Beyond Einstein: Quantum Gravity and Dark Energy

Dr. William A. Hiscock
Department of Physics
Montana State University

Since the theory of General Relativity (GR) was developed by Einstein in 1916, it has widely been viewed as the most “beautiful” of all physical theories, explaining gravity purely in terms of the curved geometry of spacetime. The search for an extension of GR to a quantum theory of gravity has been widely viewed as the most important task facing theoretical physics for the past 30 years. In this talk, I will trace some of the most noteworthy developments in that search, including the theoretical discovery of black hole evaporation by Hawking in 1974, the ever-growing interest in string theory, and the recent observational evidence showing that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This acceleration implies that over 70% of the mass-energy in the universe is in some form of unknown bizarre “dark energy”, which may provide new clues to aid in our understanding of the quantum aspects of gravity.