Eppley and Hannah

Every now and then somebody asks if it is really necessary to find a quantum theory of gravitation. After all, it is most likely not possible to detect single gravitons, following an argument of Freeman Dyson (because one would need a detector of planetary size for it).

Of course there are many good reasons why one would like to find a way to quantize gravity like all other fields [1, 2, 3]. But I was never worried about this sort of debate, because I knew that there was a thought experiment, published in the '70s or '80s, which settled this issue once and for all: Consistency requires that gravitation must be quantized. I remember that I read the argument and that I found it convincing at the time.

Recently, I was asked about this whole issue and I mentioned the thought experiment and that paper. Finally I promised that I would dig out the reference and I actually did.

K. Eppley and E. Hannah, Found. Phys. 7, 51 (1977)

The reason it was relatively easy to find the reference was that almost thirty years later somebody checked the argument and found that it was flawed. The problem is that the thought experiment asks for a detector so large and heavy that it cannot be built, somehow closing the circle back to Dyson's argument.


Lee said...

Off topic, but Freeman Dyson gave a public lecture at Perimeter Institute a while ago where he basically reminisces and presents his thoughts about the scientific revolutions he has lived through. I’m not at all certain it is something you would like, but I enjoyed it. In any case there is a link below.


wolfgang said...

thanks for the link, I noticed that your recommendations are usually quite interesting and F.D. is almost always good...