Spacetime and Physical Equivalence

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De Haro, Sebastian
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conference paper description
In this essay I begin to lay out a conceptual scheme for: (i) analysing dualities as cases of theoretical equivalence; (ii) assessing when cases of theoretical equivalence are also cases of physical equivalence. The scheme is applied to gauge/gravity dualities. I expound what I argue to be their contribution to questions about: (iii) the nature of spacetime in quantum gravity; (iv) broader philosophical and physical discussions of spacetime. (i)-(ii) proceed by analysing duality through four contrasts. A duality will be a suitable isomorphism between models: and the four relevant contrasts are as follows: (a) Bare theory: a triple of states, quantities, and dynamics endowed with appropriate structures and symmetries; vs. interpreted theory: which is endowed with, in addition, a suitable pair of interpretative maps. (b) Extendable vs. unextendable theories: which can, respectively cannot, be extended as regards their domains of application. (c) External vs. internal intepretations: which are constructed, respectively, by coupling the theory to another interpreted theory vs. from within the theory itself. (d) Theoretical vs. physical equivalence: which contrasts formal equivalence with the equivalence of fully interpreted theories. I will apply this scheme to answering questions (iii)-(iv) for gauge/gravity dualities. I will argue that the things that are physically relevant are those that stand in a bijective correspondence under duality: the common core of the two models. I therefore conclude that most of the mathematical and physical structures that we are familiar with, in these models (the dimension of spacetime, tensor fields, Lie groups), are largely, though crucially never entirely, not part of that common core. Thus, the interpretation of dualities for theories of quantum gravity compels us to rethink the roles that spacetime, and many other tools in theoretical physics, play in theories of spacetime.