The Death of Distance (in Physics)

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A decade ago, journalist Frances Cairncross coined the phrase "the death of distance" to describe how airline travel and telecommunications have made distance matter a lot less to us than it did to our grandparents. This social trend has anticipated a scientific one: the growing realization among physicists and cosmologists that distance in the physical world is not quite what it appears to be. This talk will explore issues discussed in the March 2009 cover story of Scientific American, in Brian Green\'s book The Fabric of the Cosmos, and in chapter 18 of my book, The Complete Idiot\'s Guide to String Theory.

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The Death of Distance (in Physics)

  1. 1. THE DEATH OF DISTANCE (IN PHYSICS) George Musser – 7 May 2009
  2. 2. 1. What is space?
  3. 3. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080508.html
  4. 4. The Manifold of Space
  5. 5. Physics in the Pool Hall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Translational_motion.gif
  6. 6. If you think it’s hard to imagine a higher dimension, try imagining a complete absence of space!
  7. 7. 2. The principle of locality
  8. 8. Two Aspects of Locality <ul><li>Everything has a well-defined position. </li></ul><ul><li>Things must touch to interact. </li></ul>
  9. 9. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/pictures/1991.07.1134.jpeg
  10. 10. Physics in the Pool Hall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Translational_motion.gif
  11. 11. What About Forces That Seem to Jump? Michael Faraday
  12. 12. Dreams of Fields http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Magnetic_Field_08060_nevit.jpg
  13. 13. Dreams of Fields http://web.mit.edu/jbelcher/www/on.html
  14. 14. Special Theory of Relativity <ul><li>A </li></ul>B A B A B A B A B
  15. 15. 3. The failure of locality
  16. 16. <ul><li>Everything has a well-defined position. </li></ul><ul><li>Things must touch to interact. </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Classical object </li></ul>Quantum Nonlocality #1 Quantum object position, momentum wavefunction ( Ψ )
  18. 18. Quantum Nonlocality #2
  19. 19. The Particle Newlywed Game Alice Bob Question Answer Question Answer 3 NO 1 NO 2 YES 2 YES 3 NO 1 YES 3 YES 3 YES 1 NO 2 YES 1 YES 2 NO 2 YES 1 NO 3 NO 3 NO 2 NO 3 NO 1 YES 3 NO
  20. 20. The Particle Newlywed Game Alice Bob Question Answer Question Answer 3 NO 1 NO 2 YES 2 YES 3 NO 1 YES 3 YES 3 YES 1 NO 2 YES 1 YES 2 NO 2 YES 1 NO 3 NO 3 NO 2 NO 3 NO 1 YES 3 NO
  21. 21. The Particle Newlywed Game Alice Bob Question Answer Question Answer 3 NO 1 NO 2 YES 2 YES 3 NO 1 YES 3 YES 3 YES 1 NO 2 YES 1 YES 2 NO 2 YES 1 NO 3 NO 3 NO 2 NO 3 NO 1 YES 3 NO
  22. 22. The Particle Newlywed Game Alice Bob Question Answer Question Answer 3 NO 1 NO 2 YES 2 YES 3 NO 1 YES 3 YES 3 YES 1 NO 2 YES 1 YES 2 NO 2 YES 1 NO 3 NO 3 NO 2 NO 3 NO 1 YES 3 NO
  23. 23. Could They Have Memorized the Answers? Alice Bob 1 2 3 1 2 3 NO NO YES YES NO YES YES YES NO YES YES NO YES NO NO NO NO NO YES NO
  24. 24. Could They Have Memorized the Answers? Alice Bob 1 2 3 1 2 3 NO NO NO NO NO NO YES YES NO YES YES NO YES YES NO YES YES NO NO YES YES NO YES YES NO YES NO YES YES NO YES NO YES YES NO YES NO YES NO NO YES NO NO YES NO NO YES NO NO NO NO NO YES NO YES NO NO YES NO NO
  25. 25. Could They Have Memorized the Answers? ⅓ × 100 + ⅔ × 50 = 66.7 Same question Different questions Chance of giving the same answer
  26. 26. Quantum Nonlocality #2
  27. 27. Nonlocality in General Relativity http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=75511 ( left )
  28. 28. Nonlocality in General Relativity
  29. 29. Nonlocality in Quantum Field Theory
  30. 30. The Fine Structure of Spacetime American Scientist , Nov/Dec 91
  31. 31. Nonlocality in Black Holes http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20011015blackhole.html Jump
  32. 32. The Paradox of Black Holes http://www.medwastesolutions.com/shop/images/VCLO0204.JPG ( left ); http://www.flickr.com/photos/kuw_son/327038455 ( right ) vs.
  33. 33. From Matter to Mush
  34. 34. Nonlocality in Big Bang Cosmology http://hubblesite.org/hubble_discoveries/10th/photos/graphics/slide40high.jpg ( left), http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/images/hs-1998-41-e-large_web.jpg ( right ) Hubble Deep Field North Hubble Deep Field South
  35. 35. Horizon Problem
  36. 36. 4. What is space?
  37. 37. From Position to Distance
  38. 38. From Position to Distance
  39. 39. From Position to Distance From Distance to Position
  40. 40. From Distance to Position
  41. 41. From Distance to Position You can assign positions to the cities only if the table of distances is highly ordered.
  42. 42. A Tangled Web
  43. 43. A Tangled Web
  44. 44. 5. The emergence of space
  45. 45. Start With a Quark-Gluon Plasma… http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/photos/2005/gas-and-liquid-300.jpg
  46. 46. … With a Hierarchy of Scales aka The devil isn’t in the details.
  47. 47. Hierarchy of Scales
  48. 48. … and a Spatial Dimension Appears
  49. 49. 6. Conclusion
  50. 50. The Death of Distance <ul><li>Many phenomena transcend distance. </li></ul><ul><li>Space may not be fundamental, but reflect the self-organization of more fundamental ingredients. </li></ul>
  51. 51. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing_737-73V_-_EasyJet_Airline_-_G-EZJI_-_LEMD.jpg ( top ); http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/CandlestickTelephones.jpg ( bottom )
  52. 52. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Arbor_Lake-Aerial.JPG ( top ); http://hoboken411.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/text-messaging-at-dinner.jpg ( bottom )
  53. 53. Our Existence Requires Distance <ul><li>The concept of “thing” implies separability. </li></ul><ul><li>Without locality, the world would be even more complex than it already is. </li></ul>Space joins the other features of the universe that are prerequisites for intelligent life.
  54. 54. <ul><li>For a copy of the slides, visit www.strings.musser.com </li></ul>
  55. 55. Backup Slides
  56. 56. Two Aspects of Locality <ul><li>Everything has a well-defined position. </li></ul><ul><li>Things must touch to interact. </li></ul>Space is nature’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen all at the same place.
  57. 57. Special Theory of Relativity
  58. 58. Nonlocality in Black Holes Scientific American , Feb 09
  59. 59. Black Hole Complementarity As viewed by the victim As viewed by the victim’s family
  60. 60. Nonlocality in Big Bang Cosmology http://lambda.gsfc.nasa.gov/product/map/dr3/map_images/ilc_5yr_ecl_lmbrt_2048.png
  61. 61. Energy and Size in Quantum Theory Position Momentum
  62. 62. Energy and Size in General Relativity Threshold for Black Hole Formation 6 Kilometers  1 Solar Mass 1 Centimeter  1 Earth Mass 0.1 Millimeter  1 Moon Mass
  63. 63. The Tree of Physics Mercury Nov/Dec 97

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