ERC Synergy Grant for Johannes Henn

ORIGINS physicist Prof. Johannes Henn has been awarded the prestigious European Research Council Synergy Grant for a project at the interface of particle physics, cosmology and mathematics.

Prof. Johannes Henn (Foto: A. Griesch/MPP)

Quantum physicist Johannes Henn is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Physics and ORIGINS scientist. The ORIGINS scientist will lead the project “UNIVERSE+: Positive Geometry in Particle Physics and Cosmology" together with Nima Arkani-Hamed (IAS Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton), Daniel Baumann (University of Amsterdam) and Bernd Sturmfels (Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, Leipzig). The project is funded by an ERC Synergy Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) worth 10 million euros.

Spacetime and quantum mechanics lie at the heart of physics and have led to a spectacularly successful understanding of the laws of nature. However, it can be assumed that these pillars of fundamental physics are only approximate guidelines that must ultimately be derived from more fundamental concepts. This is seen most dramatically in the singularity of the Big Bang, which overturns the common concept of spacetime.

Recently, novel geometric shapes called "positive geometries" were discovered in the data describing the scattering of elementary particles and the correlated positions of cosmological structures in the sky. They provide the first concrete examples of how the principles of spacetime and quantum mechanics can arise from more fundamental mathematical principles.

So far, however, these positive geometries have only been found in simplified toy models of the physical world. The aim of the UNIVERSE+ collaboration is to fully understand and expose these new ideas, and to find the geometries relevant to the real world, including gravity and the expanding universe.

The Principal Investigators of UNIVERSE+ bring together complementary expertise in particle physics, cosmology and mathematics. This is the first collaboration of its kind, made possible by a recent confluence of critical insights in both mathematics and physics. The group aims to attract some of the brightest young people from diverse backgrounds to work on a multi-faceted research program with the potential for significant impact on a wide range of scientific topics in particle physics, cosmology and outward-looking mathematics. They will soon be advertising positions for researchers to join the team.

MPP press release