Gravitation and Cosmology Group
Roberto Emparan
 ICREA Research
Professor
 Fields of research: Classical and Quantum Gravity, String Theory,
Black Holes
 Publication list from SPIRES
 Personal webpage: Myself at ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced
Studies)
Research
In broad terms, my research aims at the
elucidation of problems of quantum gravity, and in particular at developing the
interface between String Theory and General Relativity.
Black holes are our best best guide towards
understanding the properties of a quantum theory of gravity. A deep lesson
that has been extracted from their study is that the highenergy behaviour in
a theory of gravity is drastically different than in nongravitational
quantum field theories. In particular, quantum theories of gravity are holographic: they are formulated in
terms of a nongravitational theory that is defined at the boundary of the spacetime.
These insights are explicitly realized in the AdS/CFT
correspondence, which is arguably the deepest development in theoretical
physics of the last twenty years.
Therefore gravity is not a fundamental interaction, but emerges holographically out of certain classes of strongly
coupled nongravitational theories. This idea can be seen as providing a
means for constructing quantum theories of gravity. But it can also be turned
around to the effect that General Relativity provides the appropriate theoretical
tool to describe the dynamics of certain stronglycoupled systems, in a
regime inaccessible to the conventional perturbative techniques. This is an
astonishing example of how research into a subject as seemingly esoteric as
quantum gravity can lead to conclusions applicable to more conventional and
potentially accessible domains.
These ideas provide the background for my main research interest:
understanding better the properties of gravity, both for its use as a
theoretical tool, and for what one may learn about how to formulate quantum
theories of gravity, in other words,
what is the structure of spacetime at its most fundamental level. This
includes quite naturally the study of General Relativity and its black holes,
in an arbitrary number of dimensions and in the theories that naturally
incorporate the ideas of holography, namely, String and MTheory. Over the
years I have made several contributions to these subjects, as you can see
from my publication list.
Black holes in Higher Dimensions and in
String Theory
I like to stress the fact that the theoretical study of black hole
solutions of Einstein's theory of General Relativity has proven to be, over
the years, an extremely fruitful endeavor. Although
this study has invariably appeared at first sight to be of arcane academic
interest with no clear connection to observations, the history of the subject
repeatedly shows that each new black hole solution was the right answer
waiting for the appropriate question. This was certainly the case in
astrophysics, where black holes play nowadays an indispensable role, and in
recent years it is proving to be the case, too, with the study of quantum
aspects of black holes and of black holes in String Theory. The AdS/CFT correspondence sprang directly from the study of
rather sophisticated classes of black holes in String Theory. As I mentioned
above, black holes have become nowadays our main source of insight into the properties
of (nongravitational) systems such as the quarkgluon plasma, and possibly
also condensed matter systems close to quantum criticality. This is therefore
a theoretical subject of study that can, rather unexpectedly, have an impact
into disciplines that previously had been regarded as completely separate.
This past experience prompts us to investigate the fundamentals of
black holes in General Relativity at large, and in String Theory, without
necessarily narrowing down our focus onto immediate applications with
observational consequences. Even if these are highly desirable, we believe
that without a deep and strong understanding of the fundamentals of the
field, the unexpected applications cannot develop. At the very least, our
comprehension of several basic problems in String Theory and Quantum Gravity
will improve.
A longterm line of research that I have initiated together with a
worldwide group of collaborators aims at unravelling the structure of General
Relativity in dimensions higher than four. Even in vacuum (i.e., pure
gravity) the dynamics of gravity, and in particular
about its black holes in higher dimensions exhibits a structure much richer
than in four dimensions. One of our first results was striking: we found
solutions for black holes with the shape of a donut, called black rings,
that exhibit entirely new qualitative features.
Over the last years we have made great advances in this field, and our
understanding of higherdimensional
black holes is now much more mature than just ten years ago. Recently we
have developed a new viewpoint that provides both new concepts and new
techniques to characterize and study higherdimensional black holes, the
socalled blackfold
approach. Not only has it allowed to uncover large
new classes of black holes, but it also provides a fascinating link with
fluid dynamics, very much in the same spirit as the fluid/gravity
correspondence in AdS/CFT.
As
in every new developing field, unexpected results are being turned up at every
corner. Stay tuned for more.
