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Nobel laureate Gross on the theory of everything

Free will is just an illusion, says physics laureate David Gross. It would be strange if an electron had free will and did whatever it wanted

Searching for a universal rule to explain the world we live in is nothing new. Einstein dedicated the last decades of his life in search for a unifying theory. Unfortunately, his attempts were unsuccessful.

Since Einstein’s death, many scientists have continued on with his work and even developed some possible explanations of the universe including string theories. Wednesday one of these scientists, professor and Nobel Prize winner David Gross, held a public lecture at the Christian Hansens Auditorium to discuss whether or not we are getting closer to answering the big questions.

The lecture was a part of Nobel Laureate Talks organised by Novo Nordisk Fonden to celebrate Niels Bohr’s contribution to quantum physics and his proposed atomic model in 1913.

We may be too dumb to understand the Universe

What is the future of physics? Will we ever construct the theory that explains everything? Are we too dumb to understand the universe?

“We may eventually construct the final theory of everything. So far, we have never faced a question that cannot be answered. We live in a sea of ignorance and we keep pushing the boundaries, exploring the universe. And we get wiser. It is impossible to tell how much we don’t know, because ignorance grows as fast as the knowledge” says Gross.

Once people thought that the earth is flat, but we later discovered otherwise and reached a conclusion, which now is impossible to challenge. So there might be such a point of finiteness in physics as well.

Welcome to the machine

The discussion turns to the notion of free will, something that Gross, as a scientist, believes does not exist.

“As we know, our brains are made of the same elementary particles that are pre-determined by quantum laws. Therefore there is no place for free will. It would be strange if an electron had free will and did whatever it wanted.”

Gross extends this idea to the theory of everything, stating that if it exists it would means that everything that ever happened or will happen can be pre-determined as well. Thus, we have no free will. Our thoughts and actions are driven by the laws of nature.

It may feel as if we have free will and can do whatever we want to, but basically we are just the machines of nature. David Gross believes this is exactly the case as he believes, “Free will is just our illusion.”

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