Quantum theory and relativity, the two great foundational theories of physics, have never been fully reconciled. A deeper unifying theory remains elusive, partly because we have no direct experimental evidence to use as a guide. We are conducting a unique experiment, called the Fermilab Holometer, designed to detect or rule out a new, radically distinctive behavior of space itself that may emerge from that deeper level. It tests the hypothesis that no such thing exists as a massive body at rest, and that positions of everything are in constant fluctuating motion, due to the quantum nature of space-time. The experiment uses two laser interferometers to measure predicted tiny, rapid, nonlocal, multidirectional, correlated variations in spatial position, and eliminate other sources of environmental noise. A detection would open the first experimental window on quantum space-time.
Although the major funding for the experiment is in place and most of the major technical milestones have been passed, an important gap remains: we currently do not have funding, which we request here, to support graduate students at the core of the experimental team, during the years of final commissioning and experimental data taking. The students are now fully trained and have responsibility for final development and operation of major experimental subsystems; the project will be crippled without their full time effort.
The potential enduring impact could be a revolution in physics: the first evidence that real space is not a classical continuum, as imagined since the time of Euclid. In the event that the so-called "holographic noise" is found not to exist, the experiment will establish a uniquely powerful constraint on possible quantum deviations from classical behavior that will advance understanding about the relationship of matter, energy, space and time.