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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
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2013 Physics of Information
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2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

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

Andrew Strominger
Harvard University

Project Title

The Nature of Time in Asymptotically de Sitter Universes

Project Summary

The physics community at large has a schizophrenic view on the nature of time. On the one hand it is widely believed that time evolution is deterministic and unitary. On the other it is also believed that the universe began life at the big bang. But if there was nothing before the big bang, unitarity would have to be violated at the initial moment. So something must give. I have put forth an unconventional and speculative proposal concerning this paradox in the specific context of universes of the general type we inhabit which expand forever in the far future. Through a variety of approaches over the last several decades, we have understood in a fairly concrete manner that a spatial direction can emerge in a holographic fashion in quantum gravity, as a scale parameter of the theory living on the holographic plate. But in general relativity, space and time are on equal footings. Therefore it should also be possible for time to emerge holographically. Time evolution would then be realized as a scale transformation in a theory living at future infinity, and the big bang a fixed point of these transformations. The goal of this proposal is to find some kind of concrete picture or toy model in which this can be realized.

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