GPS, black holes, warp drives and more: Geraint Lewis on 100 years of Einstein's General Relativity

24 August 2015

Professor Geraint Lewis from SIfA spoke at the Sydney Science Festival on 'A century of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity'. The talk attracted widespread media attention due to its description of faster than light space travel, which is possible in Einstein's theory.

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity was published in 1915, making this year the 100th anniversary. More than 300 members of the public attended the talk, part of the University of Sydney's celebration of National Science week, to hear about Einstein's insight into the nature of gravity, and what it predicted, including black holes and expanding universes.

Professor Lewis showed how Einstein's theory influences our everyday life. In particular, it is essential to the accuracy of the global positioning systems (GPS), as, compared to clocks on the Earth, clocks in satellites tick at a different rate due to their speed and the very slight difference in the strength of gravity in their orbit.

Looking to the future, Professor Lewis showed how Einstein's vision of gravity offered new and novel ways of circumventing the universal speed limit, that of light, by warping space and time to allow us to travel at any speed in the cosmos, although it is not known whether such a warp drive is physically realisable.

Unfortunately, the warp drive comes with a killer downside, collecting all of the mass and radiation it encounters on the way, and releasing it as a burst of high energy when it finally slows down. While our goal might be to seek out new life and new civilisations, our use of a warp drive would ensure that every planet we encounter is fried into oblivion.

The talk attracted the attention of both Australian and international media.

Professor Lewis also gave the talk to the Western Sydney Amateur Astronomical Group at Penrith Observatory on Wednesday 19th August.

Geraint Lewis presenting at the Sydney Science Festival
Geraint Lewis presenting at the Sydney Science Festival