Sunday, November 14, 2004

2004 Promises to be an Exceptionally Exciting Year in General Relativity and Gravitation

But you shouldn't imagine the mood as one of breathless anticipation. At least for the physicists present, a better description would be something like "skeptical curiosity". None of them seemed to believe that Hawking could suddenly shed new light on a problem that has been attacked from many angles for several decades. One reason is that Hawking's best work was done almost 30 years ago. A string theorist I know said that thanks to work relating anti-deSitter space and conformal field theory - the so-called "AdS-CFT" hypothesis - string theorists had become convinced that no information is lost by black holes. Thus, Hawking had been feeling strong pressure to fall in line and renounce his previous position, namely that information is lost. A talk announcing this would come as no big surprise.

I couldn't help but look through previous discussion on the subject here to try and get caught up on who thinks what, and what has been accomplished.

2004 promises to be an exceptionally exciting year in General Relativity and Gravitation: the LIGO/VIRGO/GEO/TAMA network of detectors has begun generating scientific results, ushering in the era of gravitational wave astronomy. These detectors will search for gravitational wave signals of the collision of black holes, neutron star mergers and other astronomical events previously undetectable. The fundamentally new science of gravitational wave astronomy opens up a new window on the universe. Up until now, astronomy has relied on observations of electromagnetic wave signals (e.g. visible light, radio waves). The detection of gravitational waves offers a completely new perspective on the universe: they will enable us to "hear" the cosmic orchestra as well as to see it! GR17 will provide the scientific community with one of the earliest opportunities to discuss the first scientific results of this era.

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