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
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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Joseph Polchinski
University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title

Gauge/Gravity Duality and the Emergence of Time and Space

Project Summary

Black holes are remarkable objects, and they provide a rich theoretical laboratory for studying the unification of quantum mechanics and gravity. In fact, they point to a conflict, leading Hawking and others to conclude that there must be radical changes either to quantum theory or to our understanding of spacetime. Recent developments from string theory point to the latter: spacetime as we perceive it is not fundamental, but emerges `holographically' from a theory in fewer dimensions. Ultimately this will greatly change the way we think about space and time, and about the structure of the universe and its beginning, but building a theory based on such an unfamiliar and counterintuitive starting point is a great challenge. Fortunately we have one precise mathematical model, the so-called AdS/CFT duality, that works in special kind of spacetime. Further, this model reveals an unexpected connection between gravity and the other forces. We propose to understand this example and build on it, through the construction of simplified models of black holes and expanding universes, and the application of various powerful tools and organizing principles that have been developed for the other forces.

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