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See Inside December 2002

Throwing Einstein for a Loop

Physicist Fotini Markopoulou Kalamara has developed a way to connect relativity with quantum theory--while making sure that cause still precedes effect
FOTINI MARKOPOULOU KALAMARA


FOTINI MARKOPOULOU KALAMARA:
QUANTIZING GRAVITY
  • Recently accepted a five-year renewable post at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, where "it's very open-minded."
  • If correct, the causal spin networks theory that she's helped to develop would mean that the universe functions like a giant quantum computer.
  • On her career: "Having fun is essential, because otherwise you get stressed out. You think, I have to show the universe is made out of atoms, and aaaaahhh, you flip out! So you want to keep loose."

DEREK SHAPTON

She talks about physics like it's cooking. "My strength is to put things together out of nothing," she says, "to take this ingredient and another one there and stick something together." The art is figuring out which ones to use and how to combine them so that when the oven bell dings, the universe comes out just right.

At 31 years old, Fotini Markopoulou Kalamara is hailed as one of the world's most promising young physicists. She recently accepted a position at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario (Canada's answer to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.). There she works alongside such prominent physicists as Robert Myers and Lee Smolin, hoping to blend Einstein's general relativity with quantum theory to explain the nature of space and time.

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