one parameter to get something to match up. And if you can just wiggle some other parameter, you can get the same sort of balancing, get everything to work out. So you don’t need supersymmetry, you don’t need this whole Zoo of super particles. And at that point, the chain of logic required to support a belief in supersymmetry just totally fell apart. It’s like there’s just no evidence for this. Mathematically, from a mathematical perspective, I look at it, and it’s like, supersymmetry isn’t even that pretty mathematically. Mathematicians tend not to deal with it, because it’s just kind of not really mathematically elegant. And with so little evidence for it, it just seemed like there was a extreme unusual amount of confidence in supersymmetry among physicists among high energy theorists, and I had an opportunity at a conference to take advantage of Frank Wilczek and his generosity, and putting him on the spot during during a talk he was giving, and make this bet, and he took it because he—I know he had an unusual amount of confidence in the symmetry and he humored me in taking this bet.

Eric Weinstein: Well, this is part of his description of Jimmy the Greek in Vegas making money off people that wanted to bet that they could beat Jimmy the Greek, and that you—hubris is the source of profit. But Garrett, in a weird way, even though you’ve won Frank’s money by forcing him into a compromised position, where he has to support his unnatural exuberance, is Frank not, in some sense, winning this bet, as I watch supersymmetry start to invade your E8 program?

Garrett Lisi: Um, Frank Wilczek has won all sorts of ways, and he’s a great guy, and I think deserves it. He deserves everything he’s won. I’m not religious about anything. If it turns out supersymmetry comes in and solves really good problems for me, I may change my point of view about it. I’m not religious about anything, I will go with whatever works.

Eric Weinstein: 

So let me just make a point on that. I remember the first time I saw a giraffe in Africa on the savanna, and instead of seeing it in a zoo, where it looks like the most ungainly, ungainly, ridiculous animal, I suddenly realized how beautifully it was designed. 

Garrett Lisi: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: Could the problem not be that we have always mis-instantiated supersymmetry, causing it to be relatively ugly, even to mathematicians. And that, in fact, it has infected all sorts of areas of mathematics, we can’t quite keep it out. It does occur in, you know, local formulas, for example, for the Atiyah-Singer families index theorem. Is it not the case that perhaps the problem goes back to what I was trying to say about Popper, that when something is mis-instantiated, it does not invalidate, in some sense, the soul of the idea? And that, what you see is that a lot of these ideas are mis-instantiated, causing people to get crazy. They see something that is, in fact, not seen by others. And then when they realize that they’re in possession of something, incomplete as it may be, they rush to over-instantiate it. And that that’s really the problem. And that, in fact, Frank has been driven slightly mad by expecting that the supersymmetry would occur in the most naive possible way, just as Georgi and Glashow were looking for proton decay in South Dakota abandoned mines, and didn’t find it. Just as Ed Witten was looking for a very simple story about the Einstein equations coming out of pieces of string, with the anomaly cancellation showing the way. And that, over and over again, Sabine is actually just, in some ways, doing a great job calling out many more powerful people for not actually getting things right, but is herself fallen in love with the idea that beauty is the source of the problem. Maybe the source of the problem is that we keep seeing glimmers of the truth that are almost always mis-instantiated. And that the real problem is that we are at the end, and it is the conceptual difficulties that are the biggest problem. When we say Theory of Everything, what do we even mean? We have these incredibly childish conversations: Do we need a Theory of Everything? What good is a Theory of Everything? But I think that the much more interesting question is, conceptually, do we even know what we mean, because, to the best of my knowledge, even though I’m assured that every theorist has a private collection of theories of everything in a drawer that they show no one, I’ve actually never seen a competent attempt at a Theory of Everything from anyone. It’s so difficult. We’re in such a straitjacket at the moment, that anybody who knows anything about this field effectively won’t produce a Theory of Everything candidate, because it’s instantly laughable. And that, in fact, we don’t even know what we’re talking about when we say the words “Theory of Everything,” because what does that mean? 

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Garrett Lisi: I think you really got it when you think—when you said perhaps we do are using the correct structures, the correct theoretical models, we’re just instantiating them incorrectly. And I think that could very well be the case with supersymmetry and how it’s instantiated. It could be instantiated in a different way, where it still maintains a form of supersymmetry, but you don’t end up with super partners, you don’t end up with super particles.

Eric Weinstein: Bingo.

Garrett Lisi: So it could be something just like that. And that’s very much the case if you look at the BRST technique for—

Eric Weinstein: You mean with ghosts. 

Garrett Lisi: —for Gauge Theory with ghosts, which are essentially, you know, they’re—it’s a sort of supersymmetry, but it’s not a superpartner supersymmetry. And that, and in that sense, it’s a much prettier structure, and I think something like that could be happening. And it could be happening over and over again, where we actually are dealing with almost exactly the right picture. We were just a little off, so totally missed it.

Eric Weinstein: What if the idea is in fact that you’re you’ve got Clark Kent and Superman, and you imagine that Clark Kent is something called Spider Man, and that Superman is, in fact, Peter Parker, and you keep waiting for Peter Parker and Spider Man and you haven’t put together you have Clark Kent and Superman. I mean, there are all sorts of things that can explain all sorts of older people going completely insane because they grew up—

Garrett Lisi: The reason this happens is because when we’re students and we learn this stuff, we see one way that was done specifically, and we now are familiar with the one way it was done specifically, and we lose track of the fact after hundreds of people have learned it this way, we lose track of the way that it could have been done slightly different, if they just made a slightly different choice of bat—

Eric Weinstein: Well, and also that when you allow older people to wrap their loving hands around the necks of anybody who would come to disagree with them financially, which you do is you interfere with the scientific process, and it’s certainly very expensive waiting for Plank’s aphorism to come true that science progresses funeral-by-funeral. It doesn’t need to if you solve the problem of political economy. And if there are any billionaires out there who would like to advance the human species, there’s nothing you could do better than free the people who need to be freed from the economic tyranny of the elders, to actually develop the ideas that they believe in so that we don’t keep investing in the failed ideas of others. A huge missed opportunity for interest

Brian Keating: Only if—Eric, if only you knew a billionaire, I mean, it would be so convenient if that were the case. Or me too. 

Eric Weinstein: Well, Jim Simons is available, I hope. Jim has been incredibly generous, and trying to figure out what to fund. I do not understand—if I were Jim Simons, and I wanted to leave the maximal stain in the human—I mean, this isn’t said because we want Jim Simons’ money. If Jim Simons wanted to do the maximal amount of good, I believe that Jim Simons could solve this problem overnight, because, to be honest, a lot of this is incredibly cheap.

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Garrett Lisi: Theorists are cheap.

Brian Keating: Yeah. When I hear that, of course, I’m reminded of the quote by Upton Sinclair that it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. And I, you know, wonder, what about the people out there who say, “you guys are controversial, you guys are working at this, you know, kind of outsider’s perspective.” I know Eric hates this, but like, at least this guy, Norbert, you know, he’s written a book. And he’s got this book, he’s not doing a TED talk, like Garrett. He’s not doing a Joe Rogan as Eric does. What do you say to people like that? I mean, is this guy—should you just humor a person like this? And then he might be listening? I hope he is, Norbert, you’re all—more power to you for doing this.

Eric Weinstein: You looked through the book. What do you think of it? 

Brian Keating: Well, I just got it this morning, and it’s 190 pages, but it’s phenomenal.

Eric Weinstein: Doesn’t require that, you can figure out very quickly whether or not there’s something to it.

Brian Keating: Yeah. So I literally got it as I was setting up to interview Garrett. I will look through it because actually, it’s a tradition of mine to never throw away a book. I don’t care what it’s about, or whatever, even if it’s my own book, which I—

Eric Weinstein: Do mind if I—

Brian Keating: Yeah—

Eric Weinstein: —I answer that, because—

Garrett Lisi: Some books you have to throw down with great force.

Eric Weinstein: Brian, because there was a slight implication there, I will point out that I actually don’t—I’ve been very fascinated by the fact that I said quite a lot of things in the Geometric Unity lecture that I released, and the claim that you can’t understand anything from a lecture is itself preposterous. I remember very well, when what became to be known as the Seiberg-Witten equations were discussed at a seminar at MIT. I guarantee you the math community did not wait for a paper. They immediately tore into—a guy named Brian Knutson, I believe, asked Ed Witten, “Well, what are these equations?” and Ed wrote them on the board. The rest is history. The claim that, in some sense, you know, “paper or it didn’t happen”. This kind of internet tomfoolery has just showed you the degradation in the communications between the scientific community—name calling, and innuendo is really trading at a premium. One of the things that I really like about the conversation that we have been having is that it’s nuanced. I may resent Ed Witten’s leadership of the physics community, but I absolutely love his mind and what he’s done. Sabine pisses me off with her diplomacy when she says “I’m too busy to read this stuff”, when she actually means, “I don’t think it’s good enough to warrant my attention”. 

Brian Keating: Or that, yeah, she’ll say, I don’t understand it. Right. 

Eric Weinstein: But my point is, right. But my point is, is that there’s a tremendous amount of love in this situation for the—and compassion, for the people who are in this game. When you hold up that book, I see an earnest person, who’s almost certainly going to be wrong, who’s trying. And I think that there’s a beautiful thing that goes back to David E Kaplan, at Johns Hopkins, who did the film Particle Fever, who’s an unbelievable guy, and I hope you have him on your podcast. He is an honest broker. What he said is, “the entire circus of theoretical physics is what humanizes us”, the charlatans, the careerists, the backstabbing, the missed opportunities, the failings, and ultimately the successes, that the entire circus is, in fact, man trying to understand his own condition. It is we as the AI attempting to learn our own source code. We have emerged in the system out of nothing. It is as if we’ve been given a Game of Life in Conway’s sense, and we have somehow spontaneously erupted to try to figure out “what are we?” or if you want to look at it as Wheeler’s the universe inspecting itself, which he drew is a “U” with an eyeball looking at itself. 

Brian Keating: Yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: And I think that part of the thing that you would say is that, under David Kaplan’s concept of the physics circus, whoever’s book that is, I may never heard of that person, that person is trying. And you know, rather than denigrating that person.

Brian Keating: I can prove it to you on one leg that that criticism is B.S., because look behind me here. This way, this way, here, this purple kind of book right there, is Wolfram, a project for theoretical physics. Okay, so a project to find the fundamental theory of physics. Okay, so, he published a book, people don’t read it. The same people who say the same stuff about the two of you, say the same stuff about Wolfram. So that is proof positive that a book is meaningless, a paper is meaningless, having written—

Eric Weinstein: Wait, what do they say about the two of us? 

Brian Keating: Well, I think what they say about the two of you, is “Eric—”, and you and I have had this conversation, I’m not saying it behind your back, that “—you are an extraordinarily privileged human being who did, you know, went to Harvard, went to MIT, went to Israel, had all these postdocs, now is in a high power position, you call yourself not a physicist, but you really are a physicist—to shield yourself from the criticism that “he should know better because he’s a physicist”. You use this as a shield, as armor, to protect yourself. Garrett, they say “he’s not traditional academic role. He didn’t—” you guys are gonna fucking kill me, but I don’t care. I’m 1000s of miles away. But they’ll say, “Garrett is a showman. He is bright, but his potential is not being used, because he has enough gifts.” And they say the same about you, Eric, that you should be doing this full time. And I don’t agree with that, because I think you guys are making valuable contributions, arguably, Garrett, you know, if you break any more bones, I’m going to get pissed off at you. But the point—

Eric Weinstein: Actually, Brian, what you’re saying—if that was said publicly, those people would be short. And I want to bring up a very important story. There’s a difference between trying to snipe and trying to block. I said some very tough things about Ed Witten. Very hard for me to say that, because this is a guy that I admire, effectively, almost more than anyone else alive, right? When people refuse to go short in public, and they snipe behind backs, it’s really remarkable in some sense how at least Jacques Distler and Garibaldi, his coauthor, went short Garrett Lisi. This is the manner by which Erwin Chargaff went short Watson and Crick. There was nothing quite as beautiful as watching Chargaff come to understand how deeply and painfully he had gotten things wrong. And I think that one of the things that’s very interesting is, if people say that, you know, if I called myself a physicist, I guarantee you tomorrow, that criticism would convert 180 degrees, or pi radians, if you like, and that is it would be “How dare he call himself a physicist? He took one semester of mechanics WTF.” Okay? The key point is, most people are very reluctant, with love and care, to say what they mean and go short what they mean. And if I were to offer, “Would you care to give me 10,000 to 1 odds on Geometric Unity?” I guarantee you they’d say, well, let’s bet 100 bucks at 1 to 1. No, no, if it’s quite so ridiculous, if it’s funny, if it’s an internet stunt, I would be very interested in taking your house. And I’d be willing to put up you know, a little bit of money given that it’s such an outside bet. So, if you’re interested in going short, that’s not the problem. The problem is the sniping. The problem is the bitchy, catty little comments, and the avoidance, you know, I mean, I definitely can tell you that I have a lot of admiration, for example, as to what Sean Carroll has been doing, in terms of trying to push out various aspects of the toolkit of theoretical physics to a world audience. But I also find that there is an aspect of avoidance. And in the case of you, you are actually saying, “I want to sample what life there is.” And it’s very important to recognize that the difference between blocking and shorting is very important. If people will not professionally go short and say, I think that the odds that you have anything are miniscule and not worth worrying about. That becomes very interesting, because that’s something that can be falsified.

Brian Keating: Well, how about it? Shall we make it interesting, Garrett, you guys are known for winning bets with famous Nobel laureates, guys care to make it interesting? But how about this? How about we bet—well, no that wouldn’t be going short—I was gonna say Eric bets that Garrett’s right, Garrett bets that Eric’s right. But I’m trying to achieve comity, but that’s a problem, right? Because actually, I think that it’s benign bigotry, right. I think it’s—

Garrett Lisi: On what metric? Yeah.

Brian Keating: I think it’s benign bigotry to say oh, well, it’s good. Eric. Eric, good for you. Let me rub your beautiful Einstein hair—I think that’s insulting, and I think it’s detrimental, right, to say, “Oh, it’s good that—” and I do take issue with Sabine for doing that, you know, basically, I think that’s a cop out. She should say what she really believes is just, “I think it’s wrong.”

Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait a second. Sabine is in a very vulnerable position. 

Brian Keating: Okay, fine.

Eric Weinstein: And I’m very defensive of Sabine, because Sabine has huge amounts of integrity. 

Brian Keating: Me too, I, yeah.

Eric Weinstein: I really believe that she intends to be as diplomatic as she can as a curmudgeon, and that she’s trying to keep—you know, we’ve got one lady in Germany trying to keep the entire field—the reason that we keep talking about her is because of her incredible courage and integrity. And so even though she’s wrong about beauty, and Garrett is wrong about E8, and I can keep going on and over and over about what my beliefs are, the fact is, these are people who are behaving, in my opinion, the most heroically, and the sniping, and the bitching and complaining and saying, “Well, you can tell that because they’re behaving in this way, if you avoid peer review, it means that—”, look, the key issue is I keep coming on your show, Brian, time after time. I’m on with Wilczek, I forget who else I’ve been on—

Brian Keating: Penrose.

Eric Weinstein: Penrose. No, we’re actually out here in public and vulnerable. And the key point is, if you want to go short, and you have an idea that this is so ridiculous, by all means.

Brian Keating: Well, here’s the—

Eric Weinstein: Let’s structure something so that you can express your view, and then it becomes much more interesting to go after it.

Brian Keating: Well, here’s a conversation you and I had when I came on The Portal, which will be released by the time the second—

Eric Weinstein: Inshallah. 

Brian Keating: —by the time the second Kamala Harris administration is in office. But I, you know, I said this, that they—and you and I talked about this, quite candidly, that Nobel Prize winners have this outsized risk/reward ratio that doesn’t favor them either opining about the peccadilloes, or flaws, in new Theories of Everything, and also, not being very willing to step out on a limb, right, because they don’t want to, you know, have their reputation—they have reputation bias, they have authority bias that comes courtesy of this—look, you guys both talked about Nobel Prize winners and so forth. And, you know, my theory on that, and that’ll come out when The Portal does come out with the two of us. But, the point being, you know, there’s this tremendous, you know, risk, so I don’t—on one hand, Eric, you’re saying we can’t criticize Sabine too much because she’s extremely courageous and vulnerable, and she’s doing a great job, but she’s not backed by this edifice of tenure and so forth that I enjoy. On the other hand, we can’t criticize someone like Wilczek, because he’s not gonna take the bait and possibly risk some of his hit points. And—

Eric Weinstein: Well, no, no, no, no, no, this is what—Feynman came out against String Theory, and he made the point, he said, when I was a young man, the old people got it wrong. So I’m going to be telling you that, as an old guy, I think the String Theorists have it completely wrong. Now, of course, he didn’t really mean that. He really meant, “I think the String Theorists are completely wrong. I’m not here just to entertain you.” The key issue is that the old guys who really still understood what the game was had won enough that they were in a position to get things wrong, and to be relatively undamaged and undeterred. The problem that we have now is that the leading lights of the theoretical physics community have, in general, not made contact with the unforgiving. That is, they have not made contact with the physical world, they don’t work in dimensions, or, you know, Spacetime signatures that are actually real, they tend to work in places where there is no chance of bumping up against anything other than mathematical reality. And so, by deferring that, what we have is, we have very vulnerable old people. We now have people dying, at the ends of their lives, who were considered leading lights of the physics community, who have never been proven to have accomplished anything, actually, in physics. And I don’t say this to be a jerk. I say this because the field is in danger. When you go for almost 50 years without making significant contact, from the theory perspective—we’ve had about three or four major updates from the experimentalists, to your point, Brian—you’re in danger of having very respectable people who it’s not even clear are physicists, in standard concepts of physics. When you talk about people like Ed Hooft, and Yang, and Weinberg, and Frank Wilczek, you’re talking about an extremely important, dwindling community, like the number of humans who have walked on the moon. Every human being who has walked on the moon is old, and everyone who has made contact with experiment from the theory perspective in fundamental physics is now old. This is a non-renewable resource. We are in incredible danger, because we have got to claim the people who sit in the chaired professorships are incredibly accomplished, but by physical standards, almost none of them are. And this is not me being a jerk. This is, unfortunately, the world being a jerk.

Brian Keating: How do you read world? How do you instantiate that though, Eric? How do you—look, “You’re not coming—get your damn hands off my chair!” You know, “I earned this chaired professor.” But— 

Eric Weinstein: I didn’t say experimentalist, Brian.

Brian Keating: I know, I’m just joking, but I am, to somebody else, I’m blocking somebody else. So I had this conversation with I think it was Cameron Hoffa, but it might have been somebody else, but, another person who’s done a tremendous amount of mathematical things. He’s very brilliant. I love him. He’s a mensch. But, you know, I feel like we have, we have a whole, you know, glut of very accomplished, brilliant theoreticians, theoretical physicists, perhaps, and there aren’t as many experimentalists doing the work, as Garrett said earlier, you know, it’s very expensive to do experiment, blah, blah, blah. But, but how do you physically get them to give it up? I want to propose in a faculty meeting, and now I’m tenured so I can say whatever I think about various ones—Naw, I love my colleagues, but I said, I think you theorists should teach two classes for every one class in experimentalist has to teach, because I’m traveling, I’m going to Chile, I’m going to the South Pole. I’m doing—and I’m running an enterprise with a budget annually of $1.7 million to put my students, for them to travel for them to go to Chile, blah, blah, blah. And they were like, “If you do that, I will make your life a living hell”, you know, basically, they’re not going to teach two classes in a quarter. They’re not going to do it—

Eric Weinstein: They shouldn’t be teaching, for the most part.

Brian Keating: How do you do that? How do you instantiate this thing of “get the old Boomers off the stage”? Look, we have a 78-year-old president right now.

Eric Weinstein: You need not to “get the old Boomers off the stage”. You need enough funding so that young people, their life—

Brian Keating: Okay, where—?

Eric Weinstein: —does not depend— 

Brian Keating: Where? Motherhood and apple pie. Where do we get the money? Let me ask Garrett. Garrett—

Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait, one second. I’ve been on this program before. The US government needs to recognize that it is shooting itself in the foot by not honoring an agreement that was tacitly understood, which is, we create your economy, and for God’s sake, when we tell you that we need funding and we need some toys, shut up.

Brian Keating: Do you think we’re gonna get that?

Eric Weinstein: We created almost everything that is still working.

Brian Keating: No, I agree 100% with you on that, I’ve, obviously—and I—and by the way, I like to point out that nobody looked at the equations of quantum mechanics and said, Let’s make a LCD a transistor that will go on a smartphone. It came from experimental physics. I’m just teasing. But Garrett, maybe you haven’t heard this, Eric calls theoretical physics, the “SEAL Team Six” of intellectual capability. By the way, I have a lot of friends in the SEAL teams, and they’re just as talented. Eric, I know you mean that in the best possible way. And you have—

Eric Weinstein: You know, if I get taken out by SEAL Team three, I’m going to be terribly angry.

Brian Keating: Yeah, Jocko is coming back for more. Let me let me stop and take a pause for one second, just to remind people, please do subscribe to the podcast, please leave a comment. What do you think about these different theories of Eric’s and Garrett’s? And what do you think about the importance of, I believe, popularization that these are two of the greatest exponents? I think Sabine is an incredible expositor. She takes things in a different direction than I do. People that are actually doing research and taking courageous stands, you’ll be pleased to know that people like my friend, and upcoming guest, Avi Loeb, he is very much in the same camp as you guys. And he’s a theoretical astrophysicist. And he believes that there’s tremendous amounts of evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence that’s not being funded. Just the exact same arguments that Eric and Garrett might make, because of all the intellectual air being sucked out, and the financial capital getting sucked out. So Eric has made controversial, to me, suggestions that we should tax semiconductor instructions or somehow monetize these inventions of physics. I pointed out, Eric, I think, when you and I and Max Tegmark were on together, earlier this month—I’ll put a link somewhere in the notes to that—I pointed out that we’re doing it again, Garrett, we’re doing it again, we never learn our lessons. Quantum computing, the next big thing, it’s going to revolutionize our understanding. Artificial intelligence. We invented that in the form of what are called Josephson junctions. And I had John Preskill on about that. And we talked about quantum computing. We’re doing it all over again. When will we ever learn? How would you solve it? How are you optimistic, Garrett, politically speaking, that the new administrations are going to be more favorable to science and, more importantly, to physics, specifically, in terms of direct funding?

Garrett Lisi: I think the new administration is definitely more favorable to science, certainly to listening to scientists, if not actually financially supporting them. But I think some financial support will come just with the added respect. But respect isn’t enough to put food on the table. You also need financial support. And I think, you know, pulling from my own story, my advisor in quantum field theory passed away, and I was pretty much left adrift. But I had, you know, somehow, somewhat miraculously come up with my own financial support, through getting lucky in the stock market. So I was able to go off on my own, do my own thing, and got lucky with it. Now, I’m a horrible data point—

Brian Keating: Right. Survivor bias.

Garrett Lisi: But I think the best thing you could possibly do to get young people out from the tyranny of control from the elders, and allow them to explore their own ideas, their own creations, their own explorations in mathematical physics, quantum computing and everything, is to get your fingers off of their endeavors. And this happened with FQXI, where they started out, it’s like, well, you know, take proposals for all new weird ideas and give money out based on those ideas and see where it goes. And I had a weird idea. I’ve submitted it, I got funded. Wow, this is amazing. That was great. It all went into stocks. Now I’ve got a house. But what happened to FQXI is, now it’s changed. And now it’s directed. Now it’s like, well, we will accept research proposals on this one specific area of interpretations of quantum mechanics, and its relation to consciousness. And I’m like, Oh, Jesus, all right, they’re gone.

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, too much transparency, too much “best practices” too much administrative nonsense.

Garrett Lisi: All this stuff, all this over-management has to go. What you really want to do is have some rich patron say, “I’m just going to give a lot of money to a lot of smart young people, and let them have fun.” Just take really smart people, give them money, give them the support they need, maybe point them towards a community of people they can talk to, and let them, and just support them. Let them do what they want.

Eric Weinstein: You don’t have to say it is “fun”, Garrett. Look, they need to have houses, and children.

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, they need support. 

Eric Weinstein: They need to have a future. 

Brian Keating: I mean, the Perimeter Institute came close to that right? You guys both— 

Garrett Lisi: Just give more money to smart people when they’re young.

Eric Weinstein: Give money to smart people and stop—

Brian Keating: Yeah, but I, okay, so Jim Simons told me that—and he’s worth $20 billion, probably. He said, “If I gave $1 to everyone who said ‘I’m a super genius’,” he said, “even I would be broke.” In other words, there’s—everybody thinks that they’re—how do you have the knowledge to say which ideas are worth pursuing? Or you just give it to everybody? Because then you give it to nobody.

Garrett Lisi: IQ tests are pretty good, even IQ tests are pretty good. Give it—give money to top—

Brian Keating: I’ll fail! I’ll fail! I won’t get anywhere. I’ll be broke!

Eric Weinstein: Brian, the problem is that that’s a pretend comment. There really aren’t that many people with even a, you know, take every single person that you mentioned as having an alternative Theory of Everything. It’s a tiny number of human beings who are even trying. This is not like everybody, you know, with a story. The community of people who are actually trying to do something interesting from outside with any technical competence is relatively small. And this is just—this is a nonsense argument for holding on to the fact—Jim might be saying something else, which is, I don’t think any of these people are promising enough. Fair enough.

Brian Keating: Yeah. You know, you know, it occurred to me as you’re both speaking, that you guys are both kind of like orphans. And, in terms of not having advisors in the traditional sense, in graduate school, and I see you guys like brothers. And brothers can be best friends, but they also fight, as we know from our friends, Cain and Abel. And maybe that explains this Nemesis theory, the antimatter nemesis, but—and maybe it explains the conservation of mass between the two of you guys over the pandemic. And let me just pause for one—Oh, go ahead, Eric.

Eric Weinstein: Garrett’s been shredded for a long time, and I’ve just lost some weight after being, you know, too far north on the scale. So I don’t think that we should overdo that. I do think that it’s really important to recognize that the antagonism is real, the love is real—

Brian Keating: The love is real.

Eric Weinstein: —and that this is normal. And the reason that this has been able to work as a relationship for as long as it has, over a decade, is that we listen to each other, and we take each other seriously. When I tried to do a good job of saying why I think Garrett’s theory is one of the most interesting even though it doesn’t work, it’s this ability to go both long and short, and to say what’s positive and what’s negative. A lot of what you see, when somebody is just wholly negative, and they say, you know, “smart guy, but this, but that, but this, but that,” Jesus Christ. That stuff is getting confusing. The tiny number of people who are doing anything interesting, including Sabine crapping all over all of us, is—this community is fewer than 20 people. I don’t think—I just want to be clear that if Jim Simons doesn’t have 20 bucks, I can front it. 

Brian Keating: Right.

Eric Weinstein: I can get him 20 bucks.

Brian Keating: I told him, I told him, you know, if he had a down month this year, for the first time ever, I said, Jim, if you need a loan, Eric’s money is available. No, seriously, I did have just one thing to say before we turn to maybe a little bit of politics, and then we’ll finish up, because it’s been late and Garrett’s been so kind, and the waves are getting tasty down there. Shakalaka Garrett Lisi. 

Garrett Lisi: It is a good kitesurfing day today. 

Brian Keating: Triton class of—what year did you get your PhD.

Garrett Lisi: Ah, good lord. It’s either 98 or 99.

Brian Keating: Beloved son, prodigal son of the University of California, San Diego, my beloved institution. Eric Weinstein, proprietor of The Portal and all things mystical, magical and multifluous. And mellifluous, I should say. Eric, you’re quite an inspiration. We’ve had these conversations before. I want to talk about this phrase that actually, Garrett, you said a couple minutes ago. I wasn’t intending to talk to go here. But if you’ll indulge me, I know Eric will. It’s like catnip to his newfound pet cat. But I want to—his name is Schrodinger—that was a nice touch to get that cat, call it Schrodinger, keep it—no, I’m just kidding. Eric doesn’t have a cat, yet. He might, but he doesn’t yet. But, Garrett, you said—

Eric Weinstein: I do and I don’t. 

Brian Keating: You said listen. Good one, Eric. You said “listen to scientists”, now—unless you said “Lisi to scientists”, to what extent should we listen to scientists? I mean, I made this point on The Portal episode that’s locked in the vault for its controversial status, apparently. I said, Shockley, William Shockley was a scientist. He he co-created the transistor, he won the Nobel Prize in the 1950s for its invention. He believed deeply in eugenics, and the superiority of whites over blacks. Robert Millikan—his name has just been taken off of Caltech’s Millikan library for his belief in eugenics—won the Nobel Prize for establishing the fundamental quantization of electric charge. Who—James Watson has said things, that rich people should be paid to have children, because their children will be smarter than poor children. These are all scientists. Well, my favorite one—do you guys know about Fritz Haber, who won the Nobel Prize—first, one of the first Jews to win the Nobel Prize. He was a German Jew, who, in 1908, came up with the Haber-Bosch process, which we now know creates fertilizer for half the world’s food production. And then he turned his attention to chemical warfare, including overseeing a chemical strike in Brussels, in Belgium, I believe, in 1915, that killed 50,000 Allied lives. He was a scientist, he won the 1918 Nobel Prize after committing chemical warfare atrocities, to which Germany had signed against a treaty against it. These are all scientists. Should we listen to them?

Brian Keating: What—when do we stop—

Garrett Lisi: Well you’re talking about listening to scientists about what we should do, not what we can do, and there’s a difference. 

Brian Keating: Explain. 

Garrett Lisi: I think scientists are experts in what we can do. And a lot of other thought, in ethics, and philosophy, and the liberal arts, often areas in which our leadership is more educated, is more expert in what we should do. And eugenics is something that we can do. We can breed for intelligence in any creatures, including us, or other traits. Should we do it? No. So yeah, listen to scientists with what we can do, and what will happen if we do things, but not always with what we should do.

Brian Keating: So yeah, I always say science means knowledge. That doesn’t mean wisdom. But Eric, you know, to the extent that you could maximize funding, let’s say that’s all you cared about doing, is maximizing science, funding for the betterment and preservation of life on this planet, which you believe is facing an existential crisis, as, you know, as we’ve talked about on the Into The Impossible podcast, and you’ve talked about in The Portal, etc. So you think we’re facing—so why not submit to rule by scientific minds? What’s wrong with that? Scientists are pretty smart.

Eric Weinstein: Well, I don’t like the strawmanning of the question. I mean, you asked a really interesting question before, so I’m going to leave the provocation, and go to the original question. 

Brian Keating: Please. 

Eric Weinstein: You didn’t mention Paul Ehrenfest, who murdered his own, I think, retarded child maybe with down syndrome. Nor did you mention Pascal Jordan, father of quantum mechanics, who was a straight up Nazi. To say nothing of Heisenberg’s dalliance with national socialism in Germany—

Brian Keating: —and Frank Hertz and Otto Hahn. And yeah, 

Eric Weinstein: Right. So I can go through this. And, okay, so now, you know, this is like the moles all over my body—am I going to tear them all out? I had an African American dermatologist who said to me, he said, “You know, I could remove these things, but if I, if I really did what you want me to do, you’d have almost nothing left.” And I think the key problem is that you have to wrestle with scientists who have crazy ideas. And we regularly go crazy in opposite directions. You’ll find people who, you know, advocate for fascism, and you’ll have people who advocate for anarchy. The issue is that the Schelling points that are attractive to the scientific mind, can be quite extreme. Now we can all make fun of Jim Watson for saying a bunch of things which, you know, I’ve spent a week with him and let me tell you, he is attracted to outrage. And, in part, those outrages are provocations, the key question is, “well, what do you got to come back at me?”, so I got a chance to sock it to Jim Watson over and over and over and over again for stupid comments about women. 

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: But they weren’t stupid for the reason that everybody else said they were stupid. They were stupid because he didn’t actually know his stuff. And he knew his stuff in all sorts of other areas. It’s very, very scary when extremely smart people say things that challenge us. Now we can all agree that eugenics is bad. But then when we talk about, oh, well, this embryo apparently may have a bracket gene in it. Do you want that removed if we have the ability to remove it? Then we’re all gonna say, Oh, no, no, no, no. Why doom somebody to a radical mastectomy later in life? Well, guess what, suddenly you’re practicing eugenics. And you know what, when you take somebody out to dinner in a movie to figure out whether they’re an appropriate mate, you’re practicing weak eugenics. So part of the problem is, is that it’s much easier to pretend that all of these people have gone completely insane, and that they’re just ridiculous. And it’s much harder to say, “Well, if a leading mind is making this point, do they have something?” So my question is, are you afraid of Jim Watson? Are you afraid, secretly, that he might actually be saying something? If so, by all means, suppress him, you know. But in fact, if I believe that Jim Watson is not correct about most of these things, I would much rather share a stage with him, and go toe-to-toe and make the point that part of what’s motivating him is that he wanted to be free. And he saw the degradation of freedom inside of the Academy, and he became more and more obstinate, mischievous, and, as I’ve said, the problem is that the legacy of Jim Watson is so important that it cannot be left to Jim Watson. Jim Watson did so much and his story means so much, and his stupid ass stuff that he says late in life because he feels that his freedom has been eroded and that other people haven’t understood—No, Jim Watson has a lot of points, many of them bad. And Edward Teller, it would be another example. The person who, along with Stan Ulam, unlocked the power of the sun so that we can wield it against our enemies, giving us the power of gods and almost certainly dooming us to die on this planet was, in fact, arguably, a humanitarian that no one understood. And if you go back to his letter with Leo, to Leo Szilard, where he talks about the fact he said, “We cannot pretend that we have not allowed the genie to escape from its bottle, and our only hope is convincing us that war is an unthinkable prospect.” It’s not at all clear to me that when you remove Teller’s name from a building, that you’re doing humanity a service because you didn’t understand it. If I tell you that if you read Gandhi in the original, it’s very clear that he was pro-violence. Now you can decide that he’s wrapped in a dhoti, and he’s a kindly old man who freed India from British tyranny, just because his desire for pacifism, but Gandhi hated pacifism with a passion. And he far preferred violence to pacifism.

Brian Keating: When it serves a purpose— 

Eric Weinstein: Part of the problem is that we have too many children running around the stage pretending that they have some idea about what happened historically, and who are afraid because they’re incapable of wrestling with the most dangerous ideas that are extolled by some scientists. So my feeling is that the answer to bad scientific proclamations, where scientists are saying things that are unforgivable, that are dangerous, is better scientists. And the right way to solve this problem is allow people to share the stage with Jim Watson, and humiliate him when he goes after something that isn’t true. And if he says something that’s horrible, that, in fact, we can’t figure out what to say back to him, then that tells us that we’re going to have to wrestle with that sooner or later. 

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: And part of the problem is that we’ve all become incredible pussies, because simply having the word “eugenics” put next to your name is now the kiss of death. But when it comes to somebody who’s talking about bracket genes, you’re going to decide that the Russell conjugation is that this is “compassionate genetics”. Well, guess what? Jim Watson has a lot of compassion, and he’s got a lot of stupidity, and he’s got a tremendous amount of genius and originality, and we can either be pussies about the whole thing, or we can decide that, effectively, science is an absolute defense. If you’re behaving scientifically, you’re going to, in fact, be vindicated sooner or later. And so what we should do is, we should say, is the real problem that we are afraid that scientists may tell us things that we don’t want to be true? Or is the real problem that we’re afraid that they’re going to say wrong things and that they’re going to be so emboldened by their credentials, that it’s going to pick up an extra boost? And what my claim is, is that mostly what we’re doing is that we’re living in fear. You can’t trust scientists, by the way, if you don’t give them intellectual freedom, and enough resources is part of intellectual freedom. So part of the problem is, you can’t trust scientists now, because everybody’s living grant-to-grant, hand-to-mouth, and in fear of their colleagues. If you, in fact, go back to academic freedom, you will find that the scientific community is one of the best groups to advise you, and one of the things that they will tell you is that they shouldn’t be put simply in leadership positions, but that they should be advising people who are extremely good at leadership. And what we need right now is to—Eric Lander, if you’re out there, what a pleasure to see you coming in. Don’t overdo it with the biology, you have a history with mathematics, with all sorts of different areas. You know how important physics is. Make sure that you have people from a tiny group of people who are still really doing physics and mathematics and all of these beautiful things, computing, to give you the advice, and we’re so lucky to have a polymath of your quality advising the President. I don’t have a lot of faith in Joe— 

Brian Keating: Yeah, and another Eric— 

Eric Weinstein: —have a lot of faith in Joe Biden. But I can tell you one thing, that pick really excited me. Please, just restore something like the traditional relationship between science and governance. 

Brian Keating: And Francis Arnold, also was a selection, that made me very happy, although I was a little bit, you know, dismayed that it’s all applied. It’s attacking COVID, which is important, and quantum information, which is important, but nothing about the pure essence of the heart of reality that gives so much interest in the animated discussion than we’ve had today. 

Just in the last few minutes we have remaining I’d like to turn to something lighter, and a little bit more relaxing. So Garrett, what do you think about abortion? No, I want to ask. So Garrett, how do you how do you strike a balance between kind of the expansion of the mind and the body and so forth? The, kind of your spiritual side? What’s your daily routine like? You know, what animates you, you know, just gives you life? I always think physics is what makes, is what defends the planet, but the arts are what make the planet worth defending. Something clumsy like that. But tell me something, Garrett, you know, what is the day in the life of Garrett Lisi like, and what’s sort of, like, an ideal future for you, and maybe for the for the whole planet?

Garrett Lisi: Well, I mean, Eric really described it well, when he said that if you’re hyper focused on just one subject, and throwing all your time and effort into it, you’re either gonna mistakenly think in a megalomaniacal fashion that you have discovered and commanded all knowledge and are all knowing, or you think you’re like a horrible failure and totally worthless.

Brian Keating: Imposter.

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, so the answer is don’t focus on just one thing. You can have one high risk play. Great, put some attention into that. But some real work into that. And I do that, that’s my physics research. You also need some sort of project you can throw yourself into that’s guaranteed success. That’s what the Pacific Science Institute has been for me. If you, you know, if you give a place in Maui, where scientists can come and hang out and have a good time and enjoy the island, and go around and talk with them, and teach them how to surf and kite surf and have a good time, that’s guaranteed success. There’s no way that’s gonna fail.

Brian Keating: Well, it didn’t work so well on Hoboken, the Hoboken Sciences Institute. I’m just kidding, I love New Jersey.

Garrett Lisi: I’m not in New Jersey. 

Brian Keating: I’m joking.

Garrett Lisi: So yeah, this has been fantastic. And right now it’s just my house, which has delusions of grandeur. But, you know, I’m hoping to grow it. And so that’s fantastic. And I tried to spend a lot of my time doing that. I spent a lot of my time playing outside, staying healthy, surfing, kite surfing, paragliding, just doing ridiculously fun stuff. I like to do something fun outside, preferably in the ocean, every day, for a few hours, which is great. I also spend a lot of time reading about what my friends and other people are doing around the world, whether it be on social media, or in different news sources. And also keeping up on blogs, keeping up with other papers people have written, but also, so I try to balance things, I try to balance between, like, time with my girlfriend, very important, time with friends, hanging out and socializing, which has been a little harder with the pandemic going on, but still possible with a more restricted pod of social interactions. But really getting out in nature and enjoying nature, which is still very healthy and very protective, health wise, is probably my main thing.

Brian Keating: Would you say you’re a spiritual person by any means?

Garrett Lisi: No, I am not spiritual or religious.

Brian Keating: Good. Okay. Fair enough.

Garrett Lisi: I’m surrounded by a lot of spiritual but not religious. And I’m neither. 

Brian Keating: Okay, outside of physics, who would you most want to, you know, share a mai tai with?

Garrett Lisi: I don’t drink, so, well—

Brian Keating: A virgin mai tai. Who says you have to—

Garrett Lisi: I’ll have a margarita every once in a while. The … outside of physics?

Brian Keating: Even in history. Let’s go historical, even.

Garrett Lisi: Satoshi Nakamoto.

Brian Keating: All right, you guys can’t—alright, now we’re gonna do it. Now we’re going there. We got a lot of questions about Bitcoin. You opened it up. Eric, thoughts on Bitcoin? You tweeted about it recently. Tell me about Bitcoin.

Eric Weinstein: Well, I just want to get rid of the blockchain so that it’s actually a locally enforced conservation law that replaces spacetime with a system of computer nodes. And I believe that, because geometry and gauge theory is the one system that we believe never throws an exception, it’s important, if we’re going to use this, to actually liberate us from the tyranny of abundance, and to bring back scarcity so that the markets don’t cause us to have to embrace authoritarianism. 

Satoshi, if you’re out there, I very much want to talk to you about getting rid of Bitcoin, and moving to a standard beyond the blockchain, so that tokens, like gold, have no stench. And I’m very worried about recent comments of Janet Yellen, which seemed to indicate that people who play with fiat money—remember that, if you can’t govern, you must print. And when people print, Bitcoin does well, because Bitcoin can’t. Right? And so, effectively, the main use case for Bitcoin is hedging people who are incompetent, and therefore must print, by giving them an alternative where the Fed can’t get it. So the key problem is that a government—according to Weber—is a monopoly on violence. And so if you can’t actually break, elliptic curve, cryptography, or whatever it is that you’re using to protect crypto, because it’s a coin, determined by cryptography rather than violence, what we’re going to do is we’re going to bring violence to those who hold that which is enforced by mathematics. So it’s incredibly important, first of all, to get rid of the blockchain, to make sure that it has no stench, to see whether or not we cannot base it on something like a gauge theory, because what this is, is one of the most important intellectual developments of our lifetime. 

Brian Keating: Why is that— 

Eric Weinstein: The fact that makes people— 

Brian Keating: You say that but— 

Eric Weinstein: One second. The fact that it makes people rich has confused us about what happened. What happened is that locally-enforced conservation laws, which are, unfortunately, non-locally recorded, have been found to be done autonomously in a distributed fashion. And this thing effectively allows us to recreate the physical world inside of a computer world. The great danger of computers is that they’ve turned—as Marc Andreessen says, “software eats the world”. That means that things that previously were not public goods and services become public goods, because they’re in exhaust—small files are inexhaustible, and inexcludable, if they’re not protected. Ergo, the market cannot see them, therefore, value and price gap. This is one of the greatest dangers, because it allows in tyranny. When the market stops being able to function, the dream of abundance that is common in Mill Valley and at Burning Man is, in fact, a great danger to our society that almost nobody has commented upon. And bringing scarcity into the digital world potentially allows the markets to function so that we do not need authorities telling us what we can and can’t do. And, effectively, if you want to protect freedom, you are going to have to probably bring back scarcity, because the tyranny of abundance threatens to undermine our civilization. And I know that that’s going to be very unfamiliar to many people, so, Satoshi, I’m pretty sure that—if you’re out there, and I believe you’re probably a collective rather than an individual—it would be a pleasure. If I kept Geometric Unity quiet for decades, I guarantee you that I can keep a secret. It would be tremendously useful to try to liberate your great invention from the tyranny of the blockchain.

Brian Keating: Lemme just say one thing about that. So I had Michael Saylor on last week, a very provocative gentleman also. Also aligned with some of the things Eric is interested in, Peter Thiel is interested in. Decentralizing academia, at least at the undergraduate level, making all education free for millions of people around the world, a technical education, specifically. And—but I said to him, I said, you know, nothing that complicated about blockchain. I just said, yeah, it’s cryptographic, there’s—essence of it is, could have been done in the 1980s. So why wasn’t it done sooner? Eric? Or Garrett? Whoever wants to answer it. Why—I mean, why did it come about when it did? Is it—and is it the fact that it has this first mover advantage the only, kind of, secret that it has? That it is the Peter Thielian monopoly that cures all ills? I guess, Eric, you can start.

Eric Weinstein: No, it isn’t. We need something better than Bitcoin. I do think that it could have been done earlier. But I think that the fact, you know, as I point out, the rollerboard suitcase was only invented in 1989, and Ben Franklin could have done it. In general, we decide that someone is a genius because it’s cheaper than pointing out that the rest of us are morons. And Satoshi, in fact, you know, was the only non-moronic individual. Many people had this idea. I believe that, you know, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk were on this idea, and that became PayPal, and they couldn’t actually pull it off. So let’s just be glad that somebody was not confused, because certainly I didn’t think of how to do this. And I would point out that when it comes around that Bitcoin doesn’t solve everything, and its successor gets rid of the blockchain and you have perfect distributed computing without leaving a stench, you’re going to have a very interesting situation where we’re all going to have to explain why we were so moronic that we didn’t realize that the blockchain could have been disintermediated as well.

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, there is a negative with Bitcoin with its energy usage. And that’s a—that could end up being a very expensive mistake. So, but other than that, I think it’s a frickin fantastic idea and I’m definitely “long” it so, and I don’t have—as far as what you’re describing, maybe our universe is unfolding as some alien civilization’s blockchain. 

Brian Keating: Well—

Garrett Lisi: Maybe we are the computation of some very complicated hash that’s trying to get 10^20 zeros for the part for our knots when the—when our lives are done. Who knows. That’s probably—probably not. We’re probably in an entirely natural universe, as far as I can tell.

Brian Keating: Alright, guys, well, we set a record for one of the longest continuous streams that at least my bladder can tolerate. Thank you, guys, for your—

Garrett Lisi: You’re not using a catheter? How are you guys even surviving right now?

Brian Keating: Oh, yeah, well, you’ll learn when you get to be a pilot that your bladder can—when you get your license that you need an extra bladder—

Garrett Lisi: That’s a paragliding thing, like, so if you see, like, cross country paragliders, each of those guys has a tube going down their leg, and that’s how they stay in the air so long.

Brian Keating: You don’t need a tube I found actually. The yellow rain is over San Diego. Guys, any last things you want to plug or spin? Garrett what’s next on the horizon for you? I’ll point out, we did do a live stream right before this livestream, so find that on the Into The Impo—my youtube channel. Please subscribe to their Twitter accounts. I’ve listed them there, @GarrettLisi, @EricRWeinstein. Please subscribe to The Portal podcast. Please subscribe to the Into The Impossible podcast. Leave a review and a rating, etc. It really helps us out. We got Avi Loeb coming up. We have a Deepak Chopra coming up, again. And we’re going to have a phenomenal conversation with Carlo Rovelli. Stay tuned for that. Lee Smolin, and some people that you might not have heard of that I’m trying to get on to really boost up some of the signals that are out there. A critical biography of Stephen Hawking has just been published, or will be published. That’s going to be discussed in March or April, whenever it comes out by a professor at NYU. Anyway, I want to thank you guys. Anything you guys want to—Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: I’m concerned that I may be booted off of social media—

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: —with everything that’s going on. It would be great. If you wanted to stay in touch to get your email address. I think is a means where they can’t disintermediate. I don’t know that they can throw me—well, with what’s going on, I’m very worried about redoing Operation Chokepoint in the Biden administration, because, while he did not win with a mandate from the electorate, the Capitol Hill insurrection is being treated as a mandate. And I think that you have to very much fear the idea that we’ve figured out that if we have no public options to communicate with each other, then all speech can actually be controlled through private companies. And the great danger at the moment is, we have to be able to stay in touch. So if you can find my RSS feed, so you don’t have to go through Apple or Spotify. And if you can give me your email address at, I will attempt to get myself kicked off of social media by saying reasonable things throughout the year.

Brian Keating: All right, like me, I’m gonna go down—I’m gonna go down in a blaze of—

Garrett Lisi: —at all costs here, yeah. 

Brian Keating: Yeah, I’m gonna go down in the blaze of incompetence.

Garrett Lisi: —in your corner that way.

Brian Keating: Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I was worried about that as well. And I mean, I think it’s so unusual, Eric, for the first time in human history the media is not really beholden to a profit margin. We have the world’s richest man controlling the Washington Post, and, love him or hate him, that’s just a fact, that it no longer has a profit motive whatsoever. And similar for other news outlets, and—

Eric Weinstein: I didn’t know Elon had bought it. 

Brian Keating: So—

Garrett Lisi: Me neither. 

Brian Keating: Maybe the second richest one. Yeah, so the other—yeah, I do worry about that. And I wonder in the public’s interest, in the interest of honesty, you know, when Amazon has access, I mean, didn’t Barack Obama once say, “you didn’t build that,” you know, referring to the internet backbone.

Eric Weinstein: This is very dangerous. 

Brian Keating: It’s very dangerous. 

Eric Weinstein: We’re entering a period of authoritarianism, where the idea is that the price of keeping you safe will be your freedom. And I’m saying that from the left of center. My friends on the right of center are more commonly saying that, and it is incredibly important that we recognize that we want some risk. Particularly, we may have a reason to control the speech when it’s targeted at individuals. But controlling speech around ideas is a one way ticket to hell. We’re going to have to tolerate unsafe thought, unsafe ideas, and even unsafe people. And the current panic around safety not being weighed against the risks of authoritarian control of what we can say, and to whom we can say it, is a giant, glaring error. And the only way that this is possible is if no sensible people are ever let onto mainstream media. At the moment, there is a blockade of an entire wing, which I would say was the smart wing of American politics, who you will never see featured on MSNBC, and increasingly not even on NPR. And I think people have to recognize that what we’ve seen is a major transformation, where you are not allowed to communicate with people who will challenge the dominant narrative. 

Brian Keating: What feedback did you get after going courageously on Glenn Beck’s show, you’re not on the right, that’s clear. You don’t fit in anywhere. You’re Schrdinger’s pundit, when you put that on, but what’s been the reaction, and how come you don’t get invited to go on shows with your comrades, literally, on the left? How come that’s not happening? How do we broach that subject? I mean, people like Ezra Klein have gone on Ben Shapiro’s show, a mutual friend of ours, but, you know, how do we get to the, you know, The Young Turks, how do we get the message that you have to the—to your side?

Eric Weinstein: It’s not the Young Turks. I mean, as Dan Drezner, Washington Post’s contributor said, everything that I have to say that’s new is not true. And everything that I have to say that’s true is not new. So, in fact, part of the problem is that I am one of the least interesting people on earth. Somehow, I’m actually a moron. I have nothing interesting to say, nothing to contribute. And that is undoubtedly why you’re listening to Brian Williams and Mara Gay on MSNBC explain how, if Bloomberg’s campaign money were only redistributed, we would all be millionaires. Right now there’s a blockade of reality, because the business model of the Democratic Party has been shifted away from labor, and actually expensive things, like Medicare, and education, and all the things that we need to do. And, in fact, identity, to my wife Pia Malaney’s point, is the cheapest substitute. The problem is that the traditional Democratic Party would have to be going after its own donor class. And so, as a result, the affiliated media that we’ve previously trusted to call balls and strikes has never been perfect. It’s never been as bad as this. And the transformation that we’re seeing is effectively a blockade of all people of courage and intellect, who are no longer welcome if they will not file a flight plan with traditional media. And traditional media will go after each one of them, and they’ll tell you that they’re part of extremism, they’re the alt-right, they’re the far right, etc, etc. The reason—you asked about Glenn Beck? The amount of love that Glenn Beck and I generated from not agreeing with each other except on the issue of civility, brotherhood, togetherness, going forward, it’s electrifying. And everything that breaks up the business model that is division will no longer be welcome. And that’s what’s going on, is that if you’re not a division merchant, you will find that, in effect, you can no longer speak. I used to be welcome at the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR. I am no longer welcome, and it is clear that the transformation has occurred. The font is the same at the New York Times, but the contents and the writers are totally different. A tremendous transformation has happened. And I beg of you to listen to the fact that there are a large number of people, particularly on the left, who have been told that they are no longer on the left. And we’ve each individually been isolated. And one of the great things about recording something like this is we can say to each other, “Hey, are you still here?” “Yes, I’m still here.” What’s going on is that NPR and the New York Times and MSNBC will not communicate that many of us are fed up, as is the right, with the current direction of where everything is about identity, diversity, inclusion. And in fact, many of us who have fought for diversity and inclusion, my family for over 100 years, are appalled at the current version of these things, not because we don’t want a more equal, more just, more reasonable society, but because demonizing people who speak the truth, and intimidating people with cancel culture so that they can’t feed their families is not the way to a prosperous future. And so it’s incredibly important to leave these channels open so that we can humiliate the blockade of reality that’s coming through the people who traditionally were responsible for making sure that reality at least had a first draft in the form of journalism.

Brian Keating: Now let’s talk about the problems of GMOs. Okay, Eric, that’s phenomenal. And the last thing I’ll say, yes, I was very proud of you, as I always am, but you spoke up about this AP story that the last frontier of the radicals is on the podcast era. And I got shivers about that. Because, you know, who’s to say that because I had you on my show, not to mention that, you know, I’ve had Noam Chomsky on my show, I’ve also had Ben Shapiro on my show, Michael Knowles, and I did a podcast together, as you did with Michael Knowles. So, you know, the question is, are they—what are they going to—who are they gonna come for next? And then who speaks for the last person? You know, first they came for the gays. I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t gay. First—then they came for the communists—

Eric Weinstein: Come for me. This is my, this is my request. I’ve built an enormous audience. You want to play this game? Come for me. I’m willing to say all sorts of things that you don’t want said. I want to make it easy. You want to boot me off? You, Twitter Safety, are you interested in getting rid of me? Come for me. What I’m asking, increasingly, is that those of us stop—we stop cowering. You know, if this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, we cannot sit around saying “Oh my god, somebody’s gonna call me a racist.” Yeah, I’m a leader of the alt-right. I’m a Nazi named Weinstein. Jesus Christ. Grow the fuck up.

Garrett Lisi: —voices should not be silenced. 

Eric Weinstein: But let’s just look at how funny and ridiculous these morons are, who are dividing us. We need to approach them with love and compassion. They’ve chosen a terrible path, and they’ve radicalized us. And, you know, I believe that Donald Trump was a very dangerous thing to do. But the reason that we had Donald Trump is that the left conjured him out of the vacuum by denying increasing amounts of reality. And what is necessary is, yeah, I’m sure I’m gonna get canceled. I’m sure that they’re gonna come after me. Okay, we’ve got to welcome the fight, and the battle. And we’re not all going to make it, but this country was not built by people cowering under their goddamn kitchen tables. So enough.

Brian Keating: Yeah, you can go to Normandy and give up your life at age 18. We can certainly speak out on behalf of free speech, ironically enough, 

Eric Weinstein: Well—

Brian Keating: It’s the last freedom that we might enjoy in the Bill of Rights. Yes.

Eric Weinstein: As I said, you want to see male privilege? Take a look at the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall, you know? I mean, cut it out, grow up, just—if you’re going to come after somebody, come after people who are in a position to take it, because we’ve been on the left the whole time, and if you think you’re going to claim that I’m a member of the alt-right, boy, are we going to have an entertaining tango. I just—all I do is I ask you to dance.

Brian Keating: Well, Eric, I salute your courage. Garrett, I salute your ingenuity and your courage, and I feel like these kinds of conversations are really more valuable than ever. And as I said many times in the past, you know, when I have to talk to people for work, it’s because I have to talk to them, when I get to talk to you, my friends, is because I want to talk to you guys. You guys give me so much inspiration. And really, for my whole audience, I know I’m speaking on behalf of—sorry I didn’t take too many questions today. You guys can unsubscribe, I hope you won’t, but I can’t resist when I have such delightful company as these two gentlemen. I hope you’ll do a part two, maybe sometime down the road a little bit, as time goes on. Garrett, anything last that you want to put in a quick plug for, before? Cancel you maybe?

Garrett Lisi: No, I will be extremely disturbed if social media moves to block Eric in significant ways. That is extremely disturbing to me, because you’ve always been incredibly intellectual and rational voice online, and with your growing army addressing different issues. It’s been incredibly good to follow and see that growth. And I really, really will be disturbed if your silence and ways. I don’t want to see that—

Brian Keating: —of integrity. Yeah.

Garrett Lisi: Me, I’m not selling anything. I’m also shallow enough to be on Instagram, if you want to, if people want to follow me there and see fun pictures of Maui and so forth, which is, as Brian said, a little more on the light side. And I think light is important, with a lot of dark things having happened and currently going on, having more light in our lives is extremely important. So anyway, like I said, I’m not selling anything. And I don’t have any deep, politically motivated missions. 

Brian Keating: That’s right. 

Garrett Lisi: I’m just trying to have a good time. Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: Right, and contribute to the Pacific Science Institute. 

Brian Keating: Yes. 

Eric Weinstein: I mean, I think it’s a great thing that you’ve set up and people can find where can they find that if they want to make a donation putting

Brian Keating: I’m putting up—I’m putting up your website now.

Garrett Lisi: 

Brian Keating: Yeah? I’ll put up the website right now. Yeah, sorry we didn’t get to take too many questions from the audience, but yes, I implore you. I put up Eric’s website, right now is on the screen, And then is Garrett’s. Garrett, echoing what you said, as Martin Luther King said once, only light can drive out darkness. I think I’m optimistic. I don’t know if it’s going to be you know, this rosy, rosy, everything’s uphill from here. But I do believe that there’s just incredible potential around the corner. And as an astronomer, I don’t fear the darkness, I welcome the darkness, but I always know to be happy when there are rays of light. And you guys are rays of light in my life. You inspire me, you inspire my audience. Thank you so much for going Into The Impossible with me. Please stay in touch. and and You guys are much more philanthropic than I am, I guess. I’ll take you out with an outro from my good friend and veteran, Miguel Tully, who is the proprietor of the YetiTears Instagram account and also on YouTube. He’s made some lovely sketches of Eric, he’s made some artwork for me, which you can see maybe in the background, and he made this instrumental track to take us out. Thank you so much everyone. Be well, be safe. Enjoy this precious gift of life that we all have. Suck the marrow out, like Garrett, and don’t be afraid, as Eric has taught us, to take on giants. Goodbye, everybody. Thank you so much.

Garrett Lisi: Great talking with you Brian. And you too, Eric.

Eric Weinstein: Great being with you guys. Love you.

Brian Keating: Bye, love you guys.

Thank you all for going Into the Impossible, a little different. A little different episode for today’s choice, but I hope you will stay subscribed. As I mentioned, Katie Freeze is coming on the show. She’s one of the mothers of dark matter that we low and love and our existence to. She’ll be on the show in two weeks. This Tuesday, Avi Loeb, super controversial interview that I did with him about his upcoming book called Extraterrestrial, which will blow your mind, because he takes the position that science is going off the rails, and actually we need to look to the heavens, perhaps to this object that he spotted, along with colleagues, called Oumuamua, which is fun to say. It’s a Hawaiian word. And look forward to conversations with him. Stay tuned for a conversation with Leonard Milan, now, that’s on the show about Stephen Hawking. And then Hawking Incorporated, the business of Stephen Hawking, coming up soon, as well as a conversation with Carlo Rovelli. Let me know if you want me to make that a livestream. I haven’t decided yet. Would you guys like to talk to Carlo live? In a format like this? He’s generously agreed to come on, not once, but twice. Let me know if you want to have a conversation with him live and ask questions. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to take too many of your questions today. I do read each and every comment. So please do that. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. It’s a little bit different than this one. And you can skip over all the annoying ads that YouTube presents to you. But for now, I want to thank you all for going Into The Impossible. It’s been quite a joy to be with my friends, Garrett Lisi, Dr. Garrett Lisi, Dr. Eric Weinstein, two Mavericks that lie outside the traditional academia role, as I am blessed to be within, and I appreciate them for the integrity that they have. I may not agree with them, as you noticed, on everything that they do, but it’s an incredibly vital contribution to all the scientific interest that I personally have, and I hope you have them too. Please subscribe to the podcast. As I said, also, don’t miss a special solo episode I did about Galileo’s Dialogue, which I have somewhere around here. Galileo’s Dialogue is perhaps the most influential book in human history, at least from a scientific perspective. Don’t miss that. I did a solo episode about the great Galileo, and I’m doing an audio book. I just got the rights to record the first ever audiobook, Galileo and I’m having a couple of my Italian colleagues and I are recording the first audio book in history with authentic Italian voices. Hopefully, it’ll be a nice kind of theatrical presentation. I hope you’ll like that. For now check that out. Check out on Prager University, I did a book club with Michael Knowles, who is controversial, but we only got into the scientific aspects of things. Stay tuned for that, and other many, many great guests. As I said, let me know should I have more live stream conversations, even if it means I don’t get to all your questions? Let me know in the comment section. For now, signing off. It’s been a long four hours, almost, of podcasting today. I am tired, but my mind is active. I hope yours is too. Stay tuned., get on my mailing list. I’ll send you a couple of awesome free gifts, such as the astronomical great debate that we did last year, with Nobel laureates, including David—Adam Riess, and also friends like Wendy Freedman and others. And I’ll also send you my life hacks from Jim Simons and Michael Saylor, and many others. For now, signing off. Good night, and good luck, as they used to say, out there in the multiverse of minds that we connect together on the ends of the Into The Impossible podcast. Good night, everybody.

“Join me and my friends Max Tegmark and Eric Weinstein to chat on the last day of 2020! Let’s say ‘good riddance’ with good friends and great conversation! We’ll talk a bit about #ArtificialIntelligence, Theories of Everything & the seemingly impossible challenge of building a positive future for humanity.”