High-Energy Physics and Quantum Gravity

Combined illustration of a collision in particle physics and gravitational lensingAncient Greek philosophers debated whether reality can be explained with a small number of fundamental elements, such as fire or water, or principles, like that everything is made of indivisible atoms. Modern day high-energy physics is a continuation of those debates. Fortunately, by now we have invented a much better way to go about and settle our debates: science. These days, the fundamental principles we seek are mathematical frameworks that describe the physical world in terms of elementary constituents (like particles, fields, or strings) and laws governing their behavior. The most successful frameworks so far are quantum mechanics (QM) and general relativity (GR). Together, they form the two pillars of high-energy physics. Though we have made much progress, like an ever-expanding frontier, the more we know, the more we discover there is even more yet to know. Along the way, this area of physics has had important spin-off applications, such as in astrophysics (e.g., for black holes and early universe cosmology) and in condensed matter physics (e.g., field theories of superconductors and other materials). Faculty at SJSU tackle a variety of questions in theoretical high-energy physics. We question and ultimately look to strengthen the philosophical underpinnings of QM. Furthermore, why have two pillars if you can have one? Can QM and GR be unified? Does this lead to new, experimentally verifiable predictions? This requires either starting with GR and quantizing it, or starting with QM and deriving GR from it, or deriving both from, say, a more fundamental information-theoretic framework. We actively work on some of these possibilities and are also interested in applications of our theoretical tools to problems throughout physics. For information and to learn about research opportunities, contact Curtis Asplund, Kassahun Betre, or Kenneth Wharton.