Where does space come from?

In 1935, Einstein published two papers, both with young protege Nathan Rosen, but on two unconnected ideas.  (The ideas were “unconnected” both in the sense that they appeared to have nothing to do with each other, and that they were both about the physics of unconnected times and places.)

In paper #1, he realized that his geometrical theory of gravity, called General Relativity, held the mathematical possibility of tunnels connecting different times and places via a space-time shortcut.  John Wheeler was later to call these wormholes, and a great deal of thought and study followed in ensuing decades, speculating about whether our universe actually includes such connections, and whether they might be manufactured deliberately to facilitate interstellar travel.

In paper #2, he skewered the whole nascent field of quantum mechanics by highlighting an absurd consequence of quantum entanglement.  What you do to one particle has a provable effect on other particles that once interacted with it, but are now far away.  If QM is correct about this, then it is a way that what you do here and now can have an effect on distant places, and possibly change what already happened at earlier times.

Seventy-eight years later, Juan Maldacena wrote an email to Leonard Susskind in which he proposed that these two disconnections where deeply connected, that they were not just weird but weird in the same way, and that the link between quantum entanglement and Wheeler wormholes had the potential to explain where time and 3-D space come from.


Read more from K.C. Cole, writing in Quanta Magazine.


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