Gravity and the quantum: Are they reconcilable?
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General relativity and quantum mechanics are not consistent with each other. This conflict stems from the very fundamental principles on which these theories are grounded. General relativity, on one hand, is based on the equivalence principle, whose strong version establishes the local equivalence between gravitation and inertia. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, is fundamentally based on the uncertainty principle, which is essentially nonlocal. This difference precludes the existence of a quantum version of the strong equivalence principle, and consequently of a quantum version of general relativity. Furthermore, there are compelling experimental evidences that a quantum object in the presence of a gravitational field violates the weak equivalence principle. Now it so happens that, in addition to general relativity, gravitation has an alternative, though equivalent, description, given by teleparallel gravity, a gauge theory for the translation group. In this theory torsion, instead of curvature, is assumed to represent the gravitational field. These two descriptions lead to the same classical results, but are conceptually different. In general relativity, curvature geometrizes the interaction while torsion, in teleparallel gravity, acts as a force, similar to the Lorentz force of electrodynamics. Because of this peculiar property, teleparallel gravity describes the gravitational interaction without requiring any of the equivalence principle versions. The replacement of general relativity by teleparallel gravity may, in consequence, lead to a conceptual reconciliation of gravitation with quantum mechanics. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.