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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

Steven Giddings
University of California, Santa Barbara

Donald Marolf
University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title

Locality and the emergence of space and time

Project Summary

Quantum mechanics and Einstein's general relativity have provided conflicting views of nature for nearly 100 years. Their reconciliation almost certainly involves ideas as radical at those underlying these theories. Time and space are no longer immutable and fixed in general relativity; with quantum mechanics they can melt away due to random fluctuations. When these ideas are combined in a complete theory, familiar space and time probably cease to exist as fundamental concepts in physics. These theories particularly clash in describing black holes and their evaporation, predicted by Hawking: theoretical study of high-energy particle particle collisions which produce black holes yield an apparent paradox, forcing us to abandon one of the cornerstones of our current physical theories of nature. Our investigation of this and attempts to describe space, time, and gravity in a quantum-mechanical framework suggest that the property of locality -- independence of distant phenomena -- must be revised at a fundamental level. This research will sharpen these ideas, which should particularly take force early in the evolution of the Universe, and have profound consequences for understanding its origin, its fate, and the basic structure of matter and laws of nature.

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