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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

Raphael Bousso
University of California, Berkeley

Project Title

Information in Free Fall

Project Summary

Unlike all other forces, gravity has resisted a quantum mechanical description. For nearly a century, this difficulty has stood in the way of a complete unification of our description of Nature. More recently, fascinating relations between quantum information and the geometry of spacetime have been discovered. They tie the two realms together, but they also sharpen the conflict. At the horizon of a black hole, we are forced to choose between the central principles of quantum mechanics and of gravitation. Quantum mechanics demands that information is never lost; but this requires the horizon to be a special place in space, a notion that conflicts with a core principle of gravitation. Physics thrives on crisis, and the proposed research aims to take advantage of this sharp paradox. Two possibilities will be investigated. One is to give up standard quantum mechanics for the observer who enters the black hole. A second approach is to modify the conditions under which space emerges empty, so that the horizon is a special place simply because it is not empty space. Either modification would be dramatic. It will be challenging to find implementations that do not conflict with well-tested physics.

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