Why more physicists are starting to think space and time are an ‘illusion’

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/Daily Beast/Getty Images

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/Daily Beast/Getty Images

This December, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the experimental confirmation of entanglement, a quantum phenomenon that has been known for more than 80 years. As envisioned by Albert Einstein and his collaborators in 1935, quantum objects can be mysteriously related even at great distances. But as strange as the phenomenon seems, why should such an old idea deserve physics’ most prestigious prize?

Coincidentally, just weeks before the new Nobel Prize winner was honored in Stockholm, another team of eminent scientists from Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Fermilab, and Google interpreted it as a wormhole. We reported that we ran a process that could be done on Google’s quantum computer. A wormhole is a cosmic tunnel that cuts through time and space and is a favorite of science fiction fans. The tunnels realized in this recent experiment only exist in two-dimensional toy worlds, but they could be a breakthrough in the future. I am working on the cutting edge of physics.

But why is entanglement related to space and time, and how will it be important for future breakthroughs in physics? The universe is “monistic”, as it calls it, meaning that, at its most basic level, everything in the universe is part of a single, unified whole. It is a defining property of quantum mechanics that its underlying reality is described in terms of waves, and a monistic universe requires a universal function. Already decades ago, researchers such as Hugh Everett and Dieter See showed how the reality of our everyday life emerges from such universal quantum-mechanical descriptions. rice field. However, researchers such as Leonard Susskind and Sean Carroll are developing ideas about how this hidden quantum reality explains not just the structure of matter, but the structure of space and time.

Triple star system is hiding planets or defying the laws of physics

Entanglement is not just another strange quantum phenomenon. This is the working principle behind both why quantum mechanics unites the world as one, and why we experience this fundamental unity as many separate objects. At the same time, entanglement is also why we seem to live in a classical reality.It is literally the glue and creator of the world. Entanglement is applied to objects composed of two or more components, and what happens when the quantum principle that “everything that can happen actually happens” is applied to such composed objects explain. An entangled state is therefore a superposition of all possible combinations of the components of the composed object that produce the same overall result. It is the wavy nature of the quantum domain that helps explain how entanglement works in practice.

Imagine a perfectly calm, glassy sea on a windless day. So how can we superimpose two separate wave patterns to create a plane like this? One possibility is that superimposing two perfectly flat surfaces will result in perfectly flat again. But another possibility to produce a flat surface is if two identical wave patterns shifted by half a vibration cycle are superimposed on each other, so that the wave crests of one pattern overlap with those of the other. Makes wave troughs disappear and vice versa. If you just observe the sea of ​​glass and think that it is the result of combining two undulations, you cannot know the pattern of each individual undulation. What sounds perfectly normal when talking about waves has the strangest results when applied to competing realities. If a neighbor has her two cats and says one is alive and she already has one dead, this means either the first cat or his second cat is dead and It means that each of the remaining cats is alive. You may not know how to describe your pets and which ones are the lucky ones, but you can get a neighbor’s drift. In quantum mechanics, the exact same statement means that two cats are merged in case superposition. For example, the first cat is alive, the second is dead, the first is dead, the second is alive. Half alive and half dead, or the first cat adds two thirds of him she is one third alive and the second cat is missing. In cat quantum pairs, the fates and states of individual animals are completely dissolved into the state of the whole. Similarly, there are no individual objects in the quantum universe. All that exists is united into one “One”.

Quantum entanglement reveals vast and entirely new realms of exploration. It defines a new foundation for science, turning all theories upside down and changing our quest to build on quantum cosmology rather than particle physics and string theory. But how realistic would it be for physicists to pursue such an approach? Surprisingly, it is not only realistic, it is actually already being done. Researchers at the forefront of quantum gravity have begun to rethink spacetime as a result of entanglement. A growing number of scientists base their research on the inseparability of the universe. It is hoped that this approach will ultimately allow us to understand the true nature of underlying space and time.

Whether space is stitched together by entanglements, or whose physics is described by abstract objects that transcend space-time, or is space that can be represented by Everett’s universal wavefunction, or the universe’s All of these ideas have a distinct central flavor, regardless of whether they all trace back to a single quantum object. At this time, it is difficult to determine which of these ideas will inform the future of physics and eventually disappear. However, they seem to have grown beyond string theory, and the most recent research is that strings no longer play a role. There seems to be a point Modern physics does not begin with space and time to continue what is placed in this existing background. Instead, space and time themselves are viewed as products of more basic projector reality. Nathan Sayberg, a leading expert in string theory at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, is not alone. These are primitive concepts that are replaced by more sophisticated ones. Furthermore, entanglement plays a fundamental role in most scenarios that propose emergent space-time. As philosopher of science Rasmus Yaksland points out, this ultimately means that there are no more individual objects in the universe. Everything is connected to everything else. But those who are ready to take this step should perhaps turn to the entanglement of the fundamental relationships (and perhaps all other possible relationships) that make up this world. ” Therefore, when space and time disappear, the unified emerges.

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Conversely, from the point of view of quantum monism, such a daunting consequence of quantum gravity is not far off. Rather, it is powered by the mass and energy of matter. It explains the relative order of things, similar to the view of the German philosopher Gottfried W. Leibniz. If now, according to quantum monism, there is only one left, then there is nothing left to organize or order, and ultimately, at this most basic descriptive level, The concept of space is no longer necessary.

In an open letter to researchers in quantum information science, Leonard Susskind boldly claimed that “GR = QM.” General relativity is nothing but quantum mechanics. I completely understand. As Sean Carroll pointed out, “Maybe it was a mistake to quantize gravity. Space-time has been lurking in quantum mechanics all along.” Instead, we may need to try to gravitationize quantum mechanics, or, more precisely, “find gravity inside quantum mechanics,” Carroll suggests on his blog. increase. Indeed, if quantum mechanics had been taken seriously from the beginning, if it had been understood as a theory that did not take place in space and time, but in a more fundamental projective reality, Many of the deadlocks in that quest seem to be over: Quantum gravity could have been avoided. If we accept the monistic implications of quantum mechanics, it is the legacy of a 3,000-year-old philosophy accepted in antiquity, persecuted in the Middle Ages, revived in the Renaissance, and falsified in Romanticism, and as early as If Everett and Zeh had pointed to the influential quantum pioneer Niels Bohr’s pragmatic interpretation of quantum mechanics reduced to tools, rather than sticking to them, we would have found ourselves in a real world. It would have gone further down the road of unraveling the fundamentals.

Adapted from The One: How Ancient Ideas Hold the Future of Physics By Heinrich Pass. Copyright © 2023. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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