This new hypothesis might finally explain the physics behind why water splashes.

It’s way more complex than we thought.


There’s some complex science behind a simple water splash, but scientists now think they’re closer than ever to understanding what happens during a splash at the microscopic level.

A new mathematical model shows how incredibly thin layers of air on surfaces can cause upward splashes from water droplets thousands of times larger, with air pressure and viscosity also affecting the chances of a splash.

 In fact, these air layers are so thin, they’re the equivalent of a 1 cm-thick (0.39 inch) layer of air stopping a tsunami wave as it hits a beach, according to mathematician James Sprittles from the University of Warwick in the UK.

The model suggests that a microscopic layer of air just 1 micron in size – 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair – is enough to get in the way of a 1-millimetre (0.039-inch) water droplet and cause it to splash up, rather than spread out evenly across a surface.

“The air layer’s width is so small that it is similar to the distance air molecules travel between collisions, so that traditional models are inaccurate and a microscopic theory is required,” explains Sprittles.

splash-animation finalAnimation showing the model in action. 

While the idea of air layers affecting splashes has been suggested before, the new model goes into greater detail to explain what’s happening at the smallest scale as the air and liquid interact under different circumstances.

One such circumstance is at the top of mountains, where air pressure is lower and splashes are less likely to occur, because the air can more easily escape from under the liquid.

But the benefits of this kind of research go way beyond helping mountaineers predict whether their split drinks are going to cause splashback.

Understanding how and why splashes occur could benefit researchers in everything from analysing blood spatter at a crime scene to knowing exactly what speed to spray fertiliser on plants to avoid splash-back.

“Most promisingly, the new theory should have applications to a wide range of related phenomena, such as in climate science,” says Sprittles, “to understand how water drops collide during the formation of clouds or to estimate the quantity of gas being dragged into our oceans by rainfall.”

As previous research has shown, even the temperature of water can change how it splashes around, and Sprittles says combining his new hypothesis with existing models shouldn’t be too difficult.

The next step is to build more complex models on top of this basic framework, and then we’ll have an even better ability to predict what kind of splashes will occur in different kinds of circumstances.

“You would never expect a seemingly simple everyday event to exhibit such complexity,” Sprittles says.


This Gigantic Ring of Galaxies Could Bring Einstein’s Gravity Into Question

Moving way too fast for current physics to explain.


Scientists have discovered that a gigantic ring of galaxies stretching 10 million light-years wide is speeding away from our own galaxy so fast, our current physics models can’t explain it.

Describing the structure as expanding rapidly like a “mini Big Bang”, the team thinks it was formed by a near-miss between the Milky Way and our neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, which created a ‘sling-shot’ of several smaller galaxies. The only problem is the result is at odds with the conditions predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity.

 “If Einstein’s gravity were correct, our galaxy would never come close enough to Andromeda to scatter anything that fast,” says one of the team, Hongsheng Zhao from the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Zhao and his team have been investigating the movements of a ring of small galaxies in the Local Group region of the Universe – a group of at least 54 galaxies, which has its two largest galaxies, the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, roughly at its centre.

The Milky Way is currently about 2.5 million light-years away from Andromeda, but our neighbouring galaxy is careening towards us at speeds of roughly 402,336 km/h (250,000 mph).

Based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, astronomers estimate that 3.75 billion years from now, the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide, and in the billions of years that follow, the two will be ripped apart to form a brand new galaxy.

But have these two galaxies already experienced a near-miss?

Back in 2013, Zhao and his colleagues suggested that 7 to 11 billion years ago, the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy came scarily close to each other, resulting a “tsunami-like wake” in space that would have flung smaller galaxies out into their current positions.

 You can see a more recent example of this in the image at the top of the page, showing a near-miss of two spiral galaxies, NGC 5426 and NGC 5427.

Having investigated this hypothesis further, the team now says the current velocities of these galaxies agree with this scenario – they appear to be speeding away from us so fast, our current physics models can’t explain it.

“The high galactocentric radial velocities (GRVs) of some Local Group galaxies must have been caused by forces acting on them that our model does not account for,” they conclude in their paper.

Not only that, but these galaxies exist on the exact same plane of the Universe as the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, which is unlikely to be a coincidence, they argue.

“The ring-like distribution is very peculiar. These small galaxies are like a string of raindrops flung out from a spinning umbrella,” says one of the researchers, Indranil Banik.

“I found there is barely a 1 in 640 chance for randomly distributed galaxies to line up in the observed way. I traced their origin to a dynamical event when the Universe was only half its present age.”

The problem with this scenario is that not only does Einstein’s theory of relativity fail to explain the velocities of these galaxies, it also states that this near-miss should have resulted in the merge of the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy billions of years ago – which obviously never happened.

The reason our current models of gravity require this to have happened is because of one of the most controversial parts of Einstein’s theory – dark matter.

Einstein’s theory of relativity is about as robust as theories get in terms of predicting the behaviour of our Universe, but several major gravitational effects cannot be explained unless we shoehorn this strange and frustratingly elusiveform of matter into the mix.

Thought to make up more than 80 percent of the mass of the entire Universe, dark matter has yet to be directly observed, and it’s not for a lack of effort – a recent US$10 million experiment to find traces of dark matter particles failed to find anything after an exhaustive 20-month search.

But the way that light bends as it travels through the cosmos, and the peculiar way galaxies rotate, cannot be explained without the influence of dark matter in the Universe.

According to Zhao and his team, we could be looking at two possibilities here – either Einstein’s theory of relativity is fine, and there’s some other explanation for why this galaxy ring is speeding so fast (and why we haven’t been able to detect dark matter), or our current model of gravity needs to be revised.

“Several aspects of the spatial distribution of these galaxies would be expected to occur if there was a past close MW-M31 flyby,” the team concludes in a second study released on their latest findings.

“Such an event only makes sense in the context of certain modified gravity theories, where galaxies lack massive dark matter halos and their associated dynamical friction in close encounters, which would otherwise cause a merger.”

The hypothesis recalls another recent paper that argued our current understanding of gravity is wrong.

Last year, physicist Erik Verlinde from the University of Amsterdam suggested that gravity isn’t a fundamental force of nature at all, but is instead an ’emergent phenomenon’ of something we’ve yet to define – just as temperature is an emergent phenomenon of the movement of particles.

As Fiona MacDonald reported for us at the time, Verlinde argues that if we only proposed dark matter to make up for an inconsistency with gravity, then maybe the issue isn’t dark matter at all – maybe the problem is that we don’t really understand how gravity works.

To be clear, both Zhao’s team and Verlinde’s conclusions are just hypotheses right now, and we have a long way to go before we start tearing apart the foundations of modern physics.

But no one can deny that there are some serious holes in our current understanding of the Universe, not least of which is the fact that gravity and other aspects of general relativity don’t gel with quantum mechanics, which has led researchers to seek out a new ‘theory of everything’ that bridges the gap between the two.

When they were investigating the hypothesised ‘near-miss’ of Andromeda and the Milky Way back in 2013, Zhao and his team found that a different model of gravitational behaviour – known as Milgrom’s Modified Newtonian Dynamics(MOND) – explained the movements of nearby galaxies better than the standard model of physics did.

We’ll have to wait and see where all this leads, but it’s pretty cool to think that we’re likely to see some big things happen in theoretical physics in the decades to come – whether Einstein was right or not.

Physicists Find That as Clocks Get More Precise, Time Gets More Fuzzy

The weight of time.

Time is weird – in spite of what we think, the Universe doesn’t have a master clock to run by, making it possible for us to experience time differently depending on how we’re moving or how much gravity is pulling on us.

Now physicists have combined two grand theories of physics to conclude not only is time not universally consistent, any clock we use to measure it will blur the flow of time in its surrounding space.

 Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your wall clock is going to make you age quicker. We’re talking about time keepers in highly precise experiments here, such as atomic clocks

A team of physicists from the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have applied quantum mechanics and general relativity to argue that increasing the precision of measurements on clocks in the same space also increases their warping of time.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider in simple terms what physicists already know.

Quantum mechanics is incredibly useful in describing the Universe on a very tiny scale, such as sub-atomic particles and forces over short distances.

As accurate and incredibly useful as the mathematics supporting quantum mechanics might be, it makes predictions which seem counter-intuitive to our everyday experiences.

One such prediction is called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which says as you know one thing with increasing precision, measurement of a complementary variable becomes less precise.

 For example, the more you pinpoint the position of an object in time and space, the less certain you can be about its momentum.

This isn’t a question of being clever enough or having better equipment – the Universe fundamentally works this way; electrons keep from crashing into protons thanks to a balance of ‘uncertainty’ of position and momentum.

Another way to think of it is this: objects with ultra-precise positions require us to consider increasingly ridiculous amounts of energy.

Applied to a hypothetical timepiece, splitting fractions of a second on our clock makes us less certain about the clock’s energy.

This is where general relativity comes in – another highly trusted theory in physics, only this time it is most useful in explaining how massive objects affect one another at a distance.

Thanks to Einstein’s work, we understand there is an equivalence between mass and energy, made famous in the equation (for objects at rest) as Energy = mass x speed of light squared (or E=mc^2).

We also know time and space are connected, and that this space-time can be affected as if it was more than just an empty box; mass – and therefore energy – can ‘bend’ it.

This is why we see cool things like gravitational lensing, where massive objects like stars and black holes dimple space so much, light can both travel straight and yet bend around them.

It also means mass can affect time through a phenomenon called gravitational time dilation, where time looks like it is running slower the closer it gets to a gravitational source.

Unfortunately, while the theories are both supported by experiments, they usually don’t play well together, forcing physicists to consider a new theory that will allow them both to be correct at the same time.

Meanwhile, it’s important that we continue to understand how both theories describe the same phenomena, such as time. Which is what this new paper does.

In this case, the physicists hypothesised the act of measuring time in greater detail requires the possibility of increasing amounts of energy, in turn making measurements in the immediate neighbourhood of any time-keeping devices less precise.

“Our findings suggest that we need to re-examine our ideas about the nature of time when both quantum mechanics and general relativity are taken into account”, says researcher Esteban Castro.

So how does this affect us on a day-to-day level? Like a lot of theoretical physics, probably not much at all.

While quantum mechanics technically applies to ‘big’ things, don’t worry, setting your stop-watch to read fractions of a second isn’t going to open a worm-hole on your wrist – these findings would only become significant for clocks in highly precise experiments far more advanced than those currently being developed.

But getting a better understanding of how these time pieces work, in theory at least, will ultimately help us better understand the Universe around us. And one day perhaps grasp the nature of time itself.

Can Adjusting the Amount of Helium in a Balloon Affect Its Height?

A reader asks this question: “I have a question about helium, lift and an idea I have. First, please assume an efficient design with little gas loss. Compressed helium is in a storage tank and connected to an deflated balloon. The gas is released into the balloon, inflating it to be full enough to provide lift to the attached empty (or partially full) tank, and the assembly floats up. Connected to this system is a battery-powered air compressor. Turned on, the compressor extracts the helium gas from the balloon causing deflation, and the gas is returned back into the tank. As the helium returns to the tank in compressed form, the assembly starts to float down. So… once again assuming this is an efficient assembly with relatively minor loss of gas, could this method be used to control the ascent and decent of the assembly?

A hot air balloon flies because the weight of the air it displaces is greater than the weight of the balloon.

The short answer is yes. The more detailed explanation follows.

Archimedes’ Principle

Archimedes’s principle, which states that the buoyant force on an object in a fluid equals the weight of the fluid displaced by the object, applies here.

What does this statement mean?

To start, scientists define a fluid as either a liquid or a gas, rather than the everyday use of the word fluid we use to mean a liquid. Hence the air around a helium-filled balloon is a fluid. That means Archimedes’s principle applies to balloons in air, as well as the more familiar idea we have of boats floating in water.

The buoyant force is an upward force that pushes an object suspended in a fluid upward. The object will also have a gravitational force equal to its weight pulling it downward. The object will accelerate in the direction of the greater force. That means if the object is heavier than the fluid it displaces, it will sink. Conversely, if the object weighs less than the fluid it displaces, it will move upwards, or if it is at the top of the fluid, it will float.

If an object is less dense than the fluid, the fluid it displaces will weigh more than the object. Hence the buoyant force will be greater than the object’s weight and the object will rise in the fluid or float on the top of the fluid.

If the object is more dense than the fluid, the reverse occurs. The fluid displaced weighs less than the object, the upward buoyant force is less than the downward gravitational force, and the object sinks.

This ship floats in the Miraflores lock of the Panama Canal because it weighs less than the water it displaces. The small amount of water left in the lock has no effect. Image Credit: Paul A Heckert

As a result of Archimedes’s principle, an object will rise in a fluid if it is less dense than the fluid and sink in the fluid if it is more dense than the fluid.

Ascent and Descent

As the helium gas fills the balloon, the balloon becomes larger, and therefore displaces more air. Eventually the balloon can become large enough to displace an amount of air that weighs more than the total of the balloon and the apparatus described in the question.

Even though the pumping apparatus is much more dense than air, a large enough helium filled balloon can reduce the average density of the balloon and pumping apparatus to less than the density of air. When this happens, the buoyant force will become larger than the downward gravitational force on the balloon and apparatus.

The balloon will then begin to rise, as the balloon effectively floats on air.

Balloon Apparatus Limitations and Capabilities

The main limitation here is the fact that the apparatus described in the question is likely to be fairly heavy. Hence there must be enough helium, and the balloon must be large enough, to displace enough air to weigh more than the apparatus.

Pumping the helium gas from the balloon back into the storage tank reverses this process. The balloon and apparatus will therefore sink back down towards the ground as the questioner speculates will happen.

Air is thinner and less dense at higher altitudes. When the helium-filled balloon rises, it will rise to the altitude where the weight of the air displaced equals the weight of the balloon and apparatus. At this point the balloon will float at a stable altitude.

If a small additional amount of helium enters the balloon, the balloon will rise a small amount. If the pump returns some of the helium from the balloon to the storage tank, then the balloon will sink a small amount.

So, yes – one can control the height of the balloon by adjusting the amount of helium in either the balloon or storage tank.

Unlocking the Physics of Our Universe: Unusual Numbers Found in Particle Collisions

  • Values computed from particle physics experiments seem to correspond with periods, a specific set of unusual values found in a branch of mathematics.
  • If physicists are able to understand this connection, they could use it to simplify their prediction process and gain insight into the messy world ofUnusual Numbers.


Mathematicians and physicists have noticed a strange coincidence occurring between their respective fields: the values computed from particle physics experiments seem to correspond with a specific set of values found in a branch of mathematics called algebraic geometry.

Particle physicists conduct some of their most advanced experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, and many of those experiments generate gigabytes of data. To make sense of that information, the physicists use Feynman diagrams, simple representations of the particles and outputs connected to their collisions.  Lines and squiggly lines in the diagrams represent the particles and their interactions from the collision. When details like mass, momentum, and direction are added to the diagram, the physicists can calculate the Feynman probability, the likelihood that a collision will occur according to their diagram.

While making these calculations, they noticed that the numbers emerging from their diagrams were the same as a class of numbers from pure math: periods. These values describe motives, which are basically the building blocks of polynomial functions. When you get two polynomials with the same period, you know that the motives will be the same. One example of a period is pi. Because that period appears in both the integral defining the function of a sphere and the one defining the function of a circle, a mathematician can know that the motives for a sphere and circle are the same.

Quanta Magazine
Quanta Magazine


To get the probability that a specific outcome will arise from a collision, physicists need to take the associated integral of each possible Feynman diagram scenario and add it to all the other integrals to find the amplitude. Squaring the magnitude of that number will give them the probability. The problem comes when working with complicated collisions that cause loops (particles emitting and reabsorbing other particles in the middle of the collision process). Calculating amplitude is far harder with more loops, but adding in more increases the potential accuracy of the diagram.

If there is a connection between periods and Feynman diagrams, understanding it would help physicists be more accurate with their predictions. They could simply look at the structure of a Feynman diagram to get an idea of its amplitude, skipping over the potentially thousands of calculations that would otherwise be necessary. This would make creating and running particle physics experiments far less complicated and offer key insights into the quantum world, which, in turn, could lead to the quantum computers that would revolutionize the fields of engineering, gene processing, machine learning, and much more.

The LHC Disproves the Existence of Ghosts and the Paranormal

  • Renowned physicist Brian Cox has claimed that the lack of any physical evidence being detected by the highly sensitive Large Hadron Collider disproves the existence of ghosts.
  • Four in 10 Americans reportedly believe in ghosts, a figure that belies the lack of scientific evidence behind their existence.


Looks like the Ghostbusters have some competition, and it’s renowned physicist and science communicator Brian Cox. But rather than bust some ghosts, it looks like he’s more in the business of destroying the idea of the paranormal entirely. He wasn’t just looking to spread some knowledge to the 4 in 10 Americans who believe in ghosts, though — he was sharing a simple conclusion he has reached by working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The LHC is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator that humanity has ever built. It features a ring 27 kilometers (16 miles) long with superconducting magnets and accelerating structures specifically built to boost the energy of particles that scientists hope to study. Within the accelerator, two high-energy beams are forced to collide from opposite directions at speeds close to the speed of light. A good analogy for this would be firing two needles toward each other from 10 kilometers (6 miles) apart with a precision that makes sure they meet halfway.

Over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries work together at this structure below the France-Switzerland border to help us learn about the fundamental properties of physics. They test different properties of elementary particles, and thus far, they have learned about particle decay, found hints of new particles, and reexamined what we know about the Big Bang. It’s from this evidence-based research that Brain Cox believes he can dismiss the existence of the paranormal entirely.


Brian Cox made the claim during a recent broadcast of BBC Radio Four’s “The Infinite Monkey Cage” that focused on the intersection of science and the paranormal:

If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That’s almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was also on the show, went on to press him for a clarification: “If I understand what you just declared, you just asserted that CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, disproved the existence of ghosts.” Cox replied with a simple “Yes.”

Cox’s point relies heavily on the LHC’s ability to pick up the tiniest bursts of energy found in particle collisions. That mean that any energy signatures from paranormal entities should be easy to detect. Thus far, no such evidence has been found. Does this mean that you can no longer enjoy horror movies? No, it just means you don’t have to be scared.

Watch the video. URL:

Physicists Discover ‘Clearest Evidence Yet’ That The Universe Is A Hologram

A team of physicists have provided what has been described by the journal Nature as the “clearest evidence yet” that our universe is a hologram.

The new research could help reconcile one of modern physics’ most enduring problems : the apparent inconsistencies between the different models of the universe as explained by quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity.


The two new scientific papers are the culmination of years’ work led by Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan, and deal with hypothetical calculations of the energies of black holes in different universes.

The idea of the universe existing as a ‘hologram’ doesn’t refer to a Matrix-like illusion, but the theory that the three dimensions we perceive are actually just“painted” onto the cosmological horizon – the boundary of the known universe.

If this sounds paradoxical, try to imagine a holographic picture that changes as you move it. Although the picture is two dimensional, observing it from different locations creates the illusion that it is 3D.

This model of the universe helps explain some inconsistencies between general relativity (Einstein’s theory) and quantum physics. Although Einstein’s work underpins much of modern physics, at certain extremes (such as in the middle of a black hole) the principles he outlined break down and the laws of quantum physics take over.

The traditional method of reconciling these two models has come from the 1997 work of theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena, whose ideas built upon string theory.

This is one of the most well respected ‘theories of everything’ (Stephen Hawking is a fan) and it posits that one-dimensional vibrating objects known as ‘strings’ are the elementary particles of the universe.

Maldacena has welcomed the new research by Hyakutake and his team, telling the journal Nature that the findings are “an interesting way to test many ideas in quantum gravity and string theory.”

Leonard Susskind, a theoretical physicist regarded as one of the fathers of string theory, added that the work by the Japanese team “numerically confirmed, perhaps for the first time, something we were fairly sure had to be true, but was still a conjecture.”

Simulation Shows Time Travel Is Possible

Australian scientists created a computer simulation in which quantum particles can move back in time. This might confirm the possibility of time travel on a quantum level, suggested in 1991. At the same time, the study revealed a number of effects which are considered impossible according to the standard quantum mechanics.

Using photons, physicists from the University of Queensland in Australia simulated time-traveling quantum particles. In particular, they studied the behavior of a single photon traveling back in time through a wormhole in space-time and interacting with itself. This time-traveling loop is called a closed timelike curve, i.e. a path followed by a particle which returns to its initial space-time point.


The physicists studied two possible scenarios for a time-traveling photon. In the first, the particle passes through a wormhole, moving back in time, and interacts with its older self. In the second scenario, the photon passes through normal space-time and interacts with another photon which is stuck in a closed timelike curve.

According to the researchers, their study will help to find a link between two great theories in physics:the Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics,” said Martin Ringbauer of the University of Queensland who led the study. “Einstein’s theory describes the world at the very large scale of stars and galaxies, while quantum mechanics is an excellent description of the world at the very small scale of atoms and molecules.”

Einstein’s General Relativity suggests the possibility of moving back in time if the time-traveling object is stuck in a closed timelike curve. Yet, this possibility is known to cause a number of paradoxes, such as the famous “grandfather paradox”, in which a time traveler prevents his own existence by preventing his grandparents from meeting each other.

In 1991, the concept of time travel in the quantum world was suggested. It was said that traveling through time on a quantum level can prevent such paradoxes, since the properties of quantum particles are not precisely defined, in accordance with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

The properties of quantum particles are “fuzzy” or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” said professor Timothy Ralph who participated in the study.

Thus, the experiment conducted by the Australian scientists shows that such kind of time travel might be possible.

At the same time, some new bizarre effects were discovered, which are forbidden by standard quantum mechanics. For instance, it appears that it is possible to accurately distinguish various states of a quantum system, despite the fact that it violates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

OFF THE RECORD Scientists Believe They Have Discovered A Parallel Universe That Interact With Our World

Quantum mechanics, though firmly tested, is so weird and anti-intuitive that famed physicist Richard Feynman once remarked, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Attempts to explain some of the bizarre consequences of quantum theory have led to some mind-bending ideas, such as the Copenhagen interpretation and the many-worlds interpretation.

Now there’s a new theory on the block, called the “many interacting worlds” hypothesis (MIW), and the idea is just as profound as it sounds. The theory suggests not only that parallel worlds exist, but that they interact with our world on the quantum level and are thus detectable. Though still speculative, the theory may help to finally explain some of the bizarre consequences inherent in quantum mechanics, reports

The theory is a spinoff of the many-worlds interpretation in quantum mechanics — an idea that posits that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual, though parallel, world. One problem with the many-worlds interpretation, however, has been that it is fundamentally untestable, since observations can only be made in our world. Happenings in these proposed “parallel” worlds can thus only be imagined.

MIW, however, says otherwise. It suggests that parallel worlds can interact on the quantum level, and in fact that they do.

“The idea of parallel universes in quantum mechanics has been around since 1957,” explained Howard Wiseman, a physicist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, and one of the physicists to come up with MIW. “In the well-known ‘Many-Worlds Interpretation’, each universe branches into a bunch of new universes every time a quantum measurement is made. All possibilities are therefore realised – in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed Earth. In others, Australia was colonised by the Portuguese.”

“But critics question the reality of these other universes, since they do not influence our universe at all,” he added. “On this score, our “Many Interacting Worlds” approach is completely different, as its name implies.”

Wiseman and colleagues have proposed that there exists “a universal force of repulsion between ‘nearby’ (i.e. similar) worlds, which tends to make them more dissimilar.” Quantum effects can be explained by factoring in this force, they propose.

Whether or not the math holds true will be the ultimate test for this theory. Does it or does it not properly predict quantum effects mathematically? But the theory is certain to provide plenty of fodder for the imagination.

For instance, when asked about whether their theory might entail the possibility that humans could someday interact with other worlds, Wiseman said: “It’s not part of our theory. But the idea of [human] interactions with other universes is no longer pure fantasy.”

 Watch the video discussion. URL:

Brand New Maths Could Finally Explain How Disturbances Propagate Through Space-Time

There’s a disturbance in the force.

The Universe as we know it is made up of a continuum of space and time – a space-time fabric that’s curved by massive objects such as stars and black holes, and which dictates the movement of matter.

Thanks to Einstein’s gravitational waves, we know disturbances can propagate through both space and time. But what’s less understood is exactly how that happens when properties of the fabric is continuously shifting.

That could soon be about to change. Researchers have just come up with a brand new mathematical framework that could finally explain how disturbances move through a dynamic space-time fabric – a concept known as ‘field patterns’.

If that sounds mind-achingly complex, it’s because it is – we’re in the realm of theoretical physics here, after all. But the basic concept isn’t actually that bizarre.

Field patterns, put very simply, break down space-time into a chessboard, like the one you can see below. The black squares represent one material, and the white squares represent another material with different properties.

Now picture a disturbance, such as a pulse of laser light, moving forwards in time (starting at the bottom of the chessboard) and spreading out in space through the boundaries of each chessboard square, as in the animation above.

What field pattern theory aims to describe is the propagation of that pulse, and where it will end up. To do this, Milton and colleague Ornella Mattei use computer simulation to test and observe how a range of theoretical systems and patterns would behave.

You can see another example of those computer models in the illustration below – that pattern at the top is a field pattern:

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Why do we care about that? Well, field patterns exhibit characteristics of both propagating waves and localised particles, so this new mathematical framework could answer some of the biggest questions in quantum mechanics, where objects blur the fine line between particles and waves.

And, according to lead researcher Graeme Milton from the University of Utah, field patterns could even describe how some of the fundamental components of matter in the Universe come to exist.

“When you open the doors to a new area,” Milton explains, “you don’t know where it will go.”

Still not really getting the concept? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While the chessboard analogy is the most simple, perhaps a more useful one is to think of a branching tree.

Think of the roots of the tree as the initial disturbance, and the ground as the initial time point. As time progresses (moving up the tree), the disturbance splits and branches as it encounters different boundaries.

Once you get to the top of the tree, there’s a complex network of branches that can be described as the field pattern.

If you look at one tree, the field pattern may appear chaotic, but look at enough trees over enough time, and you can see that the pattern repeats, like a chessboard.

“The idea of a field pattern is a little like a wave in one tree but a separate wave in a different tree,” Milton explains.

“You can imagine in one tree there’s a wind blowing from one direction that ripples the trees one way. But the other tree, with its own separate sets of leaves, as if the wind is coming from a different direction.”

The applications of the work are still emerging, but one area where they might be particularly relevant is quantum mechanics.

One of the lingering questions we have about quantum mechanics is exactly how objects behave as both particles and waves – in quantum mechanics, particles don’t have a specific location until they’re measured. Instead, their probable location is represented as clouds.

But as soon as an observer measures the position of an object, the wave-like behaviour collapses into a single point of location, like a particle.

This is known as wave-particle duality. And field patterns might bridge this duality, because the disturbances are represented as points and discrete lines, like a particle, but then they also diffuse like a wave.

In its current form, field pattern theory doesn’t allow for the pattern to collapse back into a single point, but the researchers think that it could be possible.

Even more than that, they believe the field patterns have a connection to the basic building blocks of matter. A growing idea in physics is that fluctuations in space and time at the smallest scales could give rise to field patterns that manifest themselves as electrons and protons.

“What we see as electrons, protons or quantum mechanical waves are manifestations of the fundamental super microscopic scale of these field patterns,” said Milton.

This is still very early theoretical work, and the current field pattern models the researchers have developed have their limitations – for now, overlapping field patterns don’t interact with each other, and some field patterns unexpectedly seem to expand exponentially, seemingly out of control. But this paper is just a first pass at the idea.

Now that this research has been published, other mathematicians can begin to conduct their own investigations on field patterns, and only time will tell where the work ends up.

“Something may pop up from this,” said Milton. “What’s really fundamental, though, is going in a completely new direction.”

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The research has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. 

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