Ep236 – SPECIAL: PART 1 – The Theories of Everything


In an utterly pleasant surprise, Spiros Michalakis reached out to me and said he wanted to get lunch. Actually, he wanted to buy me lunch. The result was a three hour lunch conversation and a two-hour podcast during the course of which we covered everything from Spiros’ own work trying to unify quantum field theory and general relativity to everything that has been going on with Mixed Mental Arts. In short, we compared notes on the many kinds of idea sex that we’ve been having.

You don’t get to hear what happened in that three-hour lunch which is probably fortunate. For one thing, Spiros talked about being Greek, moving to America and finding out it wasn’t culturally appropriate to wear a speedo in public.

You do get to hear what happened in the two-hour podcast where we have our own convo about what it means to be a scientist. It is an approach to life. You also get to hear about why we both feel so strongly about making ideas accessible. We both have gone between worlds. For Spiros, growing up in Greece and then moving to MIT, he was very clear that the difference between him and the other kids was largely a sense of possibility and his own potential. Sound familiar?

In this episode, we talk about why the idea of a Theory of Everything is so misleading. In fact, scientists use many different theories to make sense of different levels of reality. There are models (aka beliefs are stories) that help make sense of the quantum world, the chemical world, the interaction of whole organisms and there is going to be a theory that makes sense of what underlies quantum field theory and general relativity. In the same way, you have beliefs for doing your job, how to talk to your in-laws and how to make sense of politics. These theories get confronted with data that doesn’t fit your theory. The mark of a scientist isn’t in being right. It’s how you respond when you are wrong. In fact, a real scientist wants to be wrong quickly.

Part 1 ends with Spiros talking about ponies with more than one trick…or as we call them Mixed Mental Artists. Tune in to Part 2 as Hunter recruits Spiros to become part of the Mixed Mental Arts dojo with all the subtlety of a Dutchman.

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