Heard on Campus: Arlie Petters at the Forum

March 06, 2009

"Space is three-dimensional. We take it for granted, and Einstein's theory (of relativity) is built on this assumption. What about the possibility that there is an extra dimension to space? Can there be something beyond length, width and height. 'Braneworld' theory tells us yes, and this is what theoretical physicists are taking up today. In Braneworld, our universe is a membrane ('brane') floating in a five-dimesional world (time plus our-dimensional space). Particles and forces, except for gravity, are stuck on our brane."

— Arlie O. Petters, professor of mathematics and physics at Duke University, speaking Friday (March 6) at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel as part of the Penn State Forum Speaker Series. Petters added that beings in a fifth dimension would be able to see inside a closed room, enter a safe without opening it and come extremely close to a person without being seen. Petters' research on gravitational lensing deals with how light is affected by the warping of space and time. He was the first to develop the mathematical theory of gravitational lensing, which brought powerful methods from pure mathematics to bear on astronomy. Petters also pioneered new applications of gravitational lensing in physics, predicting effects that probe the nature of spacetime around black holes and developing tests of gravitational theories like Einstein's general relativity and hyperspace gravity models.

  • IMAGE: Annemarie Mountz
Last Updated November 18, 2010