I began to try to summarize it; and realized that I don't know enough about it to do it justice. Read the article yourself - it's surprisingly accessible - but here's what excites me about it:
I read cosmology and quantum physics articles as a challenge. I don't understand the math; I want to see if I can read the words and get a feel for what they're talking about. I have a general feel for quantum theory - the broad concept that any entity from an atom to the universe exists in what they call "superposition", which means that it "exists" in all possible states simultaneously, and only "collapses" into a single state when you measure it. (I told you this wasn't my world.) But quantum theories don't explain gravity and never really have.
Increasingly expansive attempts to develop a "theory of everything" (including gravity) have postulated ever-increasing crowds of elementary particles (quarks, gluons, etc.) and even minuscule vibrating "strings" - and the theories based on these predict universes that exist in dozens of dimensions, all so small they can't be detected. Nothing they predict resembles anything you can see when you look around, or point a telescope at the universe. And their theories are so complicated they require massive supercomputers to work out the mathematics of the simulations. Frankly, they've never made any sense to me; and they've always made me think of the epicycles that medieval philosophers developed, to explain why their increasingly precise measurements of planetary motion didn't match what the Ptolemaic theory predicted.
It's probably too much to suggest that this team of scientists - a Dane, a Pole, and a German - is the equivalent of Copernicus and his heliocentrism. For one thing, I doubt anyone will actually burn at the stake for advocating their theory. But the theory, which they call causal dynamical triangulations, has a number of points in common with Copernicus':
- It's based on a few simple assumptions, using only very basic quantum principles.
- The calculations are simple enough that they can do their simulations on a laptop. (Keep in mind that today's laptops have a lot of computing horsepower!)
- What it predicts looks remarkably like what we see.
- When they change details in their simulations, the results barely change at all.
All cosmological theories assume basic building blocks, which have certain properties. In the authors' theory, each triangular building block is assigned an arrow of time, pointing from past to future; and the rules governing gluing building blocks together require that their arrows of time point in the same direction. The spacetime this predicts looks like the four-dimensional spacetime we live in, and conforms to the predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity (which has never been disproved). I was actually reminded of the computer game "Life", where you define a starting state and a fairly simple set of rules, and let the program run to produce a world.
Additionally, as far as the authors can tell to date, the universe predicted by this theory is fractal - that is, it looks the same at any scale, as far down as one can measure. I don't know why this appeals to me, except that as far as I can tell, the living universe tends to be fractal.
I don't know if this will appeal to anyone else the way it did to me, but it fascinated me and I had to share it.