100 Years after its Birth

Seven Pines Symposium XIX

May 13-17, 2015
The Outing Lodge at Pine Point, Stillwater, Minnesota

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The 100th anniversary of the birth of General Relativity (GR) offers a nice opportunity to look back over the story of post-Einstein developments. The subject went through a remarkably quiet period from the 1920's until the 1950's, marked only by a few visionary developments in cosmology. However the late 1950s-early 1960s saw a remarkable resurgence, culminating in revolutionary changes arising from a new understanding of the global properties of spacetime and its singularities. The idea of black holes went from being a scarcely credible consequence of Einstein's field equations to a central topic in astrophysics - we now know that these are inevitable in our universe, and that supermassive black holes control the evolution of most sizeable galaxies. Our understanding of classical GR has radically changed. A variety of experiments and observations have confirmed its predictions in the weak field regime to extraordinary accuracy; and its consequences for strong field phenomena have become a central part of astrophysics and cosmology. A combination of theory and observation have led cosmology back to the very beginning of the universe - the microwave background, discovered in 1964, has become a central tool in pursuing this.

However the problem of marrying quantum theory with gravity - perhaps the most important problem in physics - remains unsolved. The topics of Hawking radiation and black hole information have occupied a central role in theoretical attempts to solve this problem, which range from string theory to loop quantum gravity, with many other ideas besides. This issue promises to be central to 21st century physics and cosmology. And yet many of the conceptual problems are not new, and some were very familiar to Einstein himself.