23 October 2010

Review of On the Origin of Gravity

Review of Erik Verlinde's On the Origin of Gravity

I just read a paper that's been making the science headlines recently, On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton. In it Erik Verlinde develops an explanation of gravity as an emergent phenomenon driven by entropy.

It's a somewhat easier read than you might suppose. It helps to be familiar with the holographic universe principle. I get the impression that this might be the popular version of some longer paper or papers. He begins with an example of how entropy alone can give a force, in terms of a molecule (or rubber band) contracting due to assuming a higher-entropy configuration. He returns to this example thruout the paper.

His argument is often merely heuristic, which he admits. In other places it's elliptical; I get the impression that the ellipticality is not hiding anything too damaging, but I didn't try to verify it.

After reading, it's clear that the publicity surrounding it is completely appropriate. If even half of this paper's theory holds up it will be a milestone in physics.

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