The entropy force: a new direction for gravity - physics-math - 20 January 2010 - New Scientist
Now one theoretical physicist is proposing a radical new way to look at gravity. Erik Verlinde of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a prominent and internationally respected string theorist, argues that gravitational attraction could be the result of the way information about material objects is organised in space. If true, it could provide the fundamental explanation we have been seeking for decades.
Verlinde posted his paper to the pre-print physics archive earlier this month, and since then many physicists have greeted the proposal as promising (arxiv.org/abs/1001.0785). Nobel laureate and theoretical physicist Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University in the Netherlands stresses the ideas need development, but is impressed by Verlinde's approach. "[Unlike] many string theorists Erik is stressing real physical concepts like mass and force, not just fancy abstract mathematics," he says. "That's encouraging from my perspective as a physicist."
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Verlinde's work offers an alternative way of looking at the problem. "I am convinced now, gravity is a phenomenon emerging from the fundamental properties of space and time," he says.
To understand what Verlinde is proposing, consider the concept of fluidity in water. Individual molecules have no fluidity, but collectively they do. Similarly, the force of gravity is not something ingrained in matter itself. It is an extra physical effect, emerging from the interplay of mass, time and space, says Verlinde. His idea of gravity as an "entropic force" is based on these first principles of thermodynamics - but works within an exotic description of space-time called holography.