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Zenith Grant Awardee

Joanna Karczmarek

University of British Columbia


Project Title

The nature of time, emergent spacetimes and nonabelian physics

Project Summary

Recent advances in theoretical physics contain many hints that space is not fundamental. When viewed from up close, space might be built up from objects which are more fundamental than the three spacial dimensions we observe in our every day experience. The behavior of these building blocks must be consistent with quantum mechanics and with Einstein's theory of gravity. I am exploring the possibility that the way in which these building blocks behave influences the very nature of time. Their dynamics might endow time with a directionality – the so-called arrow of time – which causes time to only flow forward and never backward. Or perhaps the building blocks of space could behave in a way that would cause time to end suddenly. Finally, if space is not fundamental, then perhaps neither is time; learning more about the building blocks of space might lead us to discover the building blocks of time itself, changing our perception of what time actually is.

Technical Abstract

I propose an exploration of connections between macroscopic properties of time and the emergence of spacetime from a unitary theory of some microscopic degrees of freedom. In particular, I would like to study the way in which the arrow of time and the topology of time might arise from (or be affected by) dynamics of the underlying components of a noncommutative space. Specifically, I propose two projects: one to study compatibility of the entropic arrow of time with emergent space at finite temperature, and another to seek descriptions of time-dependent noncommutative geometries using time parameters living in potentially different topologies. In addition, I discuss improving our understanding of time as an emergent quantity in a unitary microscopic theory. While this line of inquiry is informed by certain results in string theory, the research proposed here would be more broadly applicable.

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