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LATEST DIALOGUES All of Reality — Including Gravity — is Quantum, Say Researchers

A team of theoretical physicists has come up with a new way to explain how reality arises, encompassing solar systems and black holes all the way down to atoms and subquantum particles. And it all depends on quantum mechanics.

Their model even explains how gravity and strange phenomena like quantum entanglement and quantum tunneling come about. It’s all theoretical right now, but if it holds true, it could open the door to a “theory of everything,” something physicists have been chasing ever since Albert Einstein published the theory of general relativity.

In an interview with ScienceAlert, physicist Paulo Castro from the University of Lisbon in Portugal, explained that in their proposal, spacetime emerges from a subquantum medium, what he called “a kind of primordial foam.”

Spacetime consists of the three physical dimensions and the fourth dimension of time.

This theory is not entirely new, but is an update to one interpretation of quantum mechanics, known as the pilot-wave theory.

Castro’s approach differs from the theory of general relativity, which views spacetime as pre-existing, like a four-dimensional stage upon which planets, stars and black holes live out their existence.

In the paper, which was published last year in the Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics, the authors refer to the subquantum medium as the “most fundamental physical element of reality.”

They describe spacetime as resulting from a physical process, in which the subquantum medium goes from a chaotic state to a more ordered one, like water freezing into ice. Castro said “these organized states correspond to subquantum waves.”

The subquantum waves not only give rise to the properties of the subquantum realm, but they also determine how space and time behave.

Both space and time depend on the relationships between different subquantum waves. Space is defined by waves that exist together. Time is defined by waves that follow one after the other in the same space (a space which the waves themselves create).

The new proposal also explains how certain quantum phenomena could arise. One of these is quantum entanglement, in which “entangled” particles communicate with and affect each other even across vast distances. According to Castro and his colleagues, entangled particles can act this way because they are under the influence of the same subquantum wave.

Castro told ScienceAlert that they are working on ways to test their ideas. One approach involves looking at where the planets show up in our solar system, a pattern that is more quantum than Newtonian.

Of course, a theory of everything is still a long way off. But this paper gives us a new way to ponder reality while lying awake in bed at night.

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