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It From Bit or Bit From It
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What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
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The Nature of Time
August - December 2008
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FQXi FORUM
October 29, 2020

CATEGORY: The Nature of Time Essay Contest (2008) [back]
TOPIC: Condensed matter lessons about the origin of time by Gil Jannes [refresh]
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Gil Jannes wrote on Dec. 1, 2008 @ 11:22 GMT
Essay Abstract

It is widely hoped that quantum gravity will shed a profound light on the origin of time in physics. The currently dominant approaches to a candidate quantum theory of gravity have quite naturally evolved from general relativity, on the one hand, and from particle physics, on the other hand. In this essay, I will argue that a third important branch of 20th century `fundamental' physics, namely condensed-matter physics, also offers an interesting perspective on quantum gravity, and thereby on the problem of time. The bottomline might sound disappointing to those who have become used to claims that quantum gravity or a `Theory of Everything' will solve most of the conceptual problems of fundamental physics: To understand the origin of time, experimental input is needed at much higher energies than what is available today. Moreover, it is far from obvious that we will ever discover the true origin of physical time, even if we become able to directly probe physics at the Planck scale. But we might learn plenty of interesting lessons about time and the structure of our universe in the process.

Author Bio

The author has studied electronical engineering, philosophy and fundamental physics at the universities of Leuven (Belgium) and Madrid (Spain). He is currently pursuing a PhD in quantum gravity from a condensed-matter perspective.

Download Essay PDF File

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Venerando wrote on Dec. 1, 2008 @ 17:25 GMT
Hello Gil,

I've read your essay and as long as I understand, yours seems to be a new interesting approach.

Best wishes,

Venerando.

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Peter Morgan wrote on Dec. 1, 2008 @ 19:28 GMT
Of course your essay is not exactly new, as the papers and books you cite are quite well-known, but I think you put this point of view very well, succinctly, and at the level requested, and suggest a few ideas I have not previously seen. As with my own and several other essays, it seems a little as if the Nature of Time is almost an afterthought, but this seems to be a general and predictable issue for essays in this contest, and it's OK with me if it's OK with you.

Good essay. Good Luck.

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Gil Jannes wrote on Dec. 2, 2008 @ 15:01 GMT
Thanks Peter! I quite liked your essay as well, although I'm not sure it qualifies as lying "somewhere between the level of Scientific American and a review article in Science or Nature" (but from your first comment on your own essay, I guess you realise that yourself).

You are of course right that my condensed-matter starting point is not wholly original, although I don't think it's really "well-known", as you put it: even most quantum gravity specialists are only starting to take this approach seriously, or at most see it as a phenomenological one, and the "diverse, highly-educated but non-specialist audience" is barely aware that there exists anything related to quantum gravity apart from strings and LQG, let alone that they would know about emergent gravity in general or a condensed-matter approach in particular. Which is not very surprising, since as far as I know little effort has been put in popularising these views (yet) to a broader audience.

In any case, glad you liked my essay and good luck to you too!

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Dec. 3, 2008 @ 21:30 GMT
Hello,

I have only scan read your paper at this point. However, I too have been working on matter which are solid state physics-like. In particular with lattices and the emergence of noncommutative geometry and nonassociative transformations of such groups. My paper is above if you are interested "Time as a Scaling Principle." I don't stress the condensed matter physics of this in this essay, but I do think that the emergence of time is a scaling principle that in euclidean time t = hbar/kT is for T approaching zero a quantum critical point.

Your quartic equation #3, from which you get a dispersion, is similar to a result from Kummer surfaces which result from E_8 lattice (Bloch waves etc) physics I have been working with.

Best,

Lawrence B. Crowell

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Cristi Stoica wrote on Dec. 15, 2008 @ 15:33 GMT
Dear Dr. Jannes,

The condensed matter approach to Quantum Gravity presented in your essay is very interesting, seeming to be a good candidate for the unification of the two great theories.

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica

Flowing with a Frozen River

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Sherman Jenkin wrote on Dec. 26, 2008 @ 07:57 GMT
Gil, your essay, "Condensed matter lessons about the origin of time" is on target to a Theory of Everything With the added understanding of the phase change that locks at the CMB temperature---cosmic background radiation temperature. This phase lock is due to a maximum of the packing fraction at the corresponding energy level.

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Sherman Jenkins wrote on Jan. 1, 2009 @ 17:57 GMT
You have my vote.

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