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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Dr. Steven B. Giddings
University of California at Santa Barbara

Project Title

Observation & Nonlocality in Quantum Gravitational Physics

Project Summary

The physical property of locality is centrally important; it is for example vital to our existence as independent individuals, and part of explaining why we apparently can't travel faster than light. It is also critical in understanding physics inside a black hole, and the universe's beginning in the big bang. Yet recent developments in physics suggest that locality is not absolute, a proposal that this work will investigate. These include advances in string theory, such as the idea of holography, stating that our three-dimensional reality has an equivalent two-dimensional description. Moreover, Hawking's prediction that black holes evaporate precipitated a paradox in physics. This paradox could be as essential as the classical instability of the atom was in developing quantum mechanics, and suggests non-locality. Exploring these issues involves our role as observers in the quantum system that is the universe, and limitations on corresponding observations also indicates breakdown of locality. Understanding observation and its inherent limitations has direct bearing on puzzles in cosmology, such as its accelerating expansion, generation of the observed microwave background fluctuations, and the possibility that we live in a multiverse. These ideas could serve as guides to advances as conceptually profound as the discovery of quantum mechanics.

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