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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
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2016 Physics of the Observer
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2015 The Physics of What Happens
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2013 Physics of Information
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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
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Steve Giddings
University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title

Observables in quantum spacetime

Project Summary

Our current description of nature faces a conflict among its basic principles: those of quantum mechanics and relativity, and the principle of locality. This conflict is particularly seen in describing black holes, whose evaporation leads to an apparent paradox discovered by Hawking. Evidently part of our current foundation requires modification. Quantum mechanics is well-tested, but locality is ultimately difficult to even formulate, partly since quantum mechanics indicates that space and time themselves have a certain quantum fuzziness. A key part of the structure of quantum mechanics is specification of certain mathematical objects called “q-observables.” These play a central role in describing the division of a system like the universe into smaller systems, such as observers and the systems that they measure, and in describing interactions. In current physics, they also tell us how to formulate the principle of locality. This work will investigate properties of q-observables, and how they might help guide us to a more basic quantum space-time. In short, familiar space and time may be an illusion, emerging from a more basic quantum reality; the q-observables can help us make contact between this more basic reality and what we describe as “happening.”

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