Space is the stage on which physics happens. It's unaffected by what happens in it and it would still be there if everything in it disappeared. This is how we learn to think about space at school. But the idea is as novel as it is out-dated.
The Strong Fields, Integrability and Strings
programme, which took place at the Isaac
Newton Institute in 2007, explored an area that
would have been close to Isaac Newton's heart:
how to unify Einstein's theory of gravity, a
continuation of Newton's own work on
gravitation, with quantum field theory, which
describes the atomic and sub-atomic world, but
cannot account for the force of gravity.
The holy grail for 21st century physics is to produce a unified theory of everything that can describe the world at every level, from the tiniest particles to the largest galaxies. Currently the strongest contender for such a theory is something called M-theory. So what is this supposed mother of all theories all about?
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.
With online socialising and alternative realities like Second Life it may seem as if reality has become a whole lot bigger over the last few years. In one branch of theoretical physics, though, things seem to be going the other way. String theorists have been developing the idea that the space and time we inhabit, including ourselves, might be nothing more than an illusion, a hologram
conjured up by a reality which lacks a crucial feature of the world as we perceive it: the third dimension. Plus talks to Juan Maldacena to find out more.
It is extraordinary to think that the diversity of the world we live in is based on a handful of elementary particles and a few fundamental forces. Peter Kalmus describes the combination of experimental and theoretical physics that has brought us to the understanding of today.