M-Theory, Cosmology and Quantum Field Theory

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics

Abstract

Our STFC research programme investigates the fundamental physics that describes matter, interactions and spacetime, focusing on the interrelated essential ideas of M-theory, quantum field theory and cosmology.

M-theory, which subsumes string theory and supergravity theory, is our central approach to unifying Einstein's theory of General Relativity with the Standard Model of particle physics. One of the most remarkable features of M-theory is that it incorporates dual descriptions of non-perturbative Yang-Mills theories in terms of strings and branes, leading to profound connections between black holes and quantum field theory and also to new insights into strong coupling phenomena such as quark confinement. These connections will continue to be explored in a number of different ways, including using supersymmetry, novel geometric constructions, exactly integrable quantum field theory models and theories with massless higher-spin excitations. An ultimate goal is to determine the fundamental degrees of freedom of M-theory which would have profound implications for particle physics phenomenology. Using both analytical and numerical techniques we will construct and study black-hole solutions with novel properties that have important potential applications to both the quark-gluon plasma and poorly understood systems in condensed matter such as high-temperature superconductors, exotic metals and insulators.

Cosmology continues to be a highly vibrant area of study driven by a wealth of new data, in particular the recent ground-breaking discovery of gravitational waves. Key clues to the structure and the origin of the universe are to be found in the details of the cosmic microwave background. This will provide one focus of our activities both through analysing data and by studying the cosmological implications of the Higgs field and extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics in inflationary scenarios. A central question we will address is what information can be extracted from new gravity waves measures, in particular how this constrains models of gravity and dark energy. We will look to characterise modified theories of gravity, for instance where the graviton has a mass, and study their cosmological features, and more generally study how to extract imprints of quantum gravity, such as fundamental discreteness of spacetime, on cosmological data. We also continue to develop novel, global statistical tools that draw on many different experiments in order to extract the strongest possible constraints on models.

Planned Impact

The research proposal is aimed at understanding matter, space and time and the origin of the universe at the most fundamental level. Although past experience shows that fundamental research can often translate in technical advances and hence economic impact, the timescale and path is almost impossible to predict. However, we can be sure that the current proposal will have an immediate societal impact through public engagement. This is possible because the fundamental, cutting-edge nature of the research inspires and attracts people, because we have outstanding track-records in public engagement, and because the planned pathways to impact are designed to exploit these opportunities. The direct beneficiaries are, specifically, individual members of the public who enjoy and are stimulated by acquiring new knowledge about science and, more broadly, society as a whole, including policy makers, through building the widest possible base of support for science. We aim to motivate young people, including underrepresented groups such as women, to study science, to ensure we have brilliant young scientists entering the field in the UK. Explaining our research and its significance also deepens our understanding of our work and allows us to reflect on its direction. In the struggle to communicate to the public the concepts that lie at the heart of theoretical research, in seeking new ways to frame our results and situate them in the fabric of human intellectual history, we ourselves can arrive at new insights.

A second concrete impact, and concomitant group of beneficiaries, is the training of highly skilled individuals: the PDRAs. The young researchers who will be trained typically begin their careers as excellent undergraduate performers who are motivated to answer the most fundamental `Big Questions' that our research addresses. The training that they receive as they participate in the research means that they emerge with the highest degree of technical expertise, experience of collaboration in a competitive environment, as well as the ability to direct their own research, and in addition significant skills in in public engagement. These are qualities that are vital to their future careers, be they in theoretical physics or modern business and industry.

Publications

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Aalbers J (2020) Solar neutrino detection sensitivity in DARWIN via electron scattering in The European Physical Journal C

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Adam A (2022) Rotating black holes in Einstein-aether theory in Classical and Quantum Gravity

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Alberte L (2021) QED positivity bounds in Physical Review D

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Alberte L (2020) Positivity bounds and the massless spin-2 pole in Physical Review D

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Alberte L (2022) Reverse Bootstrapping: IR Lessons for UV Physics. in Physical review letters

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Alday F (2021) The Pollica perspective on the (super)-conformal world in Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical

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Alexander S (2020) Gravity waves in parity-violating Copernican universes in Physical Review D

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Alexander S (2021) A generalized Hartle-Hawking wave function in Classical and Quantum Gravity

 
Description Beyond the Big Bang: Sofia Science Festival which will take place 15-16 May 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Beyond the Big Bang: Sofia Science Festival which will take place 15-16 May 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.britishcouncil.bg/en/sofia-science-festival/programme/events/2021/beyond-big-bang
 
Description "Ask a String Theorist" event June 27 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact online event Q&A about sring theory. Part of the major annual String Theory conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description "Autores" interviewee 1 hour, TVi/SPA, with Carlos Mendes 13/10 https://tviplayer.iol.pt/programa/autores/556c98760cf234bd4ef57632/video/618e3eee0cf22fee94510019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact "Autores" interviewee 1 hour, TVi/SPA, with Carlos Mendes 13/10
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://tviplayer.iol.pt/programa/autores/556c98760cf234bd4ef57632/video/618e3eee0cf22fee94510019
 
Description 15/10 talk at the Oeiras sci O que havia antes de haver tempo, Keynote speaker https://www.fica.pt/events/fisica-recrcivf6gturpi8i-1 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 15/10 talk at the Oeiras sci O que havia antes de haver tempo, Keynote speaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.fica.pt/events/fisica-recrcivf6gturpi8i-1
 
Description Advisor (curator) to the science festival of oeiras Oct 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Advisor (curator) to the science festival of oeiras Oct 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Article in Quanta Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.quantamagazine.org/claudia-de-rham-slayed-gravitys-ghosts-20200818/
 
Description CMTV interview "Falar Global" 15/10 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact CMTV interview "Falar Global" 15/10
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Constellations 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact ``Many worlds''article in theatre programme for ``Constellations'' Vaudeville theatre 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/a-play-in-parallel-universes
 
Description Contibution to Elke Krystufek book curated by Stayinart 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Elke Krystufek: Contibution to Elke Krystufek book curated by Stayinart
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Contributed to BBC Radio 4 programme on Modernism, talking about Einstein and Relativity, 04 Feb 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contributed to BBC Radio 4 programme on Modernism, talking about Einstein and Relativity, 04 Feb 2022
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0013zsb
 
Description Contribution to Quanta Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach on gravity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-gravity-is-not-like-the-other-forces-20200615/
 
Description Cover Story for New Scientist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach on gravity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://institutions.newscientist.com/article/mg24732902-500-what-does-gravity-weigh-the-surprise-an...
 
Description Curator of science festival FIC.A 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact https://www.fica.pt/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.fica.pt
 
Description Discovery Channel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed for How the Universe Works season 10, Discovery Channel
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Feature article at Science&Vie 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Feature article in Science & Vie, Europe's number one scientific news magazine, reached a large audience of teenagers and general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.science-et-vie.com/sciences-fondamentales/gravitation-et-si-elle-avait-une-masse-59391
 
Description Friends of Imperial College talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk "Higgs cosmology"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBZ3ltkddGc
 
Description Interview with "FisicaMente", Physics Students site in Portugal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgFAeeGg2w99_LdEBezyKbg
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description M-theory, black holes and cosmology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Special issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society A 'Quantum gravity, branes and M-theory' dedicated to Michael J. Duff on the occasion of his 70th birthday organized by Leron Borsten, Alessio Marrani, Christopher Pope and Kellogg Stelle. Includes tributes from Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg, Fields Medalist Edward Witten and others.

Most individual articles appeared in the usual monthly issues of Proc. Roy. Soc over the period 2020-2021 in addition to the special issue March 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021,2022
URL https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspa.2020.0786
 
Description New Scientist Public Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dissemination, awareness for scientific methods and thinking
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.newscientist.com/science-events/gravity-de-rham/
 
Description News Article in online magazine Oct 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Work on causal set cosmology featured in an online article "What if the universe had no beginning?"
11 October 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.livescience.com/universe-had-no-beginning-time
 
Description Nomadas do Pensamento, opening of cycle of debates, with musician Pedro Abrunhosa and politician Pacheco Pereira. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nomadas do Pensamento, opening of cycle of debates, with musician Pedro Abrunhosa and politician Pacheco Pereira.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Physical Society Club 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Increased interest in related subject areas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Podcast interview at "Mind Unplugged" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview on the Mind Unplugged podcast. Topics discussed include theoretical physics and philosophy of science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Presentation as part of concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, London, UK, 4 Oct, 2020. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation as part of concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, London, UK, 4 Oct, 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Public Talk for Chemical and Physical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Increased interest in related subject areas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOLaXk4njqE
 
Description Public lecture, `Challenging Gravity' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture, Challenging gravity, discussing my research over the past 15 years. There was live audience of 100 people and it was broadcast on YouTube with more than 3000 views from the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lPaGnkuLbY
 
Description Public talk for `Friends of Imperial College' Cosmology and Dark Energy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture on Dark Energy and Cosmic Acceleration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.friendsofimperial.org.uk/events/cosmology-and-dark-energy/
 
Description Radio 3 "Free Thinking" show Oct 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Contributed to episode of BBC Radio 3 programme "Free Thinking", on Time travel, 28 Oct 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0010wxm
 
Description Schhol talk St Pauls girls school Jan 31 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk on black holes - many questions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Scientific expert for Los Angeles Times on movie Tenet 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Provided Physics insight to the community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2020-09-04/science-christopher-nolan-tenet-p...
 
Description Speaker and Panelist at Art and Idea Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://howthelightgetsin.org/global/ideas-and-culture/speakers/claudia-de-rham
 
Description Steven Weinberg: Selected papers with commentaries 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited by Lars Brink (formerly Chair, Physics Nobel Prize Committee) on behalf World Scientific Press to edit the Selected Papers of Steven Weinberg
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description The Universe speaks in numbers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Podcast Interview with Graham Farmelo

``In The Universe Speaks in Numbers award-winning science writer Graham Farmelo is in conversation with some of the great names in modern physics and mathematics''
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-universe-speaks-in-numbers/id1479389232
 
Description Women Luminaries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact 100 people attended debate and engage in discussions on research in gravitational physics and academia. Recording available on youtube
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCUDToNuRw4
 
Description Youtube Channel Scientia Egregia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Lectures on theoretical physics given in livestreams on Youtube. Viewed on average by 10000 people. Total views >100000 hours.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020,2021,2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFaJoQu0TP7je5HchCNjHA