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Loop quantum gravity (LQG) is a theory that attempts to describe the quantum properties of the universe and gravity. It is also a theory of quantum spacetime because, according to general relativity, gravity is a manifestation of the geometry of spacetime. LQG is an attempt to merge quantum mechanics and general relativity. The main output of the theory is a physical picture of space where space is granular. The granularity is a direct consequence of the quantization. It has the same nature as the granularity of the photons in the quantum theory of electromagnetism and the discrete levels of the energy of the atoms. Here, it is space itself that is discrete. In other words, there is a minimum distance possible to travel through it.

More precisely, space can be viewed as an extremely fine fabric or network "woven" of finite loops. These networks of loops are called spin networks. The evolution of a spin network over time is called a spin foam. The predicted size of this structure is the Planck length, which is approximately 10−35 meters. According to the theory, there is no meaning to distance at scales smaller than the Planck scale. Therefore, LQG predicts that not just matter, but space itself, has an atomic structure.

Today LQG is a vast area of research, developing in several directions, which involves about 30 research groups worldwide.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> They all share the basic physical assumptions and the mathematical description of quantum space. The full development of the theory is being pursued in two directions: the more traditional canonical loop quantum gravity, and the newer covariant loop quantum gravity, more commonly called spin foam theory.

Research into the physical consequences of the theory is proceeding in several directions. Among these, the most well-developed is the application of LQG to cosmology, called loop quantum cosmology (LQC). LQC applies LQG ideas to the study of the early universe and the physics of the Big Bang. Its most spectacular consequence is that the evolution of the universe can be continued beyond the Big Bang. The Big Bang appears thus to be replaced by a sort of cosmic Big Bounce.


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