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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
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Raphael Bousso
University of California, Berkeley

Project Title

Dynamics of Observer-Dependent Holographic Screens

Project Summary

When we smash particles in accelerators, we stand aside and wait for the debris to come out. Experiments can be repeated arbitrarily often, allowing us to measure any quantity arbitrarily well. A successful theory will simply predict the outcome of all possible experiments, without ever referring to the observer. But when we study the universe, we are inside, looking out. Especially if our description is to include quantum mechanics, this makes us inseparable from our subject. Does this mean that observers are an important part of the fundamental description of Nature? There are intriguing hints that the choice of observer plays a role in the emergence of spacetime and matter from a deeper theory. We know that the world behaves like a hologram: its information can be stored on holographic screens. This suggests that the fundamental theory (quantum gravity) “lives” on these surfaces, in one less dimension. But different observers will construct different holographic screens. They are all large enough to encode the universe, but they will have different shape and location. This project will investigate how the shape of the screen, and with it the fundamental description of Nature, depends on the choice of observer.

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