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Physics Colloquium - Friday, September 25th, 2009, 4:00 P.M.

E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in Room E200

Clifford M. Will
McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences
Department of Physics
Washington University in St. Louis

The Confrontation between General Relativity and Experiment

General relativity was once considered a theorist's paradise and an experimentalist's purgatory, but today experimental gravitation plays a central role in the advancement of gravitational physics. During the last decades of the 20th century, testing Einstein's theory involved the use of high-precision technology on Earth and in space, new theoretical frameworks for understanding alternative theories of gravity and a strong symbiosis between theory and experiment. We will briefly review some of the central achievements of this period. We will then discuss new themes for testing relativity that are emerging for the coming decades. These include searching for physics beyond the standard model of particles and gravitation, probing strong-field gravity, using gravitational waves as a probe of fundamental gravity, and testing Einstein at the extremes of scale.