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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
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2015 The Physics of What Happens
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2013 Physics of Information
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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
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Edward Anderson
Universite Paris 7 - Denis Diderot

Project Title

The Problem of Time in Quantum Gravity

Project Summary

Quantum gravity is required when two of 20th century physics' most spectacular successes both apply: quantum theory and Einstein's general relativity. Unfortunately, these individually successful theories fail to be compatible with each other! Some physicists (myself included) expect this to be related to how these theories have different (and incompatible) notions of what time is. Quantum general relativity's equations look frozen: ie featuring no time notion at all! Physicists then try to find a time hidden within, or a time that emerges under certain circumstances (eg when the whole universe is near-classical rather than more bizarre quantum possibilities), or see how much of physics can actually be done in timeless terms (e.g. correlations within a given snapshot). None of these strategies so far work in detail, so I propose combining three that look to reinforce each other: near-classicality, timeless snapshots and consideration of universe-histories. All this being too hard to calculate for full general relativity, I use simpler models that happen to capture most of the features of general relativity essential to these strategies: the triangle and quadrilateral of particles studied without reference to Newtonian background time and space since general relativity pointedly has none of these.

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