Since the
mid-twentieth century, two theories of physics have offered powerful yet
incompatible models of the physical universe.

General
relativity brings space and time together into the (then) portmanteau
space-time, the curvature of which is gravity. It works really well on large
scales, such as interplanetary or interstellar space.

But zoom
into the subatomic, and things get weird. The mere act of observing
interactions changes the behavior of what is (presumably) totally independent
of observation. In those situations, we need quantum theory to help us make
sense of it all.

Though
scientists have made some remarkable attempts to bring these estranged theories
together, viz., string theory, the math behind the theories remains
incompatible.

However, new
research from Antoine Tilloy of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in
Garching, Germany, suggests that gravity might be an attribute of random
fluctuations on the quantum level, which would supplant gravity as the more
fundamental theory and put us on the path to a unified theory of the physical universe.

In quantum
theory, a particle's state is described by its wave function. This function
allows theorists to predict the probability that a particle will be in this or
that place.

However,
before the act of verification is made via measurement, no one knows for sure
where the particle will be, or if it even exists. In scientific terms, the act of observation "collapses" the wave function.

Here's the
thing about quantum mechanics: it doesn't define what a measurement is. Who -
or what - is an observer? A conscious human?

Bracketing
all explanations to observed phenomena, we're stuck with paradoxes like
Schrödinger's cat, which invites us to consider the equal possibilities that a
previously boxed cat is, as far as we know, simultaneously dead and alive in
the box, and will remain as such until we lift the lid.

One attempt
to solve the paradox is the Ghirardi–Rimini–Weber (GRW) model from the late
eighties. It incorporates random "flashes" that can cause the wave
functions in quantum systems to spontaneously collapse.

This
purports to leave the outcome unbesmirched by meddling human observation.

Tilloy
meddled with this model to extend quantum theory to encompass gravity. When a
flash collapses a wave function, and the particle reaches its final position, a
gravitational field pops into existence at that precise moment in space-time.

On a large
enough scale, quantum systems have many particles going through innumerable
flashes.

If gravity
comes from quantum processes, but nevertheless behaves in a classical (or
Newtonian) way, what we have is a "semiclassical" theory.

However,
Klaus Hornberger of the University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany cautions the
scientific world that other problems must be tackled before Tilloy's
semiclassical solution can warrant serious consideration as a unifying theory
of fundamental forces underlying all modern physical laws.

It fits
Newton's theory of gravity, but Tilloy's yet to work out the math to show that
the quantum theory also describes gravity under Einstein's theory of general
relativity.

With the
greatest explanatory power, physics is one of the most exciting scientific
disciplines. But the key to unified theories in physics is patience.

As with
Schrödinger's cat, the will-to-know alone cannot fill in the gaps of what we
simply don't yet know.

This article
was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.

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