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Scientists meet in Vancouver to talk gravity

By Stefania Seccia

Levon Pogosian, physicist and professor at Simon Fraser University, is chair of the Testing Gravity 2015 conference in Vancouver that seeks to challenge Einstein's theory.
(Stefania Seccia, 24 hours)

Levon Pogosian, physicist and professor at Simon Fraser University, is chair of the Testing Gravity 2015 conference in Vancouver that seeks to challenge Einstein's theory. (Stefania Seccia, 24 hours)

Some 100 cosmologists, astrophysicists, atomic, nuclear and particle physicists have come out to see what others are doing to better understand the properties of gravity at the Test Gravity 2015 conference until Jan. 17, according to its chair Levon Pogosian, Simon Fraser of University professor and physicist.

The researchers meeting at SFU’s Harbour Centre are not only discussing and testing Einstein’s theory of gravity, but also reconciling the differences between it and quantum physics. One hundred years ago, Einstein predicted that gravity goes through everything.

“What is unique about our conference is that we managed to bring together leading world experts working on all the different types of tests of gravity,” he said. “You have to realize that normally, someone creating anti-matter at CERN would rarely talk to an astronomer, someone building a gravity detector.”

Rachel Bean, a cosmologist with Cornell University, said the last 10 years of gravity research has exploded in activity when testing in different environments - leading everyone to realize “that we don’t know it very well at all in essence, fundamentally.”

“This (research) is something that is involving people from across the world at the moment,” she said. “We really don’t have a lot of opportunities to communicate and yet we’re all trying to work in a common area.”

Bean said to understand the 95% of the matter of the universe that can’t be measured or tested is by looking into the cosmos, understanding the properties of gravity and therefore “understanding our place in the universe.”

Astrophysicist Brian Keating, from University of California San Diego, is working on an experiment using the waves of gravity to image the universe to the “trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of second after the big bang.”

“It gives us deep insights into the nature of the universe, the matter of the universe, energy of the universe,” he said. “It’s a very active field and there’s lots of people in the hunt for these (gravity) waves in the galaxy, and it’s exciting to be in this city and to have all these great theorists and experimentalists all in one place – a one-stop shopping for cosmology nerds like me.”

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