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

Sean Carroll
California Institute of Technology

Project Title

What Happens Inside the Quantum State?

Project Summary

The quantum world is a strange one, where observation seems to change reality and predictions are a matter of probabilities rather than certainties. But for working physicists, that strangeness doesn't really get in the way; we know what the rules are for situations we encounter in the lab, and those rules have been as well-tested as any in the history of science. Where we run into trouble is when we try to extend our understanding far outside the lab, into the universe and multiverse. Modern cosmology frequently imagines situations that are far removed from the safe confines of our local environment — places where there are no observers, no discernible difference between past and future, perhaps no notion of space and time at all. This research proposal seeks to investigate what quantum theory has to say about those realms. Are there people, planets, and civilizations fluctuating in and out of existence? Does time stretch forever? Is there just one "world”, or are there many, or perhaps an infinite number? Modern physics has reached the point where such profound questions need to be answered if we hope to make further progress in understanding the universe.

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