**A framework that relies on college-level mathematics could describe what happens to particles in so-called space-time rips, gravity fluctuations such as those that occur during the birth of a black hole.**

**Could an analysis based on relatively simple calculations point the way to reconciling the two most successful — and stubbornly distinct — branches of modern theoretical physics? Frank Wilczek and his collaborators hope so.**

**The task of aligning quantum mechanics, which deals with the behaviour of fundamental particles, with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes gravity in terms of curved space-time, has proved an enormous challenge. One of the difficulties is that neither is adequate to describe what happens to particles when the space-time they occupy undergoes drastic changes — such as those thought to occur at the birth of a black hole. But in a paper posted to the arXiv preprint server on 15 October (A. D. Shapere et al. http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.3545; 2012), three theoretical physicists present a straightforward way for quantum particles to move smoothly from one kind of ‘topological space’ to a very different one.**

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