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Posts tagged "Theoretical physics"


Can Fossils of Inflation Provide Quantum Gravity Clues?

As a science writer, it’s alarmingly easy to overstate a scientific discovery’s importance. I often must go out of my way to dial back the enthusiasm, mercilessly editing out words like “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” after I lose control in a first draft. But if the recent discovery of polarization in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation is confirmed, it will be very hard to exaggerate its significance.

“This is so big that we haven’t figured out how big it is,” said Michael Turner, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, in a recent video hangout with members of the team behind BICEP2, the experiment that recently garnered the kind of breathless headlines I have so often tried to tame. BICEP2 detected a distinctive polarization pattern in the CMB that is thought to be the imprint of the dramatic inflation that morphed our universe from “tiny” to “cosmic” in the first 10-35 second after the Big Bang. If confirmed, it will be the first direct evidence of cosmic inflation and our earliest ever glimpse into the action of the newborn universe.

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Spooky Physics Phenomenon May Link Universe’s Wormholes

Put on your skeptic hats real quick before you give this interesting article a read. Some of what they’re talking about here loosely relies on the unproven theory of supersymmetry that last year was put into deeper questioning and scrutiny after more substantial results came back from particle colliders like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and Tevatron among others. I also posted an article last year talking about the implications of those results from the LHC and what they meant for the credibility and beauty of the supersymmetry theory, you can check that out here: LHC Breaks Supersymmetry’s Beauty

Wormholes — shortcuts that in theory can connect distant points in the universe — might be linked with the spooky phenomenon of quantum entanglement, where the behavior of particles can be connected regardless of distance, researchers say.

These findings could help scientists explain the universe from its very smallest to its biggest scales.

Scientists have long sought to develop a theory that can describe how the cosmos works in its entirety. Currently, researchers have two disparate theories, quantum mechanics and general relativity, which can respectively mostly explain the universe on its tiniest scales and its largest scales. There are currently several competing theories seeking to reconcile the pair.

One prediction of the theory of general relativity devised by Einstein involves wormholes, formally known as Einstein-Rosen bridges. In principle, these warps in the fabric of space and time can behave like shortcuts connecting any black holes in the universe, making them a common staple of science fiction.

Intriguingly, quantum mechanics also has a phenomenon that can link objects such as electrons regardless of how far apart they are — quantum entanglement.

"This is true even when the electrons are light years apart," said Kristan Jensen, a theoretical physicist at Stony Brook University in New York.

Einstein derisively called this seemingly impossible connection “spooky action at a distance.” However, numerous experiments have proven quantum entanglement is real, and it may serve as the foundation of advanced future technologies, such as incredibly powerful quantum computers and nigh-unhackable quantum encryption.

"Entanglement is one of the most bizarre but important features of quantum mechanics," Jensen said. And if entanglement really is connected to wormholes, that could help reconcile quantum mechanics with general relativity, the two examples of this phenomenon, on tiny and huge scales.

Entanglement and wormholes

Recently, theoretical physicists Juan Martín Maldacena at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Leonard Susskind at Stanford University argued that wormholes are linked with entanglement. Specifically, they suggested that wormholes are each pairs of black holes that are entangled with one another.

Entangled black holes could be generated in a number of ways. For instance, a pair of black holes could in principle be made simultaneously, and these would automatically be entangled. Alternatively, radiation given off by a black hole could be captured and then collapsed into a black hole, and the resulting black hole would be entangled with the black hole that supplied the ingredients for it.

Maldacena and Susskind not only suggested that wormholes are entangled black holes, but they argued that entanglement in general was linked to wormholes. They conjectured that entangled particles such as electrons and photons were connected by extraordinarily tiny wormholes.

At first sight, such a claim might sound preposterous. For instance, entanglement works even when gravity is not known to play a role.

Now two independent groups of researchers suggest entanglement may indeed be linked to wormholes. If this connection is true, it could help bridge quantum mechanics with general relativity, potentially helping better understand both.

Holograms and wormholes

Jensen and his colleague theoretical physicist Andreas Karch at the University of Washington in Seattle investigated how entangled pairs of particles behave in a supersymmetric theory, which suggests that all known subatomic particles have “superpartner” particles not yet observed. The theory was one proposed to help unite quantum mechanics and general relativity.

An idea in this theory is that if one imagines certain quantum mechanical systems exist in only three dimensions, their behavior can be explained by objects behaving in the four dimensions that general relativity describes the universe as having — the three dimensions of space, and the fourth of time. This notion that actions in this universe may emerge from a reality with fewer dimensions is known as holography, akin to how two-dimensional holograms can give the illusion of three dimensions. [5 Reasons We May Live in a Multiverse]

Jensen and Karch found that if one imagined entangled pairs in a universe with four dimensions, they behaved in the same way as wormholes in a universe with an extra fifth dimension. Essentially, they discovered that entanglement and wormholes may be one and the same.

"Entangled pairs were the holographic images of a system with a wormhole," Jensen said. Independent research from theoretical physicist Julian Sonner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports this finding.

"There are certain things that get a scientist’s heart beating faster, and I think this is one of them," Jensen told LiveScience. "One really exciting thing is that maybe, inspired by these results, we can better understand the relation between entanglement and space-time."

The scientists detailed their findings in two papers published Nov. 20 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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Help Hunt The Higgs Boson Particle With LHC@Home

We’ve hunted for intelligent extraterrestrial signals, searched for cancer cures and even looked for cosmic gravitational waves… all from the comfort of our homes. This is all thanks to “citizen science” projects that use the idle time of home computers to solve some of the most complex problems facing science.

And now, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has re-entered the distributed computing world with LHC@home 2.0 — an updated version of the 2004 effort to simulate particle collisions on home computers.

The main aim, of course, is to help track down the most elusive subatomic particles theorized to exist — the Higgs boson — but the effort will ultimately allow physicists to tap into a huge amount of computing power to simulate how our Universe came into existence.

“Volunteers can now actively help physicists in the search for new fundamental particles that will provide insights into the origin of our Universe, by contributing spare computing power from their personal computers and laptops,” according to a statement issued by CERN via BBC News.

Of course, just because LHC data is being distributed to home computers doesn’t mean CERN’s 100 million Euro ($140 million) Worldwide Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid can’t handle the 15 million gigabytes of data being generated by the LHC every year; LHC@home will complement these in-house efforts.

Although the installation of the required software may seem complicated, if you follow the instructions on the LHC@home 2.0 website, it should only take you 5 minutes or so to get set up. Unfortunately, the creation of new accounts have been temporarily suspended, but it’s likely to be up and running again soon.

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Related: What Is The Higgs Boson?

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