The KITP Public Lecture Series
Space-Time Versus the Quantum
sponsored by Friends of KITP
The timing of the release of "Interstellar" could not have been more fortuitous. The current blockbuster explores the space-time continuum as well as wormholes, black holes and the fifth dimension - topics dear to Joseph Polchinski's heart.
A professor of physics and a permanent member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Polchinski was named UC Santa Barbara’s 2014 Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest honor bestowed upon professors by their peers in recognition of extraordinary scholarly distinction. Polchinski will deliver his lecture, titled “Space-Time Versus the Quantum,” on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m., at the campus’s Corwin Pavilion. A reception at 5 p.m. will precede the lecture and both are open to the public.
"I think this is a fun subject for a public lecture and will be interesting to a wide audience," Polchinski said. He will discuss the search for a unified theory of the laws of physics and the difficulty of reconciling two of the main pieces: quantum mechanics, which governs the very small; and general relativity, which governs the very large. In particular, he will address how in 1975 Stephen Hawking discovered a paradox, which seems to suggest that at least one of these theories must give way.
According to Polchinski, physicists have puzzled over this ever since. The latest incarnation of this paradox is the black hole firewall, discovered at UCSB in 2012, which claims that an astronaut falling into a black hole has an experience very different from what general relativity predicts.