What if the laws of physics are not timeless?
What if they evolve?
Dr. Lee Smolin
The Perimeter Institute
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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The Perimeter Institute
Toronto, Quebec, Canada
Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has been since 2001 a founding and senior faculty member at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His main contributions have been so far to the quantum theory of gravity, to which he has been a co-inventor and major contributor to two major directions, loop quantum gravity and deformed special relativity. He also contributes to cosmology, through his proposal of cosmological natural selection: a falsifiable mechanism to explain the choice of the laws of physics. He has also contributed to quantum field theory, the foundations of quantum mechanics, theoretical biology, the philosophy of science and economics. He is the author of more than 150 scientific papers and numerous essays and writings for the public on science.
He also has written four books which explore philosophical issues raised by contemporary physics and cosmology. These are Life of the Cosmos (1997), Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (2001), The Trouble with Physics (2006) and Time Reborn (2013).
Born in New York City, Smolin attended Hampshire College and Harvard University. After postdocs at IAS Princeton, ITP Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago he held faculty positions at Yale, Syracuse and Penn State University. A Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Royal Society of Canada, Smolin was awarded the 2009 Klopsteg Memorial Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers and in 2008 was voted 21st on a list of the 100 most influential public intellectuals by Prospect and Foreign Policy Magazines. He is also adjunct professor of physics at the University of Waterloo and a member of the graduate faculty of the philosophy department at the University of Toronto.
What is time?
This deceptively simple question is the single most important problem facing science as we probe more deeply into the fundamentals of the universe. All of the mysteries physicists and cosmologists face – from the Big Bang to the future of the universe, from the puzzles of quantum physics to the unification of forces and particles – come down to the nature of time.
The fact that time is real may seem obvious. You experience it passing every day when you watch clocks tick, bread toast, and children grow. But most physicists, from Newton to Einstein to today's quantum theorists, have seen things differently. The scientific case for time being an illusion is formidable. That is why the consequences of adopting the view that time is real are revolutionary.
Smolin argues that a limited notion of time is holding physics back. It's time for a major revolution in Scientific Thought. The reality of time could be the next big breakthrough in theoretical physics.