jueves, 26 de enero de 2012



 Is Space Digital? [Preview]

} Physics January 20, 2012


An experiment going up outside of Chicago will attempt to measure the intimate connections among information, matter and spacetime. If it works, it could rewrite the rules for 21st-century physics

Image: Illustration by Vault49

In Brief

  • Space may not be smooth and continuous. Instead it may be digital, composed of tiny bits. Physicists have assumed that these bits are far too small to measure with current technology. 
  • Yet one scientist thinks that he has devised a way to detect the bitlike structure of space. His machine—currently under construction—will attempt to mea­sure its grainy nature.
  • The experiment is one of the first to investigate the principle that the universe emerges from information—specifically, information that is imprinted on two-dimensional sheets.
  • If successful, the experiment will shift the foundations of what we know about space and time, providing a glimpse of a new physics that could supplant our current understanding.
Craig Hogan believes that the world is fuzzy. This is not a metaphor. Hogan, a physicist at the University of Chicago and director of the Fermilab Particle Astrophysics Center near Batavia, Ill., thinks that if we were to peer down at the tiniest subdivisions of space and time, we would find a universe filled with an intrinsic jitter, the busy hum of static. This hum comes not from particles bouncing in and out of being or other kinds of quantum froth that physicists have argued about in the past. Rather Hogan’s noise would come about if space was not, as we have long assumed, smooth and continuous, a glassy backdrop to the dance of fields and particles. Hogan’s noise arises if space is made of chunks. Blocks. Bits. Hogan’s noise would imply that the universe is digital.