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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Dr. Glenn Starkman
Case Western Reserve University

Project Title

Can Cosmology Survive Without Birkhoff's Law?

Project Summary

General Relativity (GR) is one of the great intellectual triumphs of the 20th century. Einstein transformed space and time into a single dynamic entity, space-time, that affects the motion of the objects in it, yet is altered by them. But looking at galaxies and clusters we find matter in them moving too fast for gravity to hold them together. Dark matter is a possible explanation that we spend great effort searching for. GR also tells us that the cosmic expansion should be slowed by matter's gravity; yet it accelerates. Instead of abandoning GR, we invent dark energy. Perhaps GR is wrong on large scales. Alternative theories are emerging that are testable. But a fundamental problem is largely ignored: GR has special properties that enable us to calculate the behaviour of stars, galaxies, etc. Among these is Birkrhoff's Theorem. Loosely, it says the gravity inside a region is independent of the matter outside. Without this, the acceleration at one place could depend on all the masses in the universe. No GR alternative has a Birkhoff's Theorem. Can we compute reliably in these theories? If so, how? If not, what do we do?

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