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Hoch hinaus: Der Schwerkraft scheinbar enthoben,

schwebt dieser HelBluftballon in den Himmel. Tatsachiich

ist die Wirkung der Gravjtation triigerisch - sie ist ein


abgeleitetes Phanomen wie der Druck eines 6ase% der
nichts Fundamentales darstellt, sondern auf die Bewegung

von Moiekiiien reduziertwerc^n kann. Erstaunlicherweise

ahnein die Gieichungen der Allgemeinen'^Relativitatstheorie jenen der Thermodynamik, die auch das Verhalten
. von bunten Montgolfieren beschreibt.

Die Atome
I

Physiker fanden starke Hinweise darauf, dass die Schwerkraft keine

grundlegende Kraft ist-sondern womogiich nur eine hartnacklge Illusion.


von Rudiger Vaas

Die FeldgleichungenderGravitationhabendenselben Status wie die Gieichungen der Elastizitat

oder Stromungslehre." Dieser Satz aus einem

wissenschaftlichen Ubersichtsartikel vor wenigen Mona-

ten, mag fur Laien nicht sonderlich aufregend klingen,


vieileicht sogar kryptisch. Aber er birgt Sprengstoff in
sich, der die physikalischen Vorsteilungen von Raum, Zeit
und Schwerkraft sowie die Grundfesten des Universums

geradezu zerfetzen kann. Natiirlich nicht praktisch,

Reiativitatstheorie ahnein seltsamerweise


denen fiir Energie, Entropie und Arbeit.

Das deutet darauf bin, dass Raum und


Zeit nicht fundamental, sondern aus kiel-

neren ..Bestandteilen" aufgebautsindviellelcht ein Wegweiser zur Weltformel.


-v'';
46

bild der wissenschaft 11 -2014

Bedeu-

mit 20 publizierte der heute 57-Jahrige seinen ersten Forschungsartikel zu einem Thema der Aligemeinen Reiativi
tatstheorie. Wenig spater promovierte er beijayant Narlikar, der seine Dissertation in den 1960er-Jahren bei dem

tionieren gut. Aber sie verweisen nicht aufdie tiefere Rea-

zeit zu enthulien, wie die


Quantisierung der Dich

litat: die Molekule und Atome. FiirderenBeschreibung ist


eine fundamentalere Theorie notig, die Quantentheorie.

einer Flussigkeit hilft,

beriihmten britischen Astrophysiker Fred Hoyle geschrie-

dynamik. Dafiir haben Physiker Formein gefunden, die

Wie Narlikar attackiert auch Padmanabhan eingeschliffene


Vorsteilungen - ohne sich jedoch in eine Aufienseiterposition
zu manovrieren. Wir brauchen einefundamentale Revision
in der Betrachtung der Gravitation", sagt er. DieSchwer
kraft konnte lediglich ein emergentes Phanomen sein."

Emergent" heil?en inder Physik Systemeigenschaften,


die sich im Prinzipauf die Komponenten und Wechselwir-

kungen des Systems zuriickfuhren lassen, in der Praxis jedoch


auf einer hoheren Beschreibungsebene mit einer effektiven
Theorie erfasst werden, nicht mit einer fundamentalen.
Ein soiches emergentes Phanomen ist etwa die Eigenschaftvon Wasser, bei bestimmten Druck- und Temperatur-

te und Geschwindigkeit
die molekulare Dyna-

Oberflachliche" Reiativitatstheorie

mik zu verstehen."

Das ist eine radikale

Padmanabhan sieht hier Parallelen zur Aligemeinen Reia


tivitatstheorie. Auch diese halt er nicht fiir fundamental,
sondern bloSfur eineeffektive Beschreibung, wiePhysiker

sagen. Entsprechend ware die Schwerkraft emergent-und

President der Cosmo

logy Commission der

keine

kommen. Diese seit Langem bekanntenGieichungen funk-

schen Pune, vormaliger

Internationalen Astronomischen Union sowie ein

ableiten lie(?e. Insofern istdasGanze" mehraisseine Teile.


Andere Beispiele fiir Emergenz sind Elastizitat und Gas-

tung." Mehr noch; Die


Quantisierung der Met-

gleichsam in die wissenschaftliche Wiege gelegt; Bereits

Das Ganze und seine Telle

ebene

sche Struktur der Raum

Man kann diesen Satz als eine Hypothese lesen. Doch


fur seinen Autor ist er mehr - gewissermalSen die Quint-

Dfe Grafhungen der Aligemeinen

pischen Beschreibungs

Eigenschaften und Wechseiwirkungen theoretisch durchaus

Luftbewegung an einem Flugzeugflugel zur Anwendung

ohne Urknall forschte, was er noch immer tut.

Esoteriker, sondern ein

haben auf der mikrosko-

etwa beim Bau von Briicken oder der Beschreibung der

nar genug.

mehrfach ausgezeichneter Physik-Professor am


Inter-University Centre
for Astronomy and As
trophysics im westindi-

ansehen, obwohl es sich aus der genauen Kenntnis seiner

Stromungslehre, und sie

rik hilft genauso wenig


dabei, die mikroskopi-

ben hatte und mit diesem an kosmoiogischen Modellen

Kompakt

verhaitnissen flussig und bei anderen fest oder gasformig zu


sein. Das kann man einem einzelnen H^O-Molekiil nicht

Experte fur Allgemeine Reiativitatstheorie und Kosmologie mit grofiem Renommee: Thanu Padmanabhan.
Begabung und Nonkonformismus waren dem Inder

aber in der Theorie. Und das ware brachial und revolutio-

essenz aus zwolf Jahren Forschung. Und dieser Autor


ist kein extravaganter

der Raumzeit

Auffassung. Denn daraus folgt, dass die

Er blickt hinter die Schwerkraft: Thanu Pad

manabhan halt die Gravitation fiir eine Illusion,

erzeugt durch eine Kornung der Raumzeit.

Raumzeit selbst aus klei-

neren Einheiten besteht und die Gravitation keiirc fun

die Raumzeit selbst. Das hatte drastische Konsequenzen

damentaleKraft ist, sondern eine abgeleitete GrolSe - also

fur die seit Langem gesuchte Theorie der Quantengravi-

letztlich eine Illusion. Das ist fiir den Alltagsverstand eine

tation, zuweilen etwas iibertrieben auch Weltformel"


genannt.

Wenn das Emergenz-Konzept richtig ist, dann gingen


die meisten bisherigen Versuche, Einsteins Gleichung zu

quantisieren, in die falsche Richtung - ahnlich wie wenn


jemand probieren wurde, die Atomphysik zu finden, in^ dem er die Gesetze der Elastizitat quantisiert", meint Pad-

I manabhan. VariablenwieMetrikundKrummungbeider
1 Beschreibung der Raumzeit in der Reiativitatstheorie sind

I analog zu Dichte, Geschwindigkeit und so weiter in der

fast grotesk anmutende Schlussfolgerung. SchlieGlich spiirt


jeder die Anziehungskraft der Erde - besonders stark am

friihen Morgen, wenn der Wecker klingelt. Aber die Idee


ist eigentlich nicht neu. Denn im Rahmen der Reiativitats
theorie wird die Gravitation nicht als Kraft beschrieben,

sondern als geometrische Ei^enschaft der Raumzeit.


Einstein selbst lehrte uns, dass es keine Schwerkraft

gibt", sagt Padmanabhan. Materie kriimmt die Raum


zeit, was uns eben als eine Kraft erscheint. Daher ist alles,
was erklart werden muss, wie sich die Beziehung zwischen
bild der wissenschaft 11-2014

47 ?

Hoch hinaus: Der Schwerkraft scheinbar enthoben,


schwebt dieser HelBluftballon in den Himmel. Tatsachiich

ist die Wirkung der Gravjtation triigerisch - sie ist ein


abgeleitetes Phanomen wie der Druck eines 6ase% der
nichts Fundamentales darstellt, sondern auf die Bewegung

von Moiekiiien reduziertwerc^n kann. Erstaunlicherweise

ahnein die Gieichungen der Allgemeinen'^Relativitatstheorie jenen der Thermodynamik, die auch das Verhalten
. von bunten Montgolfieren beschreibt.

Die Atome
I

Physiker fanden starke Hinweise darauf, dass die Schwerkraft keine

grundlegende Kraft ist-sondern womogiich nur eine hartnacklge Illusion.


von Rudiger Vaas

Die FeldgleichungenderGravitationhabendenselben Status wie die Gieichungen der Elastizitat

oder Stromungslehre." Dieser Satz aus einem

wissenschaftlichen Ubersichtsartikel vor wenigen Mona-

ten, mag fur Laien nicht sonderlich aufregend klingen,


vieileicht sogar kryptisch. Aber er birgt Sprengstoff in
sich, der die physikalischen Vorsteilungen von Raum, Zeit
und Schwerkraft sowie die Grundfesten des Universums

geradezu zerfetzen kann. Natiirlich nicht praktisch,

Reiativitatstheorie ahnein seltsamerweise


denen fiir Energie, Entropie und Arbeit.

Das deutet darauf bin, dass Raum und


Zeit nicht fundamental, sondern aus kiel-

neren ..Bestandteilen" aufgebautsindviellelcht ein Wegweiser zur Weltformel.


-v'';
46

bild der wissenschaft 11 -2014

Bedeu-

mit 20 publizierte der heute 57-Jahrige seinen ersten Forschungsartikel zu einem Thema der Aligemeinen Reiativi
tatstheorie. Wenig spater promovierte er beijayant Narlikar, der seine Dissertation in den 1960er-Jahren bei dem

tionieren gut. Aber sie verweisen nicht aufdie tiefere Rea-

zeit zu enthulien, wie die


Quantisierung der Dich

litat: die Molekule und Atome. FiirderenBeschreibung ist


eine fundamentalere Theorie notig, die Quantentheorie.

einer Flussigkeit hilft,

beriihmten britischen Astrophysiker Fred Hoyle geschrie-

dynamik. Dafiir haben Physiker Formein gefunden, die

Wie Narlikar attackiert auch Padmanabhan eingeschliffene


Vorsteilungen - ohne sich jedoch in eine Aufienseiterposition
zu manovrieren. Wir brauchen einefundamentale Revision
in der Betrachtung der Gravitation", sagt er. DieSchwer
kraft konnte lediglich ein emergentes Phanomen sein."

Emergent" heil?en inder Physik Systemeigenschaften,


die sich im Prinzipauf die Komponenten und Wechselwir-

kungen des Systems zuriickfuhren lassen, in der Praxis jedoch


auf einer hoheren Beschreibungsebene mit einer effektiven
Theorie erfasst werden, nicht mit einer fundamentalen.
Ein soiches emergentes Phanomen ist etwa die Eigenschaftvon Wasser, bei bestimmten Druck- und Temperatur-

te und Geschwindigkeit
die molekulare Dyna-

Oberflachliche" Reiativitatstheorie

mik zu verstehen."

Das ist eine radikale

Padmanabhan sieht hier Parallelen zur Aligemeinen Reia


tivitatstheorie. Auch diese halt er nicht fiir fundamental,
sondern bloSfur eineeffektive Beschreibung, wiePhysiker

sagen. Entsprechend ware die Schwerkraft emergent-und

President der Cosmo

logy Commission der

keine

kommen. Diese seit Langem bekanntenGieichungen funk-

schen Pune, vormaliger

Internationalen Astronomischen Union sowie ein

ableiten lie(?e. Insofern istdasGanze" mehraisseine Teile.


Andere Beispiele fiir Emergenz sind Elastizitat und Gas-

tung." Mehr noch; Die


Quantisierung der Met-

gleichsam in die wissenschaftliche Wiege gelegt; Bereits

Das Ganze und seine Telle

ebene

sche Struktur der Raum

Man kann diesen Satz als eine Hypothese lesen. Doch


fur seinen Autor ist er mehr - gewissermalSen die Quint-

Dfe Grafhungen der Aligemeinen

pischen Beschreibungs

Eigenschaften und Wechseiwirkungen theoretisch durchaus

Luftbewegung an einem Flugzeugflugel zur Anwendung

ohne Urknall forschte, was er noch immer tut.

Esoteriker, sondern ein

haben auf der mikrosko-

etwa beim Bau von Briicken oder der Beschreibung der

nar genug.

mehrfach ausgezeichneter Physik-Professor am


Inter-University Centre
for Astronomy and As
trophysics im westindi-

ansehen, obwohl es sich aus der genauen Kenntnis seiner

Stromungslehre, und sie

rik hilft genauso wenig


dabei, die mikroskopi-

ben hatte und mit diesem an kosmoiogischen Modellen

Kompakt

verhaitnissen flussig und bei anderen fest oder gasformig zu


sein. Das kann man einem einzelnen H^O-Molekiil nicht

Experte fur Allgemeine Reiativitatstheorie und Kosmologie mit grofiem Renommee: Thanu Padmanabhan.
Begabung und Nonkonformismus waren dem Inder

aber in der Theorie. Und das ware brachial und revolutio-

essenz aus zwolf Jahren Forschung. Und dieser Autor


ist kein extravaganter

der Raumzeit

Auffassung. Denn daraus folgt, dass die

Er blickt hinter die Schwerkraft: Thanu Pad

manabhan halt die Gravitation fiir eine Illusion,

erzeugt durch eine Kornung der Raumzeit.

Raumzeit selbst aus klei-

neren Einheiten besteht und die Gravitation keiirc fun

die Raumzeit selbst. Das hatte drastische Konsequenzen

damentaleKraft ist, sondern eine abgeleitete GrolSe - also

fur die seit Langem gesuchte Theorie der Quantengravi-

letztlich eine Illusion. Das ist fiir den Alltagsverstand eine

tation, zuweilen etwas iibertrieben auch Weltformel"


genannt.

Wenn das Emergenz-Konzept richtig ist, dann gingen


die meisten bisherigen Versuche, Einsteins Gleichung zu

quantisieren, in die falsche Richtung - ahnlich wie wenn


jemand probieren wurde, die Atomphysik zu finden, in^ dem er die Gesetze der Elastizitat quantisiert", meint Pad-

I manabhan. VariablenwieMetrikundKrummungbeider
1 Beschreibung der Raumzeit in der Reiativitatstheorie sind

I analog zu Dichte, Geschwindigkeit und so weiter in der

fast grotesk anmutende Schlussfolgerung. SchlieGlich spiirt


jeder die Anziehungskraft der Erde - besonders stark am

friihen Morgen, wenn der Wecker klingelt. Aber die Idee


ist eigentlich nicht neu. Denn im Rahmen der Reiativitats
theorie wird die Gravitation nicht als Kraft beschrieben,

sondern als geometrische Ei^enschaft der Raumzeit.


Einstein selbst lehrte uns, dass es keine Schwerkraft

gibt", sagt Padmanabhan. Materie kriimmt die Raum


zeit, was uns eben als eine Kraft erscheint. Daher ist alles,
was erklart werden muss, wie sich die Beziehung zwischen
bild der wissenschaft 11-2014

47 ?

(Translated from German to English)


< Translation No. 2014TGE131 >

High up in the sky: Apparently against the gravity, this hot air balloon floats in the sky. The
gravitational effect is in fact deceptive. Gravity is actually a derived phenomenon such as pressure of a
gas, which is something not fundamental, but can be reduced to the movement of molecules.
Surprisingly, the equations of general relativity are similar to those of thermodynamics, which also
describe the functioning of colourful Montgolfier balloons.

THE ATOMS OF SPACE-TIME


Physicists have a strong belief that the gravitation is not a fundamental force but possibly just a
persistent illusion.
By Ruediger Vaas
The field equations of gravitation have similarity with the equations of elasticity or
hydrodynamics. This statement from a scientific review article published few months back, may
not sound very exciting to laymen, rather it may sound cryptic. But it harbours within it explosives
that can virtually blow up the physical notions of space, time and gravity along with the
fundamentals of the universe. Not practically of course, but theoretically. And that would be fierce
and revolutionary enough.
This statement can be read as a hypothesis. For its author, however, it is more than that in a way,
the quintessence of twelve years of research. This author is not an extravagant esoteric, but a
multiple award-winning physics professor at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and
Astrophysics in a western Indian state of Pune, former president of Cosmology Commission of
International Astronomical Union, an expert of the theory of general relativity and cosmology; and
a man of great renown: Thanu Padmanabhan.
Talent and nonconformity were gifted to this Indian right from the birth: The 57-year old physicist
had already published his first research article on general relativity when he was merely 20. A few
years later, he completed his doctorate under Jayant Narlikar, who wrote his thesis under the
1

famous British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle and did a research on the Cosmology Models without
Big Bang, which is still ongoing.

The Whole and its Parts


Like Narlikar, Padmanabhan also attacks the established notions without manoeuvring into the
position of an outsider. We need a fundamental revision about how we look at gravitation, he
said. Gravity could be simply an emergent phenomenon.
Emergent in physics, refers to system characteristics, which in turn can principally attribute to the
components and interactions of the system. However this is better understood practically, with an
effective and non-fundamental theory at a higher level of explanation.
Such an emergent phenomenon is e.g., the property of water to be liquid at a certain temperature
and pressure ratio, and solid or gas at other pressure and temperature ratios. This cannot be seen in
a single H2O molecule, although it can be deduced theoretically with a thorough knowledge of its
properties and interactions. In that sense, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Other examples of emergence are elasticity and gas dynamics. Physicists have found formulas,
which can be used for building a bridge or for describing the air movement at a wing of an airplane.
These equations are known for long and work very well. But they fail to point out the deeper
reality: the molecules and atoms. For describing them, a fundamental theory is required - the
quantum theory.

The Superficial Relativity Theory


Padmanabhan sees parallels to the general relativity theory here. He does not consider these
parallels to be fundamental either, but as an effective description, in the manner of speaking of
Physicists. Accordingly, the gravity and space-time would be emergent. This would have drastic
consequences on the long sought-after theory of quantum gravity, which is also known in a bit
exaggerated terms as the theory of everything.
If the emergent-concept is correct, then most of the previously performed experiments to quantify
Einsteins equation are on the wrong path same as if one were to seek atomic physics by
quantifying the laws of elasticity, explained Padmanabhan. Variables like metrics and curves
used for describing space-time in the theory of relativity, are analogous to thickness, velocity etc.,
in hydrodynamics, and are insignificant at microscopic level of description. Further: the
quantification of metrics helps as little to unfold the microscopic structure of space-time, as does
the quantification of thickness and velocity of a liquid in understanding molecular dynamics.
This is a radical concept, since it implies that space-time itself is composed of small particles, and
that gravitation is not a fundamental force, rather a derived quantity and an illusion in the end. For
common sense, that is an almost grotesque sounding conclusion. After all, everyone feels the
gravitation of the earth the feeling is intense especially in the morning, when the alarm goes off.
But the idea is actually not new. This is because, in the context of the theory of relativity,
gravitation is described not as a force, but as a geometrical property of space-time.
"Einstein himself taught us that there is no gravity", says Padmanabhan. "Matter bends space-time,
which appears as a force to us. That is why all that needs to be explained is how the relation
between matter and space-time bending can be understood within thermodynamics."
The basic idea behind the relation between gravitation, thermodynamics and "granular" space-time
has been known for a while. The Soviet physicist and later dissident Andrew Sacharov had already
speculated about this in his two-page long article in 1967. In the 1980's, Kip Thorne and Thibault
Damour drew the same conclusion in a different way as they discovered an analogy between the
"superficial" properties of the black holes and hydrodynamics. In 1995, Ted Jacobson caused quite
a stir as he proposed a thermodynamic derivation of the general relativity. Erik Verlinde from the
University of Amsterdam, with the perspective of string theory, has been arguing that gravitation is
an "entropic force" since 2009, and thus calls it to be an emerging phenomenon. Verlinde's model
3

was, however, strongly criticised on pure mathematical grounds by Matt Viser from Wellington
University, New Zealand, and Padmanabhan considers that to be "algebraically inadequate".

Hot Horizons
Thanu Padmanabhan has further developed Jacobson's approach since 2002. It started off with the
findings of Bill Unruh, Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking and other physicists in the field of
thermodynamics of horizons in the theory of relativity. Such horizons emerge on the outer edges of
black holes, but also during accelerated movements. Unruh and Davies independently calculated
that a fictitious observer could register a temperature of space that is proportional to its acceleration
(ref. to the box on the right "The temperature of vacuum"). Admittedly, it is infinitely small in
practice: the value of acceleration due to gravity on earth (9.8 m/s2) would be equal to only 10-46
Kelvin in vacuum. But in principle, that is a real quantum effect, which could slightly heat up a
glass of water.
"When a space-time horizon moves by a small degree, it is analogous to the change in volume of a
gas", this is how Padmanabhan sums up his discovery. "Einstein's equations, which describe spacetime, then exactly correspond to the first law of thermodynamics." This law of conservation of
energy relates to the changes in mechanical work, internal energy and entropy, which is a physical
measure of the disorder in a system. Thus, the pressure of a gas in a vessel is able to do work by
moving a piston, e.g. in a combustion engine. Moreover, energy can be exchanged with the
environment, e.g., when the heat "flows", thereby changing the entropy of the system.
Even space-time horizons, for instance the imaginary surface of a black hole, have a certain entropy
and therefore a temperature. At the same time, the greater the horizon, the greater is the entropy
because the horizon virtually harbours the disorder or the volume of information within it.

The Density of Space-Time

Hence, according to Padmanabhan, a logic applies here: that if something can be heated, then it has
a microstructure. This logic had already been successfully applied by Ludwig Boltzmann in
thermodynamics and in statistical mechanics co-established by him. Thus, the Viennese physicist
interpreted temperature as the result of random movement of discrete microscopic particles the
molecules or the atoms. The swifter they move e.g., in a gas, the hotter it becomes. Only because of
this microstructure can a system save energy and exchange it with its environment. Entropy
describes the microscopic information content of such a system.
"There must exist well-defined microscopic degrees of freedom within space-time, which are
responsible for its thermal behaviour", is how Padmanabhan translates Boltzmann's logic. The
Unruh-effect quasi refers to the heating up of space-time. "The correlation between
thermodynamics and gravity is not a mathematical curiosity, but a physical reality. An appropriate
description of gravitation should assume the entropy density of space-time, which is equivalent to
the density of atoms of space-time."
Padmanabhan is even convinced that the density of microscopic degrees of freedom can be
estimated from the microscopic dynamics. That too is analogous to thermodynamics since at a
specific temperature, each degree of freedom saves the amount of energy proportional to that
temperature. As early as the 19th century, this made it possible to estimate the number of particles
in a certain amount of gas which is also known as the Avogadro number. Frankly, nobody knew
what that meant back then. "Same is the case with the atoms of space-time", Padhmanabhan
comments. According to him, one can directly explain this more fundamental reality only with a
quantum gravitational theory.
According to Padmanabhan, gravity can more or less be
explained

thermodynamically,

depending

upon

the

entropy density and the number of microscopic degrees of


freedom similar to how a gas can be characterised by
the macroscopic variables - volume, pressure and

The world made of pixels: Space-time


could be granular like a digital photo
but we dont see it because the resolving
power of our eyes and instruments is too
little.

temperature - and how the kinetic energy of the molecules


can be deduced from it.
If a thermodynamic system is in equilibrium, then its entropy is at maximum. Same applies to
gravitational systems, as demonstrated by Padmanabhan and Aseem Paranjape: "Space-time
complies with Einstein's equations because the atoms of space-time maximize the entropy same
5

as a gas obeys the gas laws because its atoms maximize the entropy". The abstract correlation with
thermodynamics is therefore more than an analogy, as concluded by both the physicists: It allows
you to take a look at a deeper reality in the manner in which Boltzmann with his statistical
thermodynamics could conclude the existence of atoms in the 19th century, although the atoms were
unobservably small for the state of technology at that time.
"Instead of talking about space-time atoms, one can talk about the physical degrees of freedom.
Both expressions are mathematically equivalent, if there is a pre-defined space and if not, the
description can still be given with the help of degrees of freedom", says Padmanabhan. "The
number of degrees of freedom can be calculated with respect to the theory of relativity and other
alternative gravitational theories as well.
As speculated by other approaches to the theory of quantum gravitation, this granulation of spacetime lies in the magnitude of 10-33 cm and 10-43 s on the Planck's scale. This size is so tiny that
space-time appears to be a single unit to both - normal vision and the most advanced atom colliders
worldwide. Space-time can be compared to a photo, which seems homogenous if seen from a
distance, but if one looks at it closely, one notices that it is composed of individual pixels.

Quantum Gravitation and Dark Energy


Padmanabhan is convinced: since one has not yet identified the atoms of space-time and
described them with the help of a new quantum theory, the centuries-long experiments to quantify
gravity were doomed to fail from the very start. With the current understanding, he still considers it
difficult to make statements about the density of space-time atoms or their modification. However,
in his current works, the physicist has included observations on how the emergence of space-time
can be understood in the context of expansion of the universe.
Furthermore, the mysterious dark energy, which is at present accelerating this expansion, can also
possibly be explained in the context of Padmanabhans approach. The fact that this dark energy
for instance Einsteins cosmological constant exists, but is very small, is one of the biggest
puzzles of Physics. If Padmanabhans ideas are correct, then there has to be a small cosmological
constant as a relic of quantum gravitation. With a theoretically sharpened perspective, one could
therefore consider both the realm of the tiniest particles and the dynamics of the universe as a
whole.

More about the topic:


FOR READING

[Theory of relativity, cosmology, dark matter and


dark energy:]

[Review articles about modified gravitational


theories:]

[Excellent introduction to theory of relativity]

[Clarification about anti-relativity theories


and Einsteins opponents:]
[Jordan-Brans-Dicke-theory:]

[MOON Theory and arguments:]

[TeVeS Theory and arguments:]


[Homepage

of Thanu Padmanabhan

on

Emergent Gravitation:]

< Boxes in the original text >


8

In Brief
The equations of general relativity are curiously similar to those of energy, entropy, and
work.
This suggests that space and time are not fundamental notions, but are made up of small
constituents which probably points towards a theory of everything.

He looks behind the veil of gravity: Thanu Padmanabhan


considers gravity to be an illusion, created by the granulation of
space-time.

The Fire behind Einsteins Equations


The laws of thermodynamics are surprisingly similar to those of general relativity: entropy, energy and
work can be described in the same way as gravitation. According to that, gravity would be a derived
amount like temperature. That is because there is a deeper thermodynamic relation between horizons in
the theory of relativity such as those at the outer boundary of a black hole and the volume of a gas
at a specific pressure. If the volume increases, so will the entropy density same as in case of a black
hole whose surface increases proportionally with its entropy.

10

The Temperature of Vacuum


The discovery of correlations between areas of physics that are apparently far apart from each other has
time and again proved to be the key to a deeper understanding of the world. Therefore, Thanu
Padmanabhans interpretation of field equations of gravitation as equilibrium conditions of space-time is
very promising. At first glance, the theory of relativity seems to be quite different than thermodynamics
and quantum theory. Thus, the classical field equations of gravitation do not have a Plancks constant h,
which is essential for the quantum theory. The Unruh-temperature T, which in principle could be
measured by an observer accelerated in quantum vacuum, is based, on the other hand, on h. T =
ha/2ckB, where kB is the Boltzmann constant, a is the local acceleration of the observer and c is the
speed of light. (Hawkings temperature of a black hole is described with the same formula, but a is here
the gravitational acceleration at the event-horizon). Since T depends on h, and the entropy of the horizon
is inversely proportional to h, this value gets cancelled. The correlation between gravitation and
thermodynamics can be established at all for this reason alone.

11

Higher Dimensions
The analogy between thermodynamics and gravitation applies not only to the general relativity,
wherein entropy is proportional to the surface of a horizon, but also to other gravitational theories
which are higher dimensional. (The temperature of the horizon is independent of the respective
gravitational theory, but not entropy). Einsteins field equations can namely be generalised to more
than 3 spatial dimensions. This was proved by the British physicist David Lovelock in 1971, based on
the works of Hungarian physicist Cornelius Lanczos in the 1930s. This applicability to LanczosLovelock theories suggests that the idea of space-time atoms encounters something physically real,
says Thanu Padmanabhan. Due to the same reason he is, however, sceptical that there is a connection
to loop quantum gravity here, which likewise assumes that space-time is made up of more
fundamental particles. This is because it functions only in 3 spatial dimensions. Padmanabhan is more
sympathetic towards the higher dimensional string theory with its additional spatial dimensions. The
more so as it also describes a correlation between a surface such as a horizon and a space
surrounding it or within it (holographic principle), which also plays a role in Padmanabhans
approach, but not in loop quantum gravity.

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