2015 Misel Family Lecture


“Spacetime Versus the Quantum"

Professor Joseph Polchinski

The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics & the University of California, Santa Barbara

McNamara Alumni Center, Memorial Hall

Wednesday, September 10, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

Abstract: I will talk about the search for a unified theory of the laws of physics including quantum mechanics, which governs the very small, and general relativity, which governs the very large. Stephen Hawking showed 40 years ago that these theories make conflicting predictions near black holes. This ignited a battle that continues to this day: either quantum mechanics must break down, or our understanding of spacetime must be wrong. The latest wrinkle is the `firewall' paradox: if quantum mechanics is to be saved, then an astronaut falling into a black hole will have an experience very different from what Einstein's theory predicts. This has led to many new ideas that may lead to the unification of these two great theories.