Graphene and Space Time

8 Oct 2010

At October 6th Casey Kazan asks - will the physics of graphene show that Space-Time is a mirage? Space time, it is thought, is a fabric that can be altered by the gravity of stars, planets, and matter - may be no more than a mirage according to Peter Horava (see earlier post in September's In the News on the subject of Relativity). The new magic ingredient of graphene may shed some light on the problem - if there is in fact a problem? Space and Time in quantum theory are a static backdrop against which particles move. In Einstein's theories, in contrast, space and time are bound together, but shaped by the matter within space. Horava's solution involves carbon atoms, namely graphene, where electrons ping around like balls in a pinball machine, and they can be described using quantum mechanics. Graphene atoms move at a fraction of the speed of light so relativity is not involved - which is the convenient factor. However, when graphene is cooled down to near zero it does an incredible thing - the electrons speed up. Dramatically. At that point Relativity is required. Horava got round this by tweaking Einstein's equations - and modified the behaviour of gravity in the process.