Space is not smooth: physicists think that on the quantum scale, it is composed of indivisible subunits, like the dots that make up a pointillist painting. This pixellated landscape is thought to seethe with black holes smaller than one trillionth of one trillionth of the diameter of a hydrogen atom, continuously popping in and out of existence.Inconclusive? There is no evidence of any kind that space is grainy. It is wildly speculative and implausible to say that space is composed of indivisible subunits, and that tiny black holes continuously pop in and out of existence.
That tumultuous vista was proposed decades ago by theorists struggling to marry quantum theory with Einstein's theory of gravity -- the only one of nature's four fundamental forces not to have been incorporated into the standard model of particle physics. If it is true, the idea could provide a deeper understanding of space-time and the birth of the Universe.
Scientists have attempted to use the Large Hadron Collider, gravitational wave detectors and observations of distant cosmic explosions to determine whether space is truly grainy, but results have so far been inconclusive.
The current SciAm has an essay on that subject:
Editors' note: Last year the Foundational Questions Institute's third essay contest posed the following question to physicists and philosophers: “Is Reality Digital or Analog?” The organizers expected entrants to come down on the side of digital. After all, the word “quantum” in quantum physics connotes “discrete” —hence, “digital”. Many of the best essays held, however, that the world is analog. Among them was the entry by David Tong, who shared the second-place prize. The article here is a version of his essay.It was from last year's essay contest. You can get the original essay free on the 2011 winner page. It is a sensible essay.
Space and time must be digital. The reason why is because the notion of infinity doesn't make sense. The only reason why mathematicians use it is because it is extremely useful when tamed into ZFC.ReplyDelete