Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Quantum steps towards the Big Bang

02.09.2013
A new approach to the unification of general theory of relativity and quantum theory

Present-day physics cannot describe what happened in the Big Bang. Quantum theory and the theory of relativity fail in this almost infinitely dense and hot primal state of the universe.


Space consists of tiny elementary cells or “atoms of space” in some modern theories of quantum gravity trying to unify General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Quantum gravity should make it possible to describe the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to today within one single theory.

© Copyright: T. Thiemann (FAU Erlangen), Albert Einstein Institute, Milde Marketing Wissenschaftskommunikation, exozet effects

Only an all-encompassing theory of quantum gravity which unifies these two fundamental pillars of physics could provide an insight into how the universe began. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Golm/Potsdam and the Perimeter Institute in Canada have made an important discovery along this route. According to their theory, space consists of tiny “building blocks”.

Taking this as their starting point, the scientists arrive at one of the most fundamental equations of cosmology, the Friedmann equation, which describes the universe. This shows that quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity really can be unified.

For almost a century, the two major theories of physics have coexisted but have been irreconcilable: while Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity describes gravity and thus the world at large, quantum physics describes the world of atoms and elementary particles. Both theories work extremely well within their own boundaries; however, they break down, as currently formulated, in certain extreme regions, at extremely tiny distances, the so-called Planck scale, for example. Space and time thus have no meaning in black holes or, most notably, during the Big Bang.

Daniele Oriti from the Albert Einstein Institute uses a fluid to illustrate this situation: “We can describe the behaviour of flowing water with the long-known classical theory of hydrodynamics. But if we advance to smaller and smaller scales and eventually come across individual atoms, it no longer applies. Then we need quantum physics.” Just as a liquid consists of atoms, Oriti imagines space to be made up of tiny cells or “atoms of space”, and a new theory is required to describe them: quantum gravity.

Continuous space is broken down into elementary cells

In Einstein’s relativity theory, space is a continuum. Oriti now breaks down this space into tiny elementary cells and applies the principles of quantum physics to them, thus to space itself and to the theory of relativity describing it. This is the unification idea.

A fundamental problem of all approaches to quantum gravity consists in bridging the huge dimensional scales from the space atoms to the dimensions of the universe. This is where Oriti, his colleague Lorenzo Sindoni and Steffen Gielen, a former postdoc at the AEI who is now a researcher at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, have succeeded. Their approach is based on so-called group field theory. This is closely related to loop quantum gravity, which the AEI has been developing for some time.

The task now consisted in describing how the space of the universe evolves from the elementary cells. Staying with the idea of fluids: How can the hydrodynamics for the flowing water be derived from a theory for the atoms?

This extremely demanding mathematical task recently led to a surprising success. “Under special assumptions, space is created from these building blocks, and evolves like an expanding universe,” explains Oriti. “For the first time, we were thus able to derive the Friedmann equation directly as part of our complete theory of the structure of space,” he adds. This fundamental equation, which describes the expanding universe, was derived by the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman in the 1920s on the basis of the General Theory of Relativity. The scientists have therefore succeeded in bridging the gap from the microworld to the macroworld, and thus from quantum mechanics to the General Theory of Relativity: they show that space emerges as the condensate of these elementary cells and evolves into a universe which resembles our own.

Quantum gravity could now answer questions regarding the Big Bang

Oriti and his colleagues thus see themselves at the start of a difficult but promising journey. Their current solution is valid only for a homogeneous universe - but our real world is much more complex. It contains inhomogeneities, such as planets, stars and galaxies. The physicists are currently working on including them in their theory.

And they have planned something really big as their ultimate goal. On the one hand, they want to investigate whether it is possible to describe space even during the Big Bang. A few years ago, former AEI researcher Martin Bojowald found clues, as part of a simplified version of loop quantum gravity, that time and space can possibly be traced back through the Big Bang. With their theory, Oriti and his colleagues are hoping to confirm or improve this result.

If it continues to prove successful, the researchers could perhaps use it to explain also the assumed inflationary expansion of the universe shortly after the Big Bang as well, and the nature of the mysterious dark energy. This energy field causes the universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate.

Oriti’s colleague Lorenzo Sindoni therefore adds: “We will only be able to really understand the evolution of the universe when we have a theory of quantum gravity.” The AEI researchers are in good company here: Einstein and his successors, who have been searching for this for almost one hundred years.

Contact

Dr. Daniele Oriti
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-7375
Email: daniele.oriti@­aei.mpg.de
Dr. Lorenzo Sindoni
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-7348
Email: lorenzo.sindoni@­aei.mpg.de
Dr. Elke Müller
Press Officer
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-7303
Email: elke.mueller@­aei.mpg.de
Original publication
Steffen Gielen, Daniele Oriti, Lorenzo Sindoni
Cosmology from Group Field Theory Formalism for Quantum Gravity
Physicak Review Letters, 16 July 2013

Dr. Daniele Oriti | Max-Planck-Institute
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/7513900/quantum-gravitation-Big-Bang

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms
16.10.2017 | Université de Genève

nachricht On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves
16.10.2017 | Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>