Scientists seek to discover a discover fundamental theory underlying all natural phenomena, including the four basic forces of in nature: the electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. In the past several hundred years, unification played a central role in many of the great scientific advancements.
Until the late 1600s, scientists thought the forces governing the heavens differed from those on Earth. Isaac Newton’s work unified our understanding and demonstrated that gravity governed both the heavens and Earth. Two centuries’ worth of measurements confirmed the validity of Newton’s ideas.
In the 1800s, James Clerk Maxwell realized that electricity and magnetism represented two manifestations of a unified electromagnetic force. Again, numerous laboratory measurements confirmed the correctness of Maxwell’s theory.
A number of other important unification scenarios developed during the 20th century. However, the tests of these scenarios became increasingly difficult. For example, in the early 1900s, Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity (GR) unified his theory of special relativity with Newton’s universal gravitational theory. Thorough testing of GR required detailed observations of comparatively rare astronomical objects such as binary neutron stars and black holes.
Through the 1970s and 80s, three scientists worked out a theory to unify two of the four fundamental interactions: the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. Experiments carried out at the most powerful particle accelerator at the time demonstrated the validity of the electroweak theory.
Bolstered by success, scientists redoubled their efforts to find a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) which integrates the strong nuclear interaction with the electroweak theory. GUTs generically predict the formation of cosmic defects during the early cooling stages of the universe. These defects could be point-like (monopoles), one-dimensional (cosmic strings), two-dimensional (domain walls), or collapsing spheres (textures). Astronomical observations rule out domain walls and monopoles, but scientists are still searching for cosmic strings and textures.
During February 2006, RTB discussed one potential discovery of a cosmic string (and its subsequent disconfirmation) on Creation Update.
More recently, a team of scientists presented evidence for the discovery of a texture in the cosmic microwave background. Although further tests are required to confirm the authors’ claims, the significance of finding such a cosmic defect is enormous. The GUT energy is more than a trillion times beyond the capabilities of our most powerful particle accelerators. Because the cosmic defects form at the GUT energy scale, they provide a straight forward (and otherwise inaccessible) way to test GUTs to see which, if any, are correct.
RTB welcomes and anticipates such tests because of their potential to verify and refine critical aspects of our creation model—namely that a supernatural Designer created the universe to support human life.