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“There are no laws of physics,” observed Robbert Dijkgraaf, mathematical physicist and director of the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein spent his last 22 years. Instead, he observes, there is a terrifying complex “landscape” of possibilities, a nearly infinite, subtly connected network of complementary versions of reality each with its own set of fundamental particles, forces, laws and dimensions.”

The current Standard Model of particle physics,” writes Dijkgraaf  in Quanta, “is indeed a tightly constructed mechanism with only a handful of ingredients. Yet instead of being unique, the universe seems to be one of an infinitude of possible worlds. We have no clue why this particular combination of particles and forces underlies nature’s structure. Why are there six “flavors” of quarks, three “generations” of neutrinos, and one Higgs particle? Furthermore, the Standard Model comes with 19 constants of nature — numbers like the mass and charge of the electron — that have to be measured in experiments. The values of these “free parameters” seem to be without any deeper meaning. On the one hand, particle physics is a wonder of elegance; on the other hand, it is a just-so story.”

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