leonard_susskind's picture
Felix Bloch Professor in Theoretical Physics, Stanford; Author, The Theoretical Minimum series
News About How The Phyiscal World Operates

I'll try to report the news from the physics front that I think may prove to be important. When I say important I mean to someone interested in how the physical world operates. 

First of all from the experimental front there is news from the LHC—the big particle collider in Europe. There is evidence of a new particle. What a new particle means at this stage is a small bump in a data distribution. It could be real or it could be a statistical fluke, but if it is real it does represent something new. Unlike the Higgs particle it is not part of the standard model of particle physics. In fact, to my knowledge the new particle does not fit neatly into any theoretical framework, such as supersymmetry or technicolor, and its not a black hole or a graviton. So far it just seem to be an extra particle.

If it's real, not just a fluke, then there will probably be more particles uncovered, and not only new particles but new forces. Perhaps a whole new structure on top of the standard model. I don't think that at the moment anyone has a compelling idea of what it means. It is possible that it is connected to the puzzle of dark matter, i.e., the missing matter in the universe that seeded the galaxies. The new particle is not itself dark matter—it's too short lived—but other related particles could be.

From the more theoretical side the thing I find most interesting is new ideas that relate gravity, the structure of space, and quantum mechanics. For example there is gathering evidence (all theoretical) that quantum entanglement is the glue that holds space together. Without quantum entanglement space would fall apart into an amorphous unstructured unrecognizable thing.

Another idea (full disclosure: it is my idea) is that the emergence of space behind the horizons of black holes is due to the growth of quantum complexity. This is too technical to explain here except to say that it is a surprising new connection between physics and quantum-information science. It's not completely far fetched that these connections may not only teach us new things about fundamental physics problems, but also be tools for understanding the more practical issues of construction and using quantum computers. Stranger things have happened.