This series covers all areas of research at Perimeter Institute, as well as those outside of PI's scope.
The vacuum landscape of string theory can solve the cosmological constant problem, explaining why the energy of empty space is observed to be at least 60 orders of magnitude smaller than several known contributions to it. It leads to a 'multiverse' in which every type of vacuum is produced infinitely many times, and of which we have observed but a tiny fraction. This conceptual revolution has raised tremendous challenges in particle physics and cosmology. To understand the low-energy physics we observe, and to test the theory, we will need novel statistical tools and effective theories.
Quantum graphity is a background independent condensed matter model for emergent locality, spatial geometry and matter in quantum gravity. The states of the system are given by bosonic degrees of freedom on a dynamical graph on N vertices. At high energy, the graph is the complete graph on N vertices and the physics is invariant under the full symmetric group acting on the vertices and highly non-local. The ground state dynamically breaks the permutation symmetry to translations and rotations. In this phase the system is ordered, low-dimensional and local.
Astronomers have discovered many candidate black holes in the universe and have studied their properties in ever-increasing detail. Over the last decade, a few groups have developed observational tests for the presence of event horizons in candidate black holes. The talk will discuss one of these tests, which indicates that the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy must have a horizon.
In the 60’s, the analytic S-matrix program was developed in an attempt to describe the strong interactions – at the time, this was a theory of massive particles like pions. The S-matrix is an object that encodes the information of the probability of producing a certain set of final particles from a given set of initial particles. Eventually, the S-matrix program was replaced by Quantum Field Theory and in particular by Quantum Chromo Dynamics as the description of the strong interactions. In recent years there has been a resurrection of the S-matrix paradigm.
The PAMELA satellite-borne experiment was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome on the 15th of June 2006. It has been collecting data since July 2006. The instrument is composed of a silicon-microstrip magnetic spectrometer, a time-of-flight system, a silicon-tungsten electromagnetic calorimeter, an anticoincidence system, a shower tail counter scintillator and a neutron detector. The primary scientific goal is the measurement of the antiproton and positron energy spectrum in order to search for exotic sources, such as dark matter particle annihilations.
We are currently in the throes of a potentially huge paradigm shift in physics. Motivated by recent developments in string theory and the discovery of the so-called \'string landscape\', physicists are beginning to question the uniqueness of fundamental theories of physics and the methods by which such theories might be understsood and investigated. In this colloquium, I will give a non-technical introduction to the nature of this paradigm shift and how it developed. I will also discuss some of the questions to which it has led, and the nature of the controversies it has spawned.
According to general relativity, space-time ends at singularities and classical physics just stops. In particular, the big bang is regarded as The Beginning. However, general relativity is incomplete because it ignores quantum effects. Through simple models, I will illustrate how the quantum nature of space-time geometry resolves the big bang singularity. Quantum physics does not stop there. Indeed, quantum space-times can be vastly larger than what general relativity had us believe, with unforeseen physical effects in the deep Planck regime.
The discovery and understanding of superconductivity has provided important paradigms for physics, including spontaneous gauge symmetry breaking and the Anderson-Higgs mechanism. More recent discoveries in superconductivity have given us examples of doped Mott insulators, still an unsolved theoretical problem, as well as superconductors which spontaneously break time reversal symmetry and which support Majorana fermions and non-Abelian statistics. The latter are of potential interest to quantum computing.
We show that if a condensed matter system (a quantum qbit system) is in a string-net condensed state, then the low energy excitation in such a system can be gauge bosons (such as photons) and fermions (such as electrons). Such a system is actually the ether that we have been looking for 150 years. We will also discuss a quantum qbit system that may even give rise to emergent gravitons.