Expo/Science & Industry/Spacetime Wrinkles

| Back | Map | Glossary | Information | Expo Home |


Einstein's celebrated theory of gravity was so far ahead of its time that the mathematical and computational techniques of this century have fallen far short of solving the equations that describe it -- until now. Einstein and his contemporaries knew that General Relativity contained within it a predictive, quantitative description of gravity and the evolution of the systems it governs, including black holes, gravitati onal waves, and the universe itself. Unfortunately, the mathematics underlying the theory were so encumbered with unimaginably complicated formulae that exact solutions to its realistic applications could not be found.

Now, after nearly a century of intense study by some of the world's most brilliant mathematicians and physicists -- Hilbert, Dirac, Chandrasekhar, Einstein himself, and many others -- full solutions to the complex equations of Einstein's theory of gravity are at last in sight. These solutions will not be analytical, but will instead generally take the form of numerical data generated on powerful computers, or dynamic representations of this data as animated scientific visualizations. Coupled with novel experimental approaches for detecting gravitational radiation, these numerical solutions will provide answers to many elusive and scientifically important questions:

As seen through the prism of history, Newton invented the mathematics of the calculus by necessity in order to describe his theory of gravity. His theory enabled generations of scientists to predict, in precise detail, the acceleration of an apple falling to earth, the motions of planets around the Sun, and the movements of galaxies through the universe. As such, the calculus revolutionized not only the understanding of physical law, but also every branch of s cience, mathematics, and engineering.

Supercomputers are now transforming the practice of modern science much as calculus did for the science of the last several centuries. Thanks to advanced computers, General Relativity is finding its rightful place as the descriptive theory of grav ity -- the dominant force in the universe.

Newton's theory of gravity laid the foundations of astronomy during the past three centuries. Through supercomputer simulations, general relativity will become closely coupled with the astronomical observations of the next century.

Larry Smarr, NCSA/Univ. of Illinois, on-camera
Movie/Sound Byte
QuickTime Movie (1.1 MB); Sound File (637K); Text

As a result, science as a whole will arrive at a much deeper understanding of the forces governing the Relativistic Universe. And humanity will step nearer to fulfilling Einstein's d ream of answering that ultimate question...

Can gravity and all other forces be unified into a single "theory of everything" describing all of Nature's physical laws?

Spacetime Wrinkles Home Page

Exhibit Map
Information Center
Science Expo Home Page

Copyright 1995, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

NCSA. Last modified, 11/7/95