Big Bang or Big Chill? The ‘Quantum Graphity’ theory
August 21, 2012
The start of the Universe should be modeled not as a Big Bang but more like water freezing into ice, according to a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.
They suggest that by investigating the cracks and crevices common to all crystals — including ice — our understanding of the nature of the Universe could be revolutionized.
Albert Einstein assumed that space and time were continuous and flowed smoothly, but we now believe that this assumption may not be valid at very small scales, said Project lead researcher James Q. Quach.
“A new theory, known as Quantum Graphity, suggests that space may be made up of indivisible building blocks, like tiny atoms,” he said. “These indivisible blocks can be thought about as similar to pixels that make up an image on a screen. The challenge has been that these building blocks of space are very small, and so impossible to see directly.”
Observable imaging effects?
However Quach and his colleagues believe they may have figured out a way to see them indirectly.
“Think of the early universe as being like a liquid,” he said. “Then as the universe cools, it ‘crystallizes’ into the three spatial and one time dimension that we see today. Theorized this way, as the Universe cools, we would expect that cracks should form, similar to the way cracks are formed when water freezes into ice.”
RMIT University research team member Associate Professor Andrew Greentree said some of these defects might be visible. “Light and other particles would bend or reflect off such defects, and therefore in theory we should be able to detect these effects,” he said. These structures should have observable background-independent consequences, including scattering, double imaging, and gravitational lensing-like effects, the scientists say in their paper.
The team has calculated some of these effects and if their predictions are experimentally verified, the question as to whether space is smooth or constructed out of tiny indivisible parts will be solved once and for all.
The team is supported by the Australian Research Council.