Space from entanglement: A philosophical investigation of the entanglement frontier in quantum gravity

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Rasmus Jaksland


Teaching and research fellow


University of Agder


DKK 1,334,473




Reintegration Fellowships


In the attempt to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics – our current most accurate descriptions of the largest and smallest length scales, respectively – physicists have discovered that space itself seems to disappear from the fundamental equations. Space instead emerges from entanglement, the most elusive aspect of quantum mechanics known, for instance, as what makes quantum computers capable of outperforming conventional computers. In this underlying entangled quantum reality, concepts like length and extension do not apply. What kind of world it that? Is it even metaphysically coherent to propose that entanglement and not space is the fundamental organizing principle of reality considering the central role that space has in both our experience and other physical theories? The continued solving of ever more complicated mathematical equations will not answer these questions. Rather, they call for metaphysical reflections that draw on the interdisciplinary resources of philosophy of physics.


Metaphysics begins where physics ends. It does not satisfy itself with knowing that our physical equations can be used to generate accurate predictions. Instead, metaphysics inquires what kind of reality these equations describe. This question becomes both more pressing and more difficult when the physical equations cast doubt about the fundamental existence of such an apparently central aspect like space: and this is especially so when space is replaced for the mysterious entanglement. Answering the question will expand our quest to understand the world we live in to this new entanglement frontier. Apart from contributing to this lofty ambition, a better understanding of reality at this entanglement frontier promises to improve our ability to identify what new equations that should eventually replace our current ones.


The project adopts a naturalist methodology where scientific results and philosophical reflections are tightly interwoven. This method is tried and tested in the context of interpreting quantum mechanics, though it here tends not to give definitive answers but rather to produce several competing possible accounts of reality consistent with the physical equations. The same is to be expected for the present project, but even in providing possible answers to what an entangled reality without space is like, progress has been made. In the concrete, the project will answer several challenges to the coherence of an entangled reality without space and, in that way, show that such an account of reality must be taken both physically and metaphysically seriously.

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