The Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics was created to address
many of the fundamental questions of the new century involving matter
and spacetime. The Center aims to attract the very top young
researchers in the field, as faculty, postdoctoral fellows and visiting
scholars, to create an exciting environment fostering creative new
ideas. Experts on particle physics, cosmology and string theory,
traditional strengths of Berkeley, will be housed together in a single
Particles and their interactions are governed by symmetries; sometimes
by symmetries with imperfections. The defects in the symmetries are
crucial, leading to some particles being heavy and some light, some
interactions being strong and others weak, and to much else besides.
What new force causes these imperfections in the symmetry? This force
is quite unlike the known gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and
weak forces, and the present theoretical challenge to understand it
will soon be resolved by experiments in the United States and Europe.
The new force may involve a new field filling all space — as if the
whole universe was bathed in something like a magnetic field — or it
may herald a new understanding of space and time. An earlier revolution
in our understanding of space and time was Einstein's 1905 Theory of
Relativity, with unfamiliar notions leading to profound consequences,
for example for nuclear energy and antimatter. As we draw towards the
centenary of this discovery, perhaps in our own time we will discover
supermatter or excitations of matter proclaiming the existence of extra
dimensions of space quite unlike the large ones so familiar to us.
It is commonly believed that these familiar dimensions of space became
large during an early era of the universe when length scales underwent
a period of exponential inflation. What is the physical theory
underlying such catastrophic early cosmic behaviour, and how can it be
tested? From studies of the gravitational behaviour of the universe as
a whole, we have learnt some remarkable results: most of the matter in
the universe does not shine and is dark, and there is a field energy
pervading all space causing the universe to expand at an ever faster
rate. What are the mysterious dark matter and dark energy, which
dominate the universe, but are so unlike the particles and fields that
we measure in the lab on Earth?
String Theory and Quantum Gravity
The physics of particles and the physics of the universe must be one.
The quantum realm and the geometric spacetime realm of gravity must be
reconciled. The reconciliation, which eluded Bohr and Einstein, can now
be glimpsed in string theory. Despite considerable progress of the last
two decades, string theory remains in its infancy. How do the familiar
electron and photon emerge as the low energy limits of the oscillation
of the string? How could the theory have produced an era of cosmic
inflation, followed by our more gentle times of a calmer expanding
universe? What keys are needed to unlock the potential of the theory,
allowing calculations of particle masses and force strengths? What new
unexpected phenomena might it predict to be lurking near at hand?
List of publications from our group
Other Research Groups We Interact With