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And Gravity?

  • Stephen Bruce SontzEmail author
Chapter
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Abstract

In the first quarter of the 20th century, physics was advanced two times as it has never been since. First came Einstein’s theories of relativity, both special relativity and general relativity. The former supplanted Newton’s absolutist (and quite intuitive to many to this day) world picture of space and time, and the latter replaced Newton’s instantaneous action at a distance theory of gravity with a gravitational theory based on a unified curved spacetime that mediates gravitational interactions at the large, though finite, speed of light rather than instantaneously. Still this remained within the realm of classical physics in that the framework is deterministic and motion along trajectories makes sense. Second was quantum theory, which brought into question such classical ideas as deterministic interpretations as well as the intuitive idea of motion itself. By any stretch of the imagination these both were revolutionary developments in scientific thought.

. . . such stuff as dreams are made on. Prospero in The Tempest, William Shakespeare

In the first quarter of the 20th century, physics was advanced two times as it has never been since. First came Einstein’s theories of relativity, both special relativity and general relativity. The former supplanted Newton’s absolutist (and quite intuitive to many to this day) world picture of space and time, and the latter replaced Newton’s instantaneous action at a distance theory of gravity with a gravitational theory based on a unified curved spacetime that mediates gravitational interactions at the large, though finite, speed of light rather than instantaneously. Still this remained within the realm of classical physics in that the framework is deterministic and motion along trajectories makes sense. Second was quantum theory, which brought into question such classical ideas as deterministic interpretations as well as the intuitive idea of motion itself. By any stretch of the imagination these both were revolutionary developments in scientific thought.

However, there is to date no theory which incorporates in a unified way the established gravitational and quantum theories, at least in some appropriate sense. This hoped for but still non-existent unification is often called quantum gravity. It seems safe to assert that physicists quite generally expect that some sort of unification exists. And the consensus is that to achieve this unification, quantum theory will not be changed while gravitation theory will be changed. This consensus could well be wrong. We simply do not know. It could be that there are more pieces of the puzzle, such as dark matter, that must be included into a unified theory. But again, we do not know.

Quantum theory presents many unsolved problems. But among them this unification is one of the biggest challenges in contemporary physics.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Matemáticas BásicasCentro de Investigación en Matemáticas, A.C.GuanajuatoMexico

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