Target space ≠ space

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 59:81-88 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper investigates the significance of T-duality in string theory: the indistinguisha- bility with respect to all observables, of models attributing radically different radii to space – larger than the observable universe, or far smaller than the Planck length, say. Two interpretational branch points are identified and discussed. First, whether duals are physically equivalent or not: by considering a duality of the familiar simple harmonic oscillator, I argue that they are. Unlike the oscillator, there are no measurements ‘outside’ string theory that could distinguish the duals. Second, whether duals agree or disagree on the radius of ‘target space’, the space in which strings evolve according to string theory. I argue for the latter position, because the alternative leaves it unknown what the radius is. Since duals are physically equivalent yet disagree on the radius of target space, it follows that the radius is indeterminate between them. Using an analysis of Brandenberger and Vafa (1989), I explain why – even so – space is observed to have a determinate, large radius. The conclusion is that observed, ‘phenomenal’ space is not target space, since a space cannot have both a determinate and indeterminate radius: instead phenomenal space must be a higher-level phenomenon, not fundamental.

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Nick Huggett
University of Illinois, Chicago

References found in this work

Saving the phenomena.James Bogen & James Woodward - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (3):303-352.
Emergent spacetime and empirical (in) coherence.Nick Huggett & Christian Wüthrich - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (3):276-285.
How the Laws of Physics Lie.Malcolm R. Forster - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (3):478-480.
Emergence in holographic scenarios for gravity.Dennis Dieks, Jeroen van Dongen & Sebastian de Haro - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (Part B):203-216.

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