Tuesday, Mar 19th

**Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute**
**Title: Implications of a dynamical cosmological constant **
PDF of the talk (10M)

Audio+Slides of the talk (28M)

By Jorge Pullin, LSU

Experimental cosmologists have determined that 95% of the content of the universe is not made up of ordinary matter. The vast majority of the universe consists of strange forms of matter known as dark matter and dark energy. Some people believe that in reality there is no such matter, but a modification of Einstein's general relativity is needed to explain the universe in large scales. That is, just ordinary matter with a new theory of gravity.

The cosmological constant was a term Einstein added to his equations in 1917 in a futile attempt to make the universe static (at the time it was not known the universe expands). The extra terms it implies in the equations has a behavior similar to dark energy.

Cosmologists have proposed several generalizations of Einstein's theory involving extra fields and constants in order to attempt to explain dark energy and dark matter. However, more complex theories tend to depend on extra parameters that need to be determined, limiting their predictive power. Essentially one can adjust parameters to fit any observed behavior. Also, there is a high degree of arbitrariness in how one can modify Einstein's theory.

The aim of this talk is to introduce a basic principle for the creation of generalized theories that does not involve extra fields. To give more details we have to discuss some basic concepts. Most classical equations of motion, like those of general relativity, can be derived from what is known as an "action principle". The "action" is a function of the variables of the theory such that if one requires that it be a minimum (or a maximum), the equations of the theory follow. That is, the condition for minimization (or maximization) is that the equations of the theory hold. It turns out one can add to the action of a theory some terms such that the resulting equations of motion remain unchanged. Such terms (usually multiplied times a constant) are called "topological terms". The proposal of this talk is to add to the action such terms but allow the constant that multiplies them (called "cosmological constant" in the talk, generalizing the idea of Einstein) to change with time and even possibly space. So if the term were constant we would just recover the usual Einstein theory, but when it is not, one gets a new theory.

Three such theories are proposed in the talk, with various properties discussed. In particular, the geometry they imply is more general than that of Einstein's theory, in addition to a metric to describe space-time another quantity called torsion appears. This is still early days for these theories and various properties are being worked out. In particular, cosmological models have been studied. It appears that the one of the considered "cosmological constants" appears to be clumped around ordinary matter. This is just like dark matter behaves, it tends to clump around galaxies, modifying the orbits of outer stars (this is how dark matter was detected, the stars did not move as they were supposed to given the mass of the galaxy). More complex concepts, like black holes, are yet to be worked out in the new theories as well as several other properties, but some initial glimmers of interesting possibilities are emerging.