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Zenith Grant Awardee

Dr. Alexander Maloney

McGill University


Robert Brandenberger, <i>McGill University</i><br>Jim Cline, <i>McGill University</i><br>Keshav Dasgupta, <i>McGill University</i>

Project Title

The Holographic Wave Function of the Universe

Project Summary

Current models of cosmology, which are based on Einstein's theory of general relativity, successfully describe many features of our universe at its largest scales. However, in order to describe the dynamics of the universe at very early times – times shortly after the big bang – a quantum theory of gravity is necessary. String theory, one of the most promising theories of quantum gravity, provides a host of powerful techniques, which can be used to attack problems in quantum cosmology. Moreover, many of these techniques allow us to understand quantum gravity in regimes where intuitive notions of space and time cease to apply. For example, the holographic principle – which relates a theory of quantum gravity in four dimensions to a simpler theory living in three dimensions – provides deep insights into quantum cosmology, which challenge traditional notions of classical space-time. As more realistic cosmologies are studied using these powerful holographic techniques, we both address basic conceptual puzzles in quantum gravity and face the exciting prospect of contact with observational data.

Technical Abstract

We propose to use non-perturbative techniques in string theory to address basic conceptual puzzles in quantum cosmology. Many of the most important problems in cosmology, involving the wave function of the universe and the quantum resolution of the big bang singularity, are not amenable to the effective field theory techniques typically used in string cosmology. For example, holography – and its specific implementation as gauge/gravity duality – provides a mechanism to address basic issues in quantum cosmology at the non-perturbative level. The AdS/CFT correspondence allows us to compute the wave function of locally Anti-de Sitter universes in terms of a dual conformal field theory. Other, less well understood, implementations of the holographic principle can be developed to study more interesting – and more realistic – cosmologies, such as those involving inflation. We propose to investigate and generalize these and other related non-perurbative approaches to quantum cosmology. Further, we propose to apply the results to realistic four-dimensional cosmologies of observational significance.

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