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In early 2010 I attended this inaugural lecture by string theorist- Prof. Mavromatos entitled 'MAGIC strings'. In it he proposes that some string theory models may violate Lorentz symmetry at the Planck scale resulting in a kind-of foamy spacetime that could be observed by differing arrival times of photons of different energies reaching us from distant astronomical sources. See http://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/events_details.php?year=2010&event_id=2178 or here for one of the papers: http://iopscience.iop.org/1742-6596/174/1/012016

Furthermore, in 'Cycle's of Time' that I read recently, Prof. Sir Roger Penrose mentions (page 203) that Wheeler and others have strongly argued that if we could examine spacetime at the Planck scale we would see a turbulent chaotic situation (from vacuum fluctuations of the quantum fields I suppose) or perhaps a discrete granular one. Penrose goes on to list some other approaches that may suggest how this discrete structure may manifest itself. Loosely transcribed these are: spin foams, casual sets, non-commutative geometry, Machian theories, twistor theory or strings and membranes existing in some higher-dimensional geometry...

I have studied some QM, introductory QFT and the Standard Model as well as some basic GR but I have no formal experience of string theory. My questions are therefore:

- What's involved with each of the above approaches? I.e. in what way does the spacetime become discretised? (Particularly in string theory)

- Are there any other popular(ish) approaches that should be added to the list?

- Supplementary query, with GR being a background-independent theory, I fail to see how one can end up with discretised spacetime without it being a pre-defined background onto which a theory of the dynamics would have to be 'bolted-on'??

Please forgive my ignorance if what I have said is misinformed, all comments and elucidations would be most welcome.

Furthermore, in 'Cycle's of Time' that I read recently, Prof. Sir Roger Penrose mentions (page 203) that Wheeler and others have strongly argued that if we could examine spacetime at the Planck scale we would see a turbulent chaotic situation (from vacuum fluctuations of the quantum fields I suppose) or perhaps a discrete granular one. Penrose goes on to list some other approaches that may suggest how this discrete structure may manifest itself. Loosely transcribed these are: spin foams, casual sets, non-commutative geometry, Machian theories, twistor theory or strings and membranes existing in some higher-dimensional geometry...

I have studied some QM, introductory QFT and the Standard Model as well as some basic GR but I have no formal experience of string theory. My questions are therefore:

- What's involved with each of the above approaches? I.e. in what way does the spacetime become discretised? (Particularly in string theory)

- Are there any other popular(ish) approaches that should be added to the list?

- Supplementary query, with GR being a background-independent theory, I fail to see how one can end up with discretised spacetime without it being a pre-defined background onto which a theory of the dynamics would have to be 'bolted-on'??

Please forgive my ignorance if what I have said is misinformed, all comments and elucidations would be most welcome.

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