Large Grants
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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Dr. Ken D. Olum
Tufts University

Project Title

Does General Relativity Permit Exotic Phenomena?

Project Summary

Is it possible to create a stable wormhole, or to travel faster than light or backward in time? In general relativity, matter and energy curve space-time. If the space-time were curved enough and in the right way, such exotic things would be possible. Is there any matter and energy that would produce such curvature? It would have to have negative energy density. That is unlike nearly every kind of matter and energy that we know, but quantum mechanics does sometimes give rise to negative energy densities, for example between parallel plates in the Casimir effect. But it is not enough just to have negative energy density in a few places. Rather, the energy density added up along the complete path of a light ray must be negative. We already showed that this is impossible in flat space-time, even when there are boundaries, as in the Casimir system. The present project intends to show that even in curved space-time it is impossible to have the required negative energy, and thus that one cannot construct a wormhole or a time machine, or travel faster than light.

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