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Curated by RSF Research Staff

New insights suggesting a structure for the vacuum

The nature of space-time and surrounding matter objects was and persists to be a one of the most intriguing and most challenging problems. A brilliant theory in physics was combining of electricity and magnetism within the Faraday-Maxwell electromagnetism laws explaining light propagation in space-time and posed new questions concerning the nature of the vacuum. Nonetheless, almost all attempts aiming to unveil the real state of the art of the vacuum problem appeared to be unsuccessful despite new ideas suggested by Mach, Lorentz, Poincaré, Einstein and others.

However, with the well-known special relativity theory the question was artificially ”dissolved” and the vacuum structure as a problem almost completely disappeared from the Einstein theory being replaced by the geometrization of the space-time nature and all related physical phenomena. Meanwhile, the impressive success of 20th century quantum physics, especially of quantum electrodynamics, have demonstrated clearly enough that the vacuum polarization and electron-positron annihilation phenomena make it possible to pose new questions about the space-time and vacuum structures, and further to revisit the existing points of view on them.

Among these questions, one of them is about the three spatial dimensions of our Universe. This exact number is one of the most profound puzzles in cosmology – especially in view of quantum gravity scenarios such as string theory which assume nine or ten space dimensions at the fundamental level.

In a recent paper, researchers proposed a new topological explanation for the dimensionality of space-time. They suggested a structure for the vacuum comprised of a network of tightly knotted/linked flux tubes. As the network can be topologically stable only in three space dimensions, this scenario provides a dynamic explanation for the existence of exactly three large spatial dimensions in our Universe.

"Not only does our flux tube network provide the energy needed to drive inflation, it also explains why it stopped so abruptly. […] As the Universe began expanding, the flux-tube network began decaying and eventually broke apart, eliminating the energy source that was powering the expansion."

Thomas W. Kephart, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Nashville, USA

At this point, this theory is just a model linking the vacuum structure with the earliest period of our universe’s formation. However, it could explain some burning questions about how the cosmos evolved into its current form.

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