(Note: this is anywhere between crackpot and inspiring, based on the people I talked to before. I am not a physicist.)
I have been thinking about a model of physics that is fundamentally different from the ones I have been taught in school and university. It is not a theory, because it does not make predictions. It is a different way of looking at things. I have found that this made a lot of things we normally consider weird a lot easier to understand.
Almost every model of physics I have read of so far is based on the idea that reality consists of stuff inside a coordinate system, and the only question is the dimensionality of the coordinate system. Relativity talks about bending space, but it still treats the existence of space as the norm. But what if there were no dimensions at all?
If we assume that the universe is computable, then dimension-based physics, while humanly intuitive, are unnecessarily complicated. To simulate dimension-based physics, one first needs to define real numbers, which is complicated, and requires that numbers be stored with practically infinite precision. Occam's Razor argues against this.
A graph model in contrast would be extremely simple from a computational point of view: a set of nodes, each with a fixed number of attributes, plus a set of connections between the nodes, suffices to express the state of the universe. Most importantly, it would suffice for the attributes of nodes to be simple booleans or natural numbers, which are much easier to compute than real numbers. Additionally, transition functions to advance in time would be easy to define as well as they could just take the form of a set of if-then rules that are applied to each node in turn. (these transition functions roughly correspond to physical laws in more traditional physical theories)
Model reality as a graph structure. That is to say, reality at a point of time is a set of nodes, a set of connections between those nodes, and a set of attributes for each node. There are rules for evolving this graph over time that might be as simple as those in Conway's game of life, but they lead to very complex results due to the complicated structure of the graph.
Connections between nodes can be created or deleted over time according to transition functions.
What we call particles are actually patterns of attributes on clusters of nodes. These patterns evolve over time according to transition functions. Also, since particles are patterns instead of atomic entities, they can in principle be created and destroyed by other patterns.
Our view of reality as (almost) 3-dimensional is an illusion created by the way the nodes connect to each other: This can be done if a pattern exists that matches these criterions: change an arbitrarily large graph (a set of vertices, a set of edges), such that the following is true:
-There exists a mapping f(v) of vertices to (x,y,z) coordinates such that for any pair of vertices m,n: the euclidean distance of f(m) and f(n) is approximately equal to the length of the shortest path between m and n (inaccuracies are fine so long as the distance is small, but the approximation should be good at larger distances).
A dimensionless graph model would have no contradiction between quantum physics and relativity. Quantum effects happen when patterns (particles) spread across nodes that still have connections between them besides those connections that make up the primary 3D grid. This also explains why quantum effects exist mostly on small scales: the pattern enforcing 3D grid connections tends to wipe out the entanglements between particles. Space dilation happens because the patterns caused by high speed travel cause the 3D grid pattern to become unstable and the illusion that dimensions exist breaks down. There is no contradiction between quantum physics and relativity if the very concept of distance is unreliable. Time dilation is harder to explain, but can be done. This is left as an exercise to the reader, since I only really understood this graph-based point of view when I realised how that works, and don't want to spoiler the aha-moment for you.
This is not really a theory. I am not making predictions, I provide no concrete math, and this idea is not really falsifiable in its most generic forms. Why do I still think it is useful? Because it is a new way of looking at physics, and because it makes everything so much more easy and intuitive to understand, and makes all the contradictions go away. I may not know the rules by which the graph needs to propagate in order for this to match up with experimental results, but I am pretty sure that someone more knowledgeable in math can figure them out. This is not a theory, but a new perspective under which to create theories.
Also, I would like to note that there are alternative interpretations for explaining relativity and quantum physics under this perspective. The ones mentioned above are just the ones that seem most intuitive to me. I recognize that having multiple ways to explain something is a bad thing for a theory, but since this is not a theory but a refreshing new perspective, I consider this a good thing.
I think that this approach has a lot of potential, but is difficult for humans to analyse because our brains evolved to deal with 3D structures very efficiently but are not at all optimised to handle arbitrary graph structures with any efficiency. For this reason, Coming up with an actual mathematically complete attempt at a graph-based model of physics would almost certainly require computer simulations for even simple problems.
Do you think the idea has merit?
If not, what are your objections?
Has research in something like this maybe already been done, and I just never heard of it?