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7:30 pm, Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014
Fairmont Lounge, St. John's College
2111 Lower Mall, UBC


Spacetime versus the Quantum

Joe Polchinski

Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics
University of California, Santa Barbara

Quantum mechanics and general relativity are the two of the basic theories of physics, governing space, time, gravity, matter, and even reality itself. Normally, quantum effects appear at microscopic scales while general relativity is seen at cosmic scales. But there are special situations where both are important, like the early Big Bang, and around black holes.

Stephen Hawking showed 40 years ago that quantum mechanics and general relativity make conflicting predictions near black holes, and he argued that quantum mechanics must break down. This ignited a battle that continues to this day. The latest development is the 'firewall' paradox: to save quantum mechanics, an astronaut falling into a black hole will have an experience very different from what Einstein's theory predicts. This has led to a new wave of controversy, and ideas that may lead to a unified formulation of these two great theories.

To learn more please visit his webpage.

This lecture is one of the PITP's special public events to celebrate the Centenary of General Relativity. You can find the resource matrial here.

Additional resources for this talk: slides and video.