general relativity

How to catch those elusive gravitational waves.

Space is the stage on which physics happens. It's unaffected by what happens in it and it would still be there if everything in it disappeared. This is how we learn to think about space at school. But the idea is as novel as it is out-dated.

A team of physicists have curbed the hope that quantum physics might be squared with common sense. At least if we want to hang on to Einstein's highly respected theory of relativity. Their result concerns what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance" and it may soon be possible to test their prediction in the lab.

The holy grail for 21st century physics is to produce a unified theory of everything that can describe the world at every level, from the tiniest particles to the largest galaxies. Currently the strongest contender for such a theory is something called M-theory. So what is this supposed mother of all theories all about?

That geometry should be relevant to physics is no surprise — after all, space is the arena in which physics happens. What is surprising, though, is the extent to which the geometry of space actually determines physics and just how exotic the geometric structure of our Universe appears to be. Plus met up with mathematician Shing-Tung Yau to find out more.

And what are gravitational waves?
With online socialising and alternative realities like Second Life it may seem as if reality has become a whole lot bigger over the last few years. In one branch of theoretical physics, though, things seem to be going the other way. String theorists have been developing the idea that the space and time we inhabit, including ourselves, might be nothing more than an illusion, a hologram conjured up by a reality which lacks a crucial feature of the world as we perceive it: the third dimension. Plus talks to Juan Maldacena to find out more.
The mathematical maps in theoretical physics have been highly successful in guiding our understanding of the universe at the largest and smallest scales. Linking these two scales together is one of the golden goals of theoretical physics. But, at the very edges of our understanding of these fields, one of the most controversial areas of physics lies where these maps merge: the cosmological constant problem.
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