Category: quantum field theory

Even In A Quantum Universe, Space And Time Might Be Continuous, Not Discrete

“In General Relativity, matter and energy tell space how to curve, while curved space tells matter and energy how to move. But in General Relativity, space and time are continuous and non-quantized. All the other forces are known to be quantum in nature, and require a quantum description to match reality. We assume and suspect that gravitation is fundamentally quantum, too, but we aren’t sure. Furthermore, if gravity is ultimately quantum, we don’t know whether space and time remain continuous, or whether they become fundamentally discrete.

Quantum doesn’t necessarily mean that every property breaks down into an indivisible chunk. In conventional quantum field theory, spacetime is the stage upon which the various quanta act out the play of the Universe. At the core of it all should be a quantum theory of gravity. Until we can determine whether space and time are discrete, continuous, or unavoidably blurred, we cannot know our Universe’s nature at a fundamental level.”

If you could look at the Universe down to the smallest possible scales, fundamentally, what would you find? Would you discover that space and time really could be broken up into tiny, indivisible entities where the was a length scale and a timescale that could be divided no further? Would you discover that space and time were quantum in nature, but were instead a continuous fabric? Or would you discover something else, like that space and time weren’t quantum or that there was a fundamental “blurring” that prevented you from seeing below a specific scale?

Quantum, surprisingly to many, doesn’t necessarily mean it can be broken up into indivisible chunks. Space and time might not be discrete even if they’re quantum. Time to learn the difference.

This Is Why Quantum Field Theory Is More Fundamental Than Quantum Mechanics

“But the motivation for quantizing the field is more fundamental than that the argument between those favoring perturbative or non-perturbative approaches. You need a quantum field theory to successfully describe the interactions between not merely particles and particle or particles and fields, but between fields and fields as well. With quantum field theory and further advances in their applications, everything from photon-photon scattering to the strong nuclear force was now explicable.”

What’s wrong with quantum mechanics? It might surprise you to hear that the answer is, “it isn’t quantum enough.” The enormous differences between the quantum and the non-quantum Universe are so striking, as we replace:

* continuous matter with discrete particles,
* ideal points with dual-nature wave/particle quanta,
* and observable properties like position and momentum with quantum mechanical operators containing an inherent uncertainty.

But it’s still not enough. For one, the original (Schroedinger) equation of quantum mechanics doesn’t play nice with relativity, but even the relativistically invariant versions don’t describe reality fully. Why not? Because only the particles are quantized in quantum mechanics. To reveal the full behavior, you need to quantize their fields and interactions, too.

Here’s how quantum field theory succeeds where quantum mechanics fails, and why Einstein’s dreams of unification were abandoned upon his death.