Owen Cornec for Quanta Magazine

Chapter 3: Quantum Geometry

Interactive: What Is Space?

Imagine the fabric of space-time peeled back layer by layer.

In 1915, Albert Einstein’s field equations of gravitation revolutionized our understanding of space, time and gravity. Better known as general relativity, Einstein’s theory defined gravity as curves in the geometry of space-time, overturning Isaac Newton’s classic theory and correctly predicting the existence of black holes and gravity’s ability to bend light. But a century later, the fundamental nature of space-time remains shrouded in mystery: Where does its structure come from? What do space-time and gravity look like in the subatomic quantum realm?

The short answer is that we don’t know. But many physicists, writes Jennifer Ouellette in “How Quantum Pairs Stitch Space-Time,” have long “suspected a deep connection between quantum entanglement — the ‘spooky action at a distance’ that so vexed Albert Einstein — and space-time geometry at the smallest scales.” How might entanglement stitch together the structured fabric of space-time? One compelling recent idea, writes K.C. Cole in “Wormholes Untangle a Black Hole Paradox,” suggests that quantum entanglement “could be creating the ‘spatial connectivity’ that ‘sews space together,’ according to Leonard Susskind, a physicist at Stanford University and one of the idea’s main architects.” This idea, though still in its infancy, would solve the troublesome black hole firewall paradox and, enticingly, could help explain quantum gravity.

To illustrate how space-time might arise from quantum entanglement, Quanta Magazine invited Owen Cornec, a data visualization fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, to imagine peeling back layers of space to find a network of entanglements. The resulting interactive presentation serves as the third installment of our series on “The Quantum Fabric of Space-Time.”

As you explore Cornec’s immersive virtual world, it’s worth noting that it does not attempt to convey how entanglement actually “sews space together” (no one knows what that would look like exactly, or even if this is how reality works), or to depict the holographic concept or the wormholes mentioned in the first two parts of this series.

In developing this interactive experience — with art guidance from Quanta designer Olena Shmahalo — Cornec said he used WebGL technology (check here if your browser supports WebGL; mobile devices and unsupported browsers will default to a screencast video) to create the three-dimensional environment. “I simply placed the Milky Way, Earth and 3-D networks in close succession so that we may easily fly through each level in a straight line,” he said, adding that he built a custom camera with logarithmic scaling to be able to quickly zoom from the astronomically large to the infinitesimally small.

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  • HEy i just want to say, Quanta is THE BEST, ULTIMATE , MOST AWESOME EVER science mag! Thanks for being soo fantastic! I think if I was not already married you would be getting a bouquet everyday! Thanks for your hard work here’s to you and science becoming the prevalent favorite of human thought instead of superstition and conjecture! Quanta ROCKS! 😀

  • John D Barrow: The Book of Nothing changed the way I looked [!] at space. Also space expanded the fastest post Big Bang which means it moved faster than light itself.

  • Don’t understand why all of this is taking so long. Hawking predicted virtual micro black holes long ago. That & EPR=ER is all you need. If virtual micro black holes exist, then they can form virtual entangled pairs & virtual Einstein-Rosen bridges in accordance with EPR=ER. This allows you to create distinctions between virtual and non-virtual observables formed by entanglement with interiors of zero length (non-local).

    So just do Beckenstein’s experiment to indirectly measure virtual micro black holes? All we need is a good vacuum? It sounds like a space-based experiment.


  • ^I wholeheartedly agree with Roger – Quanta is my go-to outlet for lucid, perspicacious articles on cutting-edge research in the fundamentals of science. Keep up the magnificent work!!

  • May I please speak for several readers here? For the editor: You would have a difficult time imagining the extent to which many of us look forward to each presentation by the Quanta group. Provided with ten emails to read, yours is invariably the first selected and I know that this will become a significant time investment in an already busy day. But always worth it.

    A sincere Thank You.

  • Fabulous! I find all this stuff fascinating but difficult to comprehend,but this display is just wonderful.

  • Article yet again has some meat to it. Quantum entwinement is on the forefront of my Mind these days. Hey, and does anyone know how the Highs has a field? I thought scalar particles didn’t have fields. Anyways (musing)…

  • I always used to wonder why Ancient Indian Sanskrit scriptures (particularly the Upanishads) mention so much about space and Universe – but their focus was mainly Philosophical and spiritual. After reading through the latest developments in cosmic sciences and especially physics, Now I can slowly feel they both are trying to say the same thing! Its amazing!! And awakening and revealing!! Thanks Quantum for the wonderful work you are doing 🙂

  • This is fantastic. Thank you. I am also reminded of Garret Lisi model of 8 dimensional model of the universe.

  • Maybe your going to say that am crazy but am really wondering: what can we find out of the space!? i mean ,u know about theory of expanding universe , if the universe is expanding that means it goes where theres no space no universe so theres what??? is there vacuity or another type of matter or another universe (another big bang) like ours & they gonna to collide or what?!!!

  • Isn't it wonderful and engaging to read about peoples awakening? How fortunate we are to have among us individuals who can understand and describe these deeper ideas both in written and in visual presentation for our edification. Thank you!

  • Perhaps physicists are gradually closing in on the ultimate parameters that could allow them to tell whether our cosmos is a simulacrum.

  • big thanx to quanta magazine
    its the best resource for stuff related to science

  • Thank you for your efforts to make these profound ideas available to us! I feels like the internet's promised end of monopolies on information is here!

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