Frontiers of physics

In the latest poll of our Science fiction, science fact project you told us that you wanted to know if infinity exists. In this interview the cosmologist John D. Barrow gives us an overview on the question, from Aristotle's ideas to Cantor's never-ending tower of mathematical infinities, and from shock waves to black holes.

Quantum mechanics and general relativity are incompatible — and this has led to a decades-long search for a theory of quantum gravity that could combine the two. But the particle physicist Richard Woodard thinks that the mismatch between the two could be nothing more than an illusion, created by the complicated maths techniques used in attempts to unite them.

John Barrow gives us an overview, from Aristotle's ideas to Cantor's never-ending tower of mathematical infinities, and from shock waves to black holes.

A traditional view of science holds that every system — including ourselves — is no more than the sum of its parts. To understand it, all you have to do is take it apart and see what's happening to the smallest constituents. But the mathematician and cosmologist George Ellis disagrees. He believes that complexity can arise from simple components and physical effects can have non-physical causes, opening a door for our free will to make a difference in a physical world.

Most of us think that we have the capacity to act freely. Our sense of morality, our legal system, our whole culture is based on the idea that there is such a thing as free will. It's embarrassing then that classical physics seems to tell a different story. And what does quantum theory have to say about free will?

Is there such a thing as free will? In everyday life we all assume that there is: it's up to you whether you cheat in your tax return, and if you're caught, well then you deserve punishment. But when you look at it from a physics view point free will becomes a little tricky. Here's a collection of articles exploring free will.

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In this, the second part of our interview, John Conway explains how the Kochen-Specker Theorem from 1965 not only seemed to explain the EPR Paradox, it also provided the first hint of Conway and Kochen's Free Will Theorem.

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On August 19, 2004, John Conway was standing with his friend Simon Kochen at the blackboard in Kochen’s office in Princeton. They had been trying to understand a thought experiment involving quantum physics and relativity. What they discovered, and how they described it, created one of the most controversial theorems of their careers: The Free Will Theorem.

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In this, the third part of our interview, John Conway continues to explain the Free Will Theorem and how it has changed his perception of the Universe.

Why can we remember the past and not the future? Why does time appear to move in only one direction when the laws of physics have no preferred direction in time? According to one physicist, it might be because we live in a bubble multiverse.

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