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Gravity-wave interferometers as quantum-gravity detectors

Abstract

Nearly all theoretical approaches to the unification of quantum mechanics and gravity predict 1, 2, 3, 4 that, at very short distance scales, the classical picture of space-time breaks down, with space-time becoming somewhat ‘fuzzy’ (or ‘foamy’). The properties of this fuzziness and the length scale that characterizes itsonset are potentially a means for determining which (if any) of the existing models of quantum gravity is correct. But it is generally believed 5 that these quantum space-time effects are too small to be probed by technologies currently available. Here Iargue that modern gravity-wave interferometers are sensitive enough to test certain space-time fuzziness models, because quantum space-time effects should provide an additional source of noise in the interferometers that can be tightly constrained experimentally. The noise levels recently achieved in one interferometer 6 are sufficient to rule out values of the length scale that characterizes one of the space-time fuzziness models down to the Planck length (10 −35  m) and beyond, while the sensitivity required to test another model should be achievable with interferometers now under construction.

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Acknowledgements

I thank A. Ashtekar for suggesting that gravity‐wave interferometers might be useful for experimental tests of some quantum‐gravity phenomena; D. Ahluwalia, J. Ellis, J. Lukierski, N. E. Mavromatos, C. Rovelli, S. Sarkar and J. Stachel for discussions about quantum‐gravity models; and F. Barone, M. Coles, J. Faist, R. Flaminio, L. Gammaitoni, G. Gonzalez, T. Huffman, L. Marrucci and M. Punturo for conversations about experimental interferometry. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Giovanni Amelino-Camelia.

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Amelino-Camelia, G. Gravity-wave interferometers as quantum-gravity detectors. Nature 398, 216–218 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/18377

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