*ERC Advanced Grant for Hermann Nicolai*

to Unify Gravitation and Quantum Physicsto Unify Gravitation and Quantum Physics

Albert Einstein Institute | Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics | 2017 Apr 11

Professor Hermann Nicolai, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), has received one of the prestigious Advanced Grants of the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC is funding Prof. Nicolai´s research on a unified theory of quantum gravity with approximately € 1.9 million. In Nicolai’s approach symmetries play a decisive role.

One of the greatest challenges in theoretical physics is the unification of quantum field theory and Einstein´s general relativity into a theory of quantum gravity. The two fundamental theories are not compatible with each other within the known physical laws. But if we want to understand what happens inside a black hole or at the Big Bang, we need a theory that combines both. At the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, the Department of Quantum Gravity and Unified Theories, led by Prof. Nicolai, is searching for such a comprehensive theory. Nicolai's innovative research is now being funded for five years with an Advanced Grant of the ERC. ...

Both Einstein’s general relativity theory and the standard model of quantum field theory are based on principles of symmetry. Based on symmetry considerations, new elementary particles (such as W and Z vector bosons) were predicted from the standard model, which could later be detected in accelerator experiments. Nicolai’s hypothesis is that the unification of gravity with the interactions of elementary particles can only be achieved by finding a symmetry which, on the one hand, goes beyond what we have already known, but on the other hand contains all known symmetries of physics as partial symmetries. Nicolai’s approach to unifying gravitation and elementary particle effects is based on symmetry E10, a unique infinite-dimensional mathematical structure that is still extremely mysterious, even 50 years after its discovery. ...