Einstein, Symmetry and the Future of Physics
After Einstein, the pull of symmetry became more powerful.
This is a professional note extracted from an online article.
Read more efficiently
Save what inspires you
Many insights of Albert Einstein are now part of popular imagination: black holes, time warps, and wormholes show up in movies and books.
Less famous, but probably the most revolutionary part of Einstein's phenomena, is a simple idea that shows how pieces fit together and illuminate the road ahead.
The most fundamental aspects of nature stay the same.
For example, Einstein's papers on relativity show that the relationship between energy and mass is invariant, even though energy and mass can take on many different forms.
Even though matter produces energy, the energy-matter content of the universe never changes. Matter and energy are less fundamental than the underlying relationship between them.
We often think of things as the heart of reality. But most often the relationship is more important, not the stuff.
We may think "stuff" like space and time are unchangeable aspects of nature. In reality, the relationship between space and time stays the same.
The relationship that mattered most to Einstein's ideas was symmetry. Scientists describe symmetry as changes that don't really change anything. More complicated symmetries have led to the discoveries from neutrinos to quarks.
Symmetry is at the root of our description of nature. But symmetry has not been able to explain why gravity is so weak or vacuum energy is so small. The idea of symmetry may be very powerful, but we may have to give up on these principles that have worked so well.
Albert Einstein did not think about symmetry when he wrote his first relativity papers in 1905. He was considering several seemingly unrelated puzzles and connecting the dots.
Unified space-time starts to make sense if we think that the speed of light is a relationship between the distance traveled over time.
Because the speed of light can't change, your laser beam won't go any faster. The measurement of distance and time must be changed instead, depending on the state of motion. This leads to effects known as "space contraction" and "time dilation."
As you work at your desk, you move through time, but not through space. A cosmic ray moves over vast distances at nearly the speed of light but takes little time.
Einstein's special theory of relativity applies only to steady, unchanging motion through space-time, not accelerating motion like an object falling toward Earth.
From the 1950s, invariances took on a life of their own. New symmetries, known as "gauge" invariances, became productive by requiring the existence of everything from W and Z bosons to gluons.
Gauge symmetry dictates what other ingredients you have to introduce. Gauge symmetries describe the internal structure of the system of particles in our world. Physicists can move, rotate and distort their equations without changing anything important. The result is a look at the hidden structures that supports the basic ingredients of nature.
Symmetry, as it is understood, seems not to answer the biggest questions in physics. In some cases, symmetries show the underlying laws of nature that do not show up in reality.
For example, when energy congeals into matter (E = mc2), the result is an equal amount of matter and antimatter - a symmetry. Yet if the energy of the Big Bang created both matter and antimatter equally, they should have destroyed each other, leaving nothing behind.
Duality is a closely related idea to symmetry. Wave-particle duality has been around since the beginning of quantum mechanics. But newfound dualities have shown interesting relationships. For example, a three-dimensional world without gravity can be mathematically equivalent to a four-dimensional world with gravity.
Certain dualities suggest that space-time emerges from something more basic, what Einstein called the "spooky" connection between entangled quantum particles.
The idea of symmetry proved very powerful. Giving it up would mean giving up on naturalness - the idea that the universe has to be exactly the way it is for a reason.
But inside black holes, the speed of light (which grounded Einstein's work) will not play a vital role in the future. "The speed of light can't remain constant if space-time is crumbling," says physicist Stephon Alexander.
SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:
The Science Fiction’s holy grail, Time Travel has been a popular topic in various books, movies and TV series for decades.
Time Travel is the ability to ‘travel’ between two different point...
According to physicist Albert Einstein, time is not a constant phenomenon as it appears, but is an illusion, and can vary from different vantage points.
Space is three-dimensional, and Time, according to the famous physicist, is the fourth dimension. It also speeds up or slows down, so is actually subjective, as stated in his Theory Of Special Relativity.
Einstein's theory of general relativity says that Time can be bent, stretched and squeezed, and the four-dimensional fabric with a huge mass creates a dimple, or bending of Space-Time, causing gravity.
This effect of time dilation is proven using GPS satellite technology in space, making astronauts not only travel space but in a slightly different time than the earthlings.
6 more ideas
According to physicists, quantum particles are responsible for three forces of nature:
The ‘curves in space’ theory of gravity is falling out of favour due to the fact that Einstein’s equations seem to work on our solar system but begin to break when we apply the same near a black hole or back in time, during the initial big bang.
String Theory, which conceptualizes that gravity and all other forces are products of tiny vibrating strings, is the prime candidate to replace Einstein’s work.
Einstein's General Theory Of Relativity provides a rock-solid description of gravity, black holes and even the Big Bang, but fails to explain the very ‘singularities’ that signal towards infinity.
The extraordinary force of gravity can be researched with new-age engineering experiments but there is a risk of pushing too far and risking extreme damage by accidentally creating a black hole.
6 more ideas