A curved and stretched graphene sheet lying on another curved sheet creates a new pattern that affects the movement of electricity through the sheets.
The new model suggests that similar physics could arise if two adjacent universes could interact.
Physicists sometimes make up crazy stories that sound like science fiction. Some of them turn out to be true, such as the fact that the curvature of space and time described by Einstein was finally confirmed by astronomical measurements. Others remain just a possibility or a mathematical curiosity.
In a new article in Physical Review Research, Fellow JQI Victor Galicki and PhD student JQI Alireza Parkhiskar explored the fantastic possibility that our reality is only half a pair of interacting worlds.
Their mathematical model can provide new insight into the basic features of reality – including why our universe is expanding in this way and how it relates to the shortest lengths allowed by quantum mechanics.
These topics are crucial to understanding our universe and are part of one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics.
A pair of scientists stumbled upon this new look by examining graphene sheets – individual atomic layers of carbon in a repeating hexagonal pattern.
They realized that experiments studying the electrical properties of stacked graphene sheets produced results that resembled small universes and that the underlying phenomenon could extend to other areas of physics.
In graphene stacks, new electrical properties emerge from interactions between individual sheets, so perhaps unique physics could similarly emerge from interacting layers elsewhere – perhaps in cosmological theories about the entire universe.
The unique electrical properties of graphene, and the possible connection that our reality may be twinned somewhere, are due to the special physics created by its formulas called moiré formulas.
Moiré patterns arise when two repeating patterns – from the hexagons of atoms in the graphene sheets to the meshes of window screens – overlap and one layer twists, shifts, or stretches. The patterns that arise in this case may repeat themselves over long lengths compared to the basic patterns.
In graphene stacks, new patterns change the physics going on in the sheets, in particular the behavior of electrons. In a special case called “magic angle graphene”, the moiré pattern repeats about 52 times longer than the pattern of individual sheets, and the energy level that governs the behavior of electrons.
Galicki and Parkhiskar realized that the physics of two graphene sheets can be thought of as the physics of two two-dimensional universes in which electrons periodically jump from one universe to another.
This inspired a couple to generalize mathematics to apply it to universes consisting of any number of dimensions, including our own four dimensions, and to investigate whether similar moiré-pattern phenomena could emerge in other areas of physics. This initiated research that brought them face to face with one of the fundamental problems of cosmology.
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