Science Gazette

Mathematical discovery might reveal Universe mysteries


How can Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum mechanics be reconciled? It’s a task that might lead to new insights into phenomena like black holes and the genesis of the cosmos. A recent publication in Nature Communications by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and MIT in the United States provides findings that shed fresh insight on major issues in understanding quantum gravity.

A major challenge in modern theoretical physics is to develop a “unified theory” that can describe all of nature’s laws within a single framework, linking Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes the universe on a large scale, and quantum mechanics, which describes our world at the atomic level. A ‘quantum gravity’ theory would encompass both a macroscopic and microscopic account of nature.

“We attempt to comprehend natural rules, and mathematics is the language in which they are written. When we seek solutions to physics issues, we are often led to new discoveries in mathematics as well. This relationship is especially noticeable in the hunt for quantum gravity, where experiments are exceedingly difficult to conduct “explains Daniel Persson, Professor at Chalmers University of Technology’s Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Black holes are an example of a phenomena that necessitates this sort of cohesive explanation. A black hole is formed when a sufficiently massive star expands and falls under its own gravitational attraction, concentrating all of its mass in an incredibly compact space. The quantum mechanical explanation of black holes is still in its early stages, yet it includes spectacularly complex mathematics.

A simple quantum gravity model

“The task is to explain how gravity emerges as a ’emergent’ phenomena. We want to describe how gravity emerges from a quantum mechanical system at the microscopic level, just as everyday phenomena such as liquid flow emerge from the chaotic movements of individual droplets “says Robert Berman, Professor at Chalmers University of Technology’s Department of Mathematical Sciences.

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Daniel Persson and Robert Berman, along with Tristan Collins of MIT in the United States, demonstrated how gravity emerges from a special quantum mechanical system in a simplified model for quantum gravity known as the ‘holographic principle’ in a recent article published in the journal Nature Communications.

“We were able to create an explanation for how gravity arises through the holographic principle in a more exact manner than had previously been done by using approaches from the mathematics that I had previously investigated,” says Robert Berman.

Dark energy ripples

The new paper may possibly shed light on the enigmatic dark energy. Gravity is explained as a geometric phenomena in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Heavy items may bend the geometric form of the cosmos in the same way as a freshly made bed flexes beneath a person’s weight. However, according to Einstein’s theory, even empty space – the universe’s ‘vacuum condition’ – possesses a complex geometric form. If you could zoom in and look at this vacuum at a microscopic level, you’d witness quantum mechanical fluctuations or ripples, which are known as dark energy. From a broader viewpoint, it is this unexplained source of energy that is responsible for the universe’s accelerating expansion.

This new research might provide fresh insights into how and why these minuscule quantum mechanical ripples form, as well as the link between Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum mechanics, which has been a source of consternation for scientists for decades.

“These findings suggest that additional parts of the holographic principle, such as the microscopic description of black holes, might be tested. We also expect to be able to leverage these new links to break new ground in mathematics in the future “Daniel Persson says

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The scientific paper, Emergent Sasaki-Einstein geometry and AdS/CFT, was authored by Robert Berman, Tristan Collins, and Daniel Persson at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

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