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

John Donoghue
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Project Title

Time and Emergent Symmetry

Project Summary

In everyday life we encounter sound waves and water waves as the large scale result of atoms interacting with each other at the microscopic scales. The word "emergent" is used to describe the situation where the features that one sees at large scales are not themselves part of the more fundamental theory. In contrast, light waves are thought to be completely fundamental and present all scales, no matter how small. This project explores the possibility that light waves (and other waves in our present theory) are also emergent, manifestations of a different underlying reality. There are hints that, to make this idea work, the features of Einstein's Special Relativity must also be emergent. The work initiated in this project should help us understand better how this could occur, and provides some ideas to potentially test this framework.

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