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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
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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Dr. Julian Barbour
Oxford University


Joseph Silk, University of Oxford
Hans Westman, Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Canada
Edward Anderson, Pembroke, University of Cambridge, UK
Sean Gryb, Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Canada

Project Title

Machian Quantum Gravity

Project Summary

Einstein's general relativity and quantum theory describe different things, gravity and atoms, and have remarkably different structures. To overcome this disharmony, theoreticians must unify the two theories in quantum gravity. This is the aspiration of string theory and loop quantum gravity, but I believe that both these leading projects fail to take proper account of an essential issue. I have spent many years studying the foundations of general relativity, in which Einstein sought to find an alternative to the absolute space introduced by Newton to define the motion of bodies. Being invisible, this problematic concept was criticized by Mach (1883), who argued that the positions of bodies are determined relative to each other. Einstein attempted to implement this idea, now known as Mach's Principle, but did so indirectly and thus created confusion despite the great success of his theory. My collaborators and I have clarified the precise manner in which motion is relative in Einstein's theory and thereby identified its irreducible essential principle. The aim of the Machian Quantum Gravity Project is to use this insight to unify the principles of quantum theory and general relativity. It will be a third route to quantum gravity.

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