This award funds the research activities of Professors Igor Klebanov, Simone Giombi, and Herman Verlinde at Princeton University.
Among the deepest problems in fundamental physics is the merger of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity with quantum mechanics. General Relativity predicted the existence of the black-hole event horizon, which was recently spectacularly observed by the Event Horizon Telescope. In some models, it is further possible to have more exotic objects, so-called wormholes, which provide connections between different regions of spacetime. The quantum-mechanical behavior of black holes and wormholes is believed to rely on important concepts, such as quantum information and entanglement. It turns out that these phenomena appear naturally when an alternate description of gravitational systems via regular quantum theory --- the so-called "gauge/gravity duality", is invoked. Professors Klebanov, Giombi, and Verlinde intend to apply methods based on these concepts in order to understand these exotic phenomena. The results of this research could help us understand the cosmological evolution of the universe as a whole, thereby extending scientific knowledge at a fundamental level. As a result, research in this area advances the national interest by promoting the progress of science in one of its most fundamental directions: the discovery and understanding of new physical laws. This project is also envisioned to have significant broader impacts. Students and post-docs will be very important for carrying out this research program, and educating and mentoring them will constitute one of its key broader impacts.
At a more technical level, this research will emphasize investigations of the dualities relating quantum gauge theory to gravity, string theory, and higher-spin gauge theory. Proposed applications of the gauge/gravity dualities include quantum chaos and its manifestations in models with a large number of degrees of freedom. These include theories of many interacting Majorana fermions, such as the Sachdev-Ye-Kitaev and tensor models. Connections of these models with black holes and wormholes in low-dimensional models of quantum gravity, such as the Jackiw-Teitelboim dilaton gravity, will be actively explored. Various models and applications of quantum field theory will be another topic of active exploration. In particular, quantum field theories describing second-order and weakly first-order phase transitions will be explored. The ideas of the Renormalization Group will be applied to such models, including those where interactions take place at a spatial boundary.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.