Among my recent peregrinations was a jaunt up to Santa Barbara, where I gave two talks in a row (although in different buildings, and to somewhat different audiences). Both were about attempts to weasel out of the need for dark stuff in the universe by trying to modify gravity.
The first talk, a high-energy theory seminar, was on trying to do away with dark energy by modifying gravity. I used an antiquated technology called “overhead transparencies” to give the talk itself, so there is no electronic record. If I get a chance sometime soon, I’ll post a summary of the different models I talked about.
The subsequent talk was over at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. There was a program on gravitational lensing going on, and they had asked Jim Hartle to give an overview of attempts to replace dark matter with modified gravity. Jim decided that he would be happier if I gave the talk, so it was all arranged to happen on a day I’d be visiting SB anyway. (Don’t feel bad for me; it was fun to give the talks, and they took me to a nice dinner afterwards.) I’m not really an expert on theories of gravity that do away with dark matter, but I’ve dabbled here and there, so I was able to put together a respectable colloquium-level talk.
And here it is. You can see the slides from the talk, as well as hear what I’m saying. I started somewhat lethargically, as it’s hard to switch gears quickly from one talk to another, but we built up some momentum by the end. I started quite broadly with the idea of different “gravitational degrees of freedom,” and worked my up to Bekenstein’s TeVeS model (a relativistic version of Milgrom’s MOND), explaining the empirical difficulties with clusters of galaxies, the cosmic microwave background, and most recently the Bullet Cluster. We can’t say that the idea is ruled out, but the evidence that dark matter of some sort exists is overwhelming, which removes much of the motivation for modifying gravity.
The KITP is firmly in the vanguard of putting talks online, both audio/video and reproductions of the slides. By now they have quite the extensive collection of past talks, from technical seminars to informal discussions to public lectures. Some recent categories of interest:
- String Phenomenology Program
- Applications of Gravitational Lensing Program
- Public Lectures
- Blackboard Lunches (informal introductions at a slightly more accessible level)
- Journalist in Residence (including a couple of discussions on “The String Wars,” led by George Johnson)
On Friday I’ll be at Villanova, my alma mater, giving a general talk to undergraduates on what science is all about. I’m not sure if it will be recorded, but if the yet-to-be-written slides turn out okay, I’ll put them online.