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MeteorWayne

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FlatEarth":1y5twnk3 said:
QED explains what spacetime is, and it cannot be ignored.
I don't think that's true at all. I'll have to defer to those who understand it better, but from what I know, QED is quite mystified about what space-time is.
 
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ramparts

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FlatEarth - in what way does QED, a theory of electromagnetism, explain what spacetime is? The nature of spacetime, to the best of my knowledge, is a question for quantum gravity, not something that has been answered by any quantum field theory, much less QED.

The other view - in which spacetime isn't "real" - would then suggest that whatever *is* underlying and real, on large scales it looks like spacetime which obeys the Einstein field equations.
 
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FlatEarth

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MeteorWayne":pvpdyyrs said:
FlatEarth":pvpdyyrs said:
QED explains what spacetime is, and it cannot be ignored.
I don't think that's true at all. I'll have to defer to those who understand it better, but from what I know, QED is quite mystified about what space-time is.
ramparts":pvpdyyrs said:
FlatEarth - in what way does QED, a theory of electromagnetism, explain what spacetime is? The nature of spacetime, to the best of my knowledge, is a question for quantum gravity, not something that has been answered by any quantum field theory, much less QED. The other view - in which spacetime isn't "real" - would then suggest that whatever *is* underlying and real, on large scales it looks like spacetime which obeys the Einstein field equations.
According to QED, space is made up of virtual particles and energy (20:00 of the video on page 1). With my limited knowledge, this is the only theory that defines spacetime as a thing, which led me to make my earth shattering statement. ;) I would think a theory of quantum gravity would not explain what spacetime is, but only describe one of its properties. :?:
 
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ramparts

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A couple of things: you're thinking more broadly of quantum field theory (QFT). Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is, as you might tell from the name, a particular branch of QFT dealing with electrodynamics - that is, the electromagnetic force, explaining how it behaves on small scales where quantum effects take over.

Yes, space is filled with a vacuum energy, with virtual particles popping in and out of existence, as a result of QFT. But it's hard to argue (and I've never seen a physicist do so) that that is a description of what spacetime is "made" of; rather, just another of many things occupying spacetime.

It is almost certainly true, however, that we will know more about spacetime - possibly having a final description of it - when we have a quantum gravity theory. The only well-tested theory we currently have that deals explicitly with the nature of spacetime is general relativity, in which gravity is the result of spacetime's curvature. (A thought: if QFT's vacuum energy really were describing what spacetime is "made of", as you seem to be suggesting, then on large scales it would look like general relativity. It doesn't.) Quantum gravity describes what happens to gravity on small scales, where the universe is quantum - just as QED describes electromagnetism on quantum scales. However, gravity has this additional interpretation of being the background itself, rather than a force on the background. This means that our quantum description of gravity is going to have to explain how spacetime behaves when exposed to quantum weirdness, and that's the biggest remaining mystery about spacetime: we just don't know how spacetime gets quantized. The quantum gravity theory will, presumably, solve this problem, and we'll know a lot more about the fundamental nature of spacetime as a result.
 
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SpeedFreek

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FlatEarth":2l0ro4i3 said:
According to QED, space is made up of virtual particles and energy (20:00 of the video on page 1). With my limited knowledge, this is the only theory that defines spacetime as a thing, which led me to make my earth shattering statement. ;)
If QED or QFT says that space is made up of virtual particles, how does that define spacetime as a thing? What does it say time is made from? ;)
 
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FlatEarth

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ramparts":325st17y said:
A couple of things: you're thinking more broadly of quantum field theory (QFT). Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is, as you might tell from the name, a particular branch of QFT dealing with electrodynamics - that is, the electromagnetic force, explaining how it behaves on small scales where quantum effects take over.
The reason I referred to QED is because L. Krauss does in his lecture, but thanks for the clarification. Are you now studying the subject?

ramparts":325st17y said:
Yes, space is filled with a vacuum energy, with virtual particles popping in and out of existence, as a result of QFT. But it's hard to argue (and I've never seen a physicist do so) that that is a description of what spacetime is "made" of; rather, just another of many things occupying spacetime.
Yes, and I find this puzzling! It could be that space is comprised of virtual particles, and without them there would be no space. This would help explain how gravity warps space, and why there is a cosmic speed limit (because, if true, space is a medium).

ramparts":325st17y said:
It is almost certainly true, however, that we will know more about spacetime - possibly having a final description of it - when we have a quantum gravity theory. The only well-tested theory we currently have that deals explicitly with the nature of spacetime is general relativity, in which gravity is the result of spacetime's curvature. (A thought: if QFT's vacuum energy really were describing what spacetime is "made of", as you seem to be suggesting, then on large scales it would look like general relativity. It doesn't.) Quantum gravity describes what happens to gravity on small scales, where the universe is quantum - just as QED describes electromagnetism on quantum scales. However, gravity has this additional interpretation of being the background itself, rather than a force on the background. This means that our quantum description of gravity is going to have to explain how spacetime behaves when exposed to quantum weirdness, and that's the biggest remaining mystery about spacetime: we just don't know how spacetime gets quantized. The quantum gravity theory will, presumably, solve this problem, and we'll know a lot more about the fundamental nature of spacetime as a result.
You lost me in the bolded text! Why doesn't vacuum energy look like/fit GR on a large scale?

When you say “we just don't know how spacetime gets quantized”, are you referring to the mechanism that causes virtual particles to appear in space?

I tend to think the discovery of gravity at the quantum level would change GR to a degree. Rather than gravity being the result of curved space, gravity would be considered a force like the other forces, with its own carrier particle. Do you see it that way?

Good post, ramparts. I'm hoping to learn more about QFT from you. Hope you don't charge a lot. ;)

SpeedFreek":325st17y said:
If QED or QFT says that space is made up of virtual particles, how does that define spacetime as a thing? What does it say time is made from? ;)
That's a good question. I think I was in error for saying it defines spacetime. I should have said space. The time question is another problem, but it is said that virtual particles are borrowed from the future, so what does that say about time on the quantum level?

In fact, I should have learned by now to qualify all unproven statements with “I believe...”! As in “I believe QFT/QED describes what space is.” ;)
 
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ramparts

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FlatEarth":1fnm8e78 said:
ramparts":1fnm8e78 said:
A couple of things: you're thinking more broadly of quantum field theory (QFT). Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is, as you might tell from the name, a particular branch of QFT dealing with electrodynamics - that is, the electromagnetic force, explaining how it behaves on small scales where quantum effects take over.
The reason I referred to QED is because L. Krauss does in his lecture, but thanks for the clarification. Are you now studying the subject?
On my own, but I'll understand a lot more when I get into graduate school and take some classes ;)

ramparts":1fnm8e78 said:
Yes, space is filled with a vacuum energy, with virtual particles popping in and out of existence, as a result of QFT. But it's hard to argue (and I've never seen a physicist do so) that that is a description of what spacetime is "made" of; rather, just another of many things occupying spacetime.
Yes, and I find this puzzling! It could be that space is comprised of virtual particles, and without them there would be no space. This would help explain how gravity warps space, and why there is a cosmic speed limit (because, if true, space is a medium).
Erm, it could be. It's really a matter of how you interpret it, and there's not really much of a reason to interpret these virtual particles as defining spacetime rather than being something that happens in spacetime. Think of spacetime as the background, these virtual particles are really more of object on that background. It's not helpful to think of them as comprising the background.

ramparts":1fnm8e78 said:
It is almost certainly true, however, that we will know more about spacetime - possibly having a final description of it - when we have a quantum gravity theory. The only well-tested theory we currently have that deals explicitly with the nature of spacetime is general relativity, in which gravity is the result of spacetime's curvature. (A thought: if QFT's vacuum energy really were describing what spacetime is "made of", as you seem to be suggesting, then on large scales it would look like general relativity. It doesn't.) Quantum gravity describes what happens to gravity on small scales, where the universe is quantum - just as QED describes electromagnetism on quantum scales. However, gravity has this additional interpretation of being the background itself, rather than a force on the background. This means that our quantum description of gravity is going to have to explain how spacetime behaves when exposed to quantum weirdness, and that's the biggest remaining mystery about spacetime: we just don't know how spacetime gets quantized. The quantum gravity theory will, presumably, solve this problem, and we'll know a lot more about the fundamental nature of spacetime as a result.
You lost me in the bolded text! Why doesn't vacuum energy look like/fit GR on a large scale?
I'm glad you picked that out! :) When we have two different descriptions of the same thing on different scales, they should "look like" each other when we change the scales. Take gravity, for example. Newton described gravity as a force that scales as 1/r^2. Einstein conceived gravity in a completely different way - as the curvature of spacetime - with a completely different set of equations. The mathematical language, differential geometry, is completely different. But when you look at general relativity in the so-called weak field limit - when gravity isn't all that strong, distances aren't big, speeds aren't high - then its equations actually reduce down to Newton's equations. It's quite lovely.

If QFT's virtual particles described what spacetime was and how it acted, then you would well expect that when you considered how their governing equations acted on large scales, you would recover the equations of general relativity. No such thing happens. So clearly there is more to spacetime than the virtual particles, because they don't give you the right answer on large scales :)

When you say “we just don't know how spacetime gets quantized”, are you referring to the mechanism that causes virtual particles to appear in space?
Not entirely. Forget about the virtual particles for a sec - those are somewhat tangential. What I'm talking about is how spacetime jives with quantum mechanics - how is spacetime subject to the uncertainty principle? Does it have to come in discreet chunks, like particles do? These are questions to which we don't know the answer.

I tend to think the discovery of gravity at the quantum level would change GR to a degree. Rather than gravity being the result of curved space, gravity would be considered a force like the other forces, with its own carrier particle. Do you see it that way?

Good post, ramparts. I'm hoping to learn more about QFT from you. Hope you don't charge a lot. ;)
haha I charge not a thing, mostly because then I would be overcharging ;) Yes, GR might be changed in its interpretation. However, GR describes space at scales much larger than the quantum, so knowing what happens on quantum scales would leave GR unchanged except in the regions (namely black holes and the big bang) where both theories are important.

However, you're definitely right in noting the tension between the two intepretations of gravity: as a force (with a carrier particle) and as the curvature of spacetime. Both are almost certainly true in some way, much like how particles can also be rightly seen as waves. It depends which view is more convenient for you. However, one of the big questions going into quantum gravity is how far down the spacetime picture holds - is it an effect of smaller processes that is only viable on large scales, or does this background actually exist at the most fundamental levels? The spacetime intepretation and its governing equations are unimaginably elegant, so it is difficult for me to conceive of it being just an illusion created by something entirely non-geometric on smaller scales. However, it's a possibility.

String theory, the most viable theory of quantum gravity we have, probably has an answer to these questions, but I don't know enough about the subject to say what that is. I will wait to learn the subject rather than peek at Wikipedia for the answer :)

SpeedFreek":1fnm8e78 said:
If QED or QFT says that space is made up of virtual particles, how does that define spacetime as a thing? What does it say time is made from? ;)
That's a good question. I think I was in error for saying it defines spacetime. I should have said space. The time question is another problem, but it is said that virtual particles are borrowed from the future, so what does that say about time on the quantum level?

In fact, I should have learned by now to qualify all unproven statements with “I believe...”! As in “I believe QFT/QED describes what space is.” ;)
I will say this: don't separate time and space so easily. If there's one thing we learn from GR, it's that the two are fundamentally the same!
 
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FlatEarth

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ramparts":1kag0sc7 said:
Erm, it could be. It's really a matter of how you interpret it, and there's not really much of a reason to interpret these virtual particles as defining spacetime rather than being something that happens in spacetime. Think of spacetime as the background, these virtual particles are really more of object on that background. It's not helpful to think of them as comprising the background.
The idea that all things in the universe are matter and energy, but taken a bit further to include space and time, doesn't seem to be a totally unreasonable hypothesis. It would help to explain what is driving the galaxies apart. The dough in the loaf of bread analogy could be virtual particles that are continuing to propagate throughout the universe. Thinking of virtual particles as the background is helpful to me, at least!

ramparts":1kag0sc7 said:
...When we have two different descriptions of the same thing on different scales, they should "look like" each other when we change the scales. Take gravity, for example. Newton described gravity as a force that scales as 1/r^2. Einstein conceived gravity in a completely different way - as the curvature of spacetime - with a completely different set of equations. The mathematical language, differential geometry, is completely different. But when you look at general relativity in the so-called weak field limit - when gravity isn't all that strong, distances aren't big, speeds aren't high - then its equations actually reduce down to Newton's equations. It's quite lovely.

If QFT's virtual particles described what spacetime was and how it acted, then you would well expect that when you considered how their governing equations acted on large scales, you would recover the equations of general relativity. No such thing happens. So clearly there is more to spacetime than the virtual particles, because they don't give you the right answer on large scales :)
Good explanation, ramparts. It does remain somewhat abstract to me because I would need to understand the equations to have a genuine understanding of your point. Scientist have not come to the conclusions that I suggest, and I suspect it is for the reason you cite.

It may be that we are close to solving some of the mysteries of spacetime, or we may find something unexpected that will make us reconsider what we now hold to be true. In any case, it's a fun subject to chew over. ;)
 
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marcel_leonard

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centsworth_II":wstg45ia said:
5hot6un":wstg45ia said:
...what force acts as the elasticity of space-time?
Space-time is deformed by the presence of gravitational or electromagnetic forces. I don't know if it's right to say that the elasticity itself is a force, it's more of a property.

Of course no one knows what space-time actually is. All we have are mathematical models that describe its behavior. It may be that space-time has no physical reality and it is just a mathematical tool we use to understand the interactions between forces in the universe.

No one knows for sure what Space/Time is yet we all believe in it; sounds a lot like the old "God Doesn't Exist" argument to me :D
 
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ramparts

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FlatEarth":3nyrg2tq said:
ramparts":3nyrg2tq said:
Erm, it could be. It's really a matter of how you interpret it, and there's not really much of a reason to interpret these virtual particles as defining spacetime rather than being something that happens in spacetime. Think of spacetime as the background, these virtual particles are really more of object on that background. It's not helpful to think of them as comprising the background.
The idea that all things in the universe are matter and energy, but taken a bit further to include space and time, doesn't seem to be a totally unreasonable hypothesis. It would help to explain what is driving the galaxies apart. The dough in the loaf of bread analogy could be virtual particles that are continuing to propagate throughout the universe. Thinking of virtual particles as the background is helpful to me, at least!
Right. So helpful, yes. The whole picture? No. Again, I point you to the fact that the description of virtual particles doesn't lead, on large scales, to general relativity, so there has to be more to spacetime, otherwise we have a very incomplete picture.

It is true, though, that these virtual particles/the vacuum energy could well be driving the acceleration of the expansion - that's the leading candidate for the so-called "dark energy." The reason is that the density of these particles in space doesn't change as space expands, so even though matter gets diffuse as space expands, this stuff doesn't. Good call.

ramparts":3nyrg2tq said:
...When we have two different descriptions of the same thing on different scales, they should "look like" each other when we change the scales. Take gravity, for example. Newton described gravity as a force that scales as 1/r^2. Einstein conceived gravity in a completely different way - as the curvature of spacetime - with a completely different set of equations. The mathematical language, differential geometry, is completely different. But when you look at general relativity in the so-called weak field limit - when gravity isn't all that strong, distances aren't big, speeds aren't high - then its equations actually reduce down to Newton's equations. It's quite lovely.

If QFT's virtual particles described what spacetime was and how it acted, then you would well expect that when you considered how their governing equations acted on large scales, you would recover the equations of general relativity. No such thing happens. So clearly there is more to spacetime than the virtual particles, because they don't give you the right answer on large scales :)
Good explanation, ramparts. It does remain somewhat abstract to me because I would need to understand the equations to have a genuine understanding of your point. Scientist have not come to the conclusions that I suggest, and I suspect it is for the reason you cite.

It may be that we are close to solving some of the mysteries of spacetime, or we may find something unexpected that will make us reconsider what we now hold to be true. In any case, it's a fun subject to chew over. ;)
Well, understanding the equations is certainly helpful. An analogy may be, too :) There's a style of painting you've probably seen called pontillism - you'd have a bunch of little dots, and from a distance you'd see, like, flowers or something, even though from close up it just looks like dots. There's a small scale picture and a large scale one, and the two should agree. So if you paint a bunch of little dots and find that it looks like nothing in particular from far away, then you know you need to add different types of little dots for some variety :) In the same way, the virtual particles/vacuum energy predicted by QFT, when seen from far away (or on large scales) don't look like general relativity. So there needs to be some added structure to spacetime on small scales that does look like GR from far away.
 
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FlatEarth

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ramparts":220vvw5z said:
Good explanation, ramparts. It does remain somewhat abstract to me because I would need to understand the equations to have a genuine understanding of your point.
Well, understanding the equations is certainly helpful. An analogy may be, too :) There's a style of painting you've probably seen called pontillism - you'd have a bunch of little dots, and from a distance you'd see, like, flowers or something, even though from close up it just looks like dots. There's a small scale picture and a large scale one, and the two should agree. So if you paint a bunch of little dots and find that it looks like nothing in particular from far away, then you know you need to add different types of little dots for some variety :) In the same way, the virtual particles/vacuum energy predicted by QFT, when seen from far away (or on large scales) don't look like general relativity. So there needs to be some added structure to spacetime on small scales that does look like GR from far away.
Certainly what you are saying is very clear and understandable on a conceptual level, but to really understand it would mean being able to apply it mathematically. It's like understanding time dilation. It's one thing to understand the concept and even calculate the time slip, but another to understand why that happens, and why Einstein arrived at his conclusions. That's the level of understanding I would like to have on this to claim it is “genuine”.
 
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