The modern-day theoretical physicist faces a taxing uphill climb.


"As we learn more, reality becomes ever more subtle; the absolute becomes relative, the fixed becomes dynamical, the definite is laden with uncertainty," writes physicist Yasha Neiman.


A professor and head of the Quantum Gravity Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), he grapples with this conundrum on a daily basis. Quantum gravity, Neiman's branch of physics, aims to unify quantum mechanics, which describes nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles, with Einstein's theory of General Relativity -- the modern theory of gravitation as curvature of space and time. How, he asks, can physicists write equations when the geometry of space itself becomes subject to quantum uncertainty? Quantum gravity, the current frontier in fundamental theory, has proven more difficult to detangle than previous concepts, according to Neiman.


"With the concept of space slipping between our fingers, we seek out alternative footholds on which to base our description of the world," he writes.

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