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Antony Garrett Lisi

Antony Garrett Lisi (born January 24, 1968), known as Garrett Lisi,[1] is an American theoretical physicist and adventure sports enthusiast. Lisi works as an independent researcher without an academic position. He is a strong proponent of balance in life, in his case between scientific research and enjoyment of the outdoors.[2][3][4]

Garrett Lisi
Garrett Lisi interview.jpg
Lisi being interviewed in Los Angeles, 2011
Antony Garrett Lisi

(1968-01-24) January 24, 1968 (age 51)
Alma materUCLA
Known for"An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything"
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics
InstitutionsTheiss Research

Lisi is known for "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything," a paper proposing a unified field theory based on the E8 Lie group, combining particle physics with Einstein's theory of gravitation. The theory is incomplete, has unresolved problems and is not generally accepted by the physics community.


Early lifeEdit

Born in Los Angeles and raised in San Diego, California,[5] Lisi graduated from the Cate School (south of Santa Barbara, California) in 1986. He learned to surf in San Diego, where he traveled between surf breaks in an old VW Bus.[6] Lisi went on to receive two B.S. degrees with highest honors in physics and mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1991. Lisi received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, San Diego, in 1999.[7]

After the Ph.D.Edit

After getting his Ph.D., Lisi left academia and moved to Maui – expressing his dissatisfaction with the state of theoretical physics:

I got my PhD and looked at my options. I love differential geometry, general relativity, and particle physics. But the only options available then for a postdoc in those combined areas were in string theory, and I thought string theory was overly speculative. There are many really impressive aspects of strings – anomaly cancelation in particular – but there are other things that just seem wild and physically unsubstantiated. I had gotten lucky by investing my graduate stipend in a little company many thought was going out of business (AAPL), so I decided to go to Maui, learn to windsurf, and work on physics on my own.[8]

On Maui, Lisi volunteered as a staff member at a local Sudbury school, and split his time between working on his own physics research and surfing.[9]

While living in a customized van with his girlfriend, Crystal Baranyk, Lisi taught physics classes at University of Hawaii – Maui College.[9] After two years on Maui, Lisi says he was offered a tenure track teaching position at the local college, but turned it down (even though he was nearly broke) because it wouldn't have given him enough time for his physics research.[1] At the same time, he submitted a grant application to the newly formed Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi). Lisi says the decision to turn down the job offer and hope for FQXi funding was "a hell of a gamble."[1][10]

Academic reentryEdit

On July 31, 2006, Lisi was awarded an FQXi grant to develop his research in quantum mechanics and unification.[11] The grant allowed Lisi to devote his full attention to physics and create his personal research wiki, Deferential Geometry.[12] On June 9, 2007, Lisi realized that the algebraic structure he had constructed to unify the standard model of particle physics with general relativity partially matched part of the algebraic structure of the E8 Lie group.[13][14]

On July 21, 2007, Lisi traveled to the inaugural FQXi conference in Reykjavík, Iceland. He was invited to give several academic talks.[9] On invitation from Lee Smolin, Lisi visited the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in October, and posted his paper, "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything,"[15] to the arXiv on November 6, 2007. Discussions of Lisi's theory developed rapidly over most major physics blogs,[6] and the story of Lisi's theory and personal history was reported by many online and traditional media sources around the world.[16][17][18]

Lisi presented at the TED Conference on February 28, 2008,[19] and has since presented several academic talks and colloquia.[20]

On July 8, 2009, at a FQXi conference in the Azores, Lisi made a public bet with Frank Wilczek that superparticles would not be detected by July 8, 2015.[21] After a one-year extension to allow for more data collection from the Large Hadron Collider, Frank Wilczek conceded the superparticle bet to Lisi in 2016.[22]

In July 2010, mathematicians and physicists met with Lisi at the Banff International Research Station in Alberta, Canada, for a week to discuss his theory.[23]

Physics researchEdit

Work on quantum mechanicsEdit

On May 8, 2006, in an arXiv preprint, "Quantum mechanics from a universal action reservoir,"[24] Lisi proposes that the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics can be derived from information theory and the existence of a universal action reservoir.[25]

Deferential geometryEdit

Lisi is an early practitioner of open notebook science.[26] Lisi created his "personal wiki notebook in theoretical physics" – the Deferential Geometry[12] website – by using TiddlyWiki and jsMath. Lisi uses this wiki to organize his research notes in theoretical physics, referring to this as "open source physics."[11][27]

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of EverythingEdit

Lisi's main work in theoretical physics is his Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything, which proposes a unified field theory combining a grand unification theory of particle physics with Albert Einstein's general relativistic description of gravitation, using the largest simple exceptional Lie algebra, E8. In a paper posted to the physics arXiv on November 6, 2007,[15] and in a popular article published in Scientific American in December, 2010,[28] Lisi describes his proposal that gravity, the standard model bosons and fermions can be unified as parts of an E8 superconnection. This unified field theory attempts to describe all fundamental interactions observed in nature, as a possible theory of everything, unifying Albert Einstein's general relativity with the standard model of particle physics. The theory, called E8 Theory, also predicts the existence of many new particles.[29]

Lisi designed a web application, the Elementary Particle Explorer,[30] for visualizing the charge structure of the elementary particles in the standard model, in grand unified theories, and in E8 Theory.

Lisi's theory has been applauded but also criticized in the scientific community.[31][32][33][34] He has addressed the criticism, while acknowledging that the theory is incomplete. In a Scientific American post, Lisi himself stated:

(the 3 generation) … issue remains the most significant problem, and until it is solved the theory is not complete and cannot be considered much more than a speculative proposal. Without fully describing how the three generations of fermions work, the theory and all predictions from it remain tenuous.[35]

Since then, he continues working on the theory. In June 2010 Lisi posted "An Explicit Embedding of Gravity and the Standard Model in E8,"[36] and in 2015 an update and generalization, "Lie Group Cosmology."[37]

Adventure sportsEdit

Garrett Lisi surfing Ho'okipa, Maui, on January 13, 2012

Garrett Lisi is an adventure sports enthusiast – surfing, snowboarding, and kitesurfing at the expert level as well as participating in many other adventure sports.[2][6][38] In an interview for Wired News, Lisi says:

Surfing and snowboarding are what I do for fun – to get out and play in nature. We live in a beautiful universe, and I wish to enjoy it and understand it as best I can. And I try to live a balanced life. Surfing is simply the most fun I know how to have on this planet. And physics, and science in general, is the best way of understanding how everything works. So this is what I spend my time doing. I do what I love, and follow my interests. Shouldn't everyone?[39]

Lisi brings some of his physics to his sports activities.[40] During graduate school and years in Maui, most of Lisi's surfboards were adorned with the wave equation as decorative art.[2][41] And when riding an extra-long carving board, for alpine snowboarding, in Colorado and Tahoe, Lisi always wears a long white lab coat.[2][6][42][43] He has also become a sponsored team rider for an Oregon surfboard manufacturer, 42 Surfboards.[39]

Although concentrating on surfing, kitesurfing and snowboarding, Lisi participates in a wide variety of adventure sports.[44] On his online journal, Lisi describes his experiences surfing, snowboarding, windsurfing, sailing, kitesurfing, mountain biking, skateboarding, motorcycling, cliff diving, rock climbing, hang gliding, paragliding, backpacking, water skiing, wakeboarding, flying, sky diving, and scuba diving.[9] Lisi is working on a film about young scientists who combine cutting-edge research with adventure sports.[45]

Invention USAEdit

In 2011 and 2012, Lisi co-hosted (with Reichart Von Wolfsheild) Invention USA, a History channel documentary television series.[46]

Science hostelEdit

Lisi proposes the creation of a more casual kind of science institute – a science hostel – which he says "would essentially be large houses in beautiful locations where theorists could live and work."[42] Citing his experience living in Maui and the mountains of Tahoe and Colorado, Lisi says that for theoretical research it is good to have opportunities for hiking and things to do outside in attractive environments.[47][48] Describing the idea more formally, Lisi says:

The physical requirements for conducting scholarly research have changed dramatically with the rise of the internet. It is now viable for researchers with laptop computers to work autonomously – with access to current articles and communication channels on par with the resources available at large universities. These new circumstances motivate the creation of a new kind of research enterprise: a Science Hostel. By providing places to live and work with other researchers, in beautiful locations, a Science Hostel could increase creative productivity and overall quality of life for scholars in the internet age.[49]

In 2014 Lisi founded the Pacific Science Institute as the first science hostel.[50]


  1. ^ a b c A. G. Lisi (2008-07-05). "A". Archived from the original on 23 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  2. ^ a b c d Evan Ratliff (2008-05-01). "Has A Surfer/Snowboarder Who Lives In A Van Rewritten Physics? Maybe". Outside Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  3. ^ Brad Melekian (2007-12-03). "Physicist balances waves with world of science". The San Diego Union Tribune.
  4. ^ Benjamin Wallace-Wells (2008-07-21). "Surfing the Universe". The New Yorker.
  5. ^ Jim Patton (2007-11-15). "'Physics is Beautiful' And a few other thoughts from Garrett Lisi". Fox News. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  6. ^ a b c d James Owen Weatherall (2008-06-01). "No Strings Attached". Men's Journal.
  7. ^ A. G. Lisi (2008-07-05). "A. Garrett Lisi's C.V." Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  8. ^ Sean Carroll (2008-07-06). "Garrett Lisi's Theory of Everything!". Cosmic Variance. Archived from the original on 23 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  9. ^ a b c d Antony Garrett Lisi (1999-10-13). "The Mauitian Chronicles". The Mauitian Chronicles. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  10. ^ Jacob Shafer (2011). "Physicist Garrett Lisi And His Theory of Everything". Maui Time Weekly. Archived from the original on 2011-02-21. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  11. ^ a b "FQXi awards: A. Garrett Lisi". FQXi. 2006-07-31. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  12. ^ a b Antony Garrett Lisi (2008-07-05). "Deferential Geometry". Deferential Geometry. Archived from the original on 31 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
  13. ^ Zeeya Merali (2007-11-15). "Is mathematical pattern the theory of everything?". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  14. ^ Roger Highfield (2007-11-14). "Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  15. ^ a b Garrett Lisi, A. (2007). "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything". arXiv:0711.0770 [hep-th].
  16. ^ Mitch Porter (2010-01-30). "Surfer inspires comparisons to Albert Einstein". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  17. ^ "Geometry is all". The Economist. 2007-11-22. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  18. ^ "Could the Next Einstein Be a Surfer Dude?". Discover Magazine. 2008-02-26. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  19. ^ A. G. Lisi (2008-02-28). "Garrett Lisi profile". TED talks. Archived from the original on 18 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  20. ^ Greg Boustead (2008-11-17). "Garrett Lisi's Exceptional Approach to Everything". SEED Magazine.
  21. ^ A. G. Lisi (2009-08-08). "Science Pond". Science Pond. Retrieved 2009-12-13.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Surfer physicist wins superparticle bet with Nobel laureate". Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  23. ^ Merali, Zeeya (September 2010). "Rummaging for a Final Theory: Can a 1960s Approach Unify Gravity with the Rest of Physics?". Scientific American. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  24. ^ Garrett Lisi, A. (2006). "Quantum mechanics from a universal action reservoir". arXiv:physics/0605068.
  25. ^ John Reilly (2007-11-17). "This could end the String Theory industry". The Long View. Archived from the original on 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  26. ^ Dave Bacon (2008-06-26). "Pseudo Open Notebook Science?". The Quantum Pontiff. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  27. ^ Timothy M. O'Brien (2008-09-25). "A. Garrett Lisi on Using Wikis to Support Open Source Science". O'Reilly. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  28. ^ A. G. Lisi; James Owen Weatherall (2010). "A Geometric Theory of Everything". Scientific American. 303 (6): 30–37. Bibcode:2010SciAm.303f..54L. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1210-54. PMID 21141358.
  29. ^ "Ten Quick Questions With... Garrett Lisi". Science Channel. 2008-03-01. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  30. ^ Troy Gardner (2008-08-09). "Elementary Particle Explorer". Deferential Geometry. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  31. ^ "Surfer makes waves with scientific 'theory of everything'". CBC News. 2007-11-16. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  32. ^ Collins, Graham P. (March 2008). "Wipeout?". Scientific American: 30–32. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  33. ^ J. Distler; S. Garibaldi (2010). "There is No "Theory of Everything" Inside E8". Communications in Mathematical Physics. 298 (2): 419–436. arXiv:0905.2658. Bibcode:2010CMaPh.298..419D. doi:10.1007/s00220-010-1006-y.
  34. ^ Amber Dance (2008-04-01). "Outsider Science". Symmetry Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  35. ^ Garrett Lisi (2011-5-4) Scientific American retrieved 2011-6-2
  36. ^ Lisi, A. Garrett (2010). "An Explicit Embedding of Gravity and the Standard Model in E8". arXiv:1006.4908 [hep-th].
  37. ^ Lisi, A. Garrett (2015). "Lie Group Cosmology". arXiv:1506.08073 [hep-th].
  38. ^ Steve Farrar (2007-11-18). "Einstein on a snowboard". The Sunday Times. London. Archived from the original on 7 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  39. ^ a b Kim Zetter (2008-02-27). "Surfer-Physicist's Unified Theory Leads to Fame, Backlash". Wired Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  40. ^ Scott Bass (2007-12-01). "MOST INTERESTING SURFERS OF 2007: The Top Ten". Surfer Magazine. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  41. ^ "Wave Mechanic". User Friendly. 2007-11-18. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  42. ^ a b Scott Dodd (2007-10-26). "Surfing the Folds of Spacetime" (PDF). FQXi article. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  43. ^ Roger Highfield (2007-11-21). "Surfer Dude's Theory of Everything – The Movie". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  44. ^ Jay DiMartino (2009-04-10). "Garrett Lisi: Dropping in and Dropping Science". Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  45. ^ Roger Highfield (2009-11-10). "Surfer dude's theory of everything: the magic of Garrett Lisi". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 13 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-12.
  46. ^ 'Invention USA,' a chance to dream, Media Life Magazine, Tom Conroy, 8 December 2011 (retrieved 20 December 2011)
  47. ^ Sabine Hossenfelder (2007-08-06). "Garrett Lisi's Inspiration". Backreaction. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
  48. ^ John Horgan (2008-09-20). "Surfing Einstein's Really Revolutionary Idea". The Center for Science Writings. Retrieved 2009-12-13.[permanent dead link]
  49. ^ Antony Garrett Lisi (2008-07-06). "Science Hostel". Science Hostel. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  50. ^ John Horgan (2014-10-20). "Surfer-Physicist Offers Alternative to String Theory, Academia". Scientific American. Retrieved 2016-08-16.

External linksEdit