Frs. Gabriele Gionti and Matteo Galaverni Photo: Specola Vaticana

Priest scientists at Vatican Observatory succeed in developing method to understand Big Bang

Detection of gravitational waves and other cosmological measurements tell us that Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity known as “General Relativity” is the right physics for describing the large-scale structure of the Universe today.

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(ZENIT News / Castelgandolfo (Vatican City), 03.14.2024).- Two cosmologists at the Vatican’s astronomical observatory  have made further progress in developing a new  mathematical method for understanding the Big Bang.  In a 2022 paper published in the prestigious journal  Physical Review D, Frs. Gabriele Gionti and Matteo  Galaverni (Diocese of Reggio Emilia – Guastalla, Italy)  introduced a promising new mathematical tool that  they developed for understanding the early moments  of the universe. Now they are publishing a new paper  in the European Physical Journal C.

Detection of gravitational waves and other cosmological  measurements tell us that Albert Einstein’s theory of  gravity known as “General Relativity” is the right physics for  describing the large-scale structure of the Universe today.  The idea of gravity is very old. Aristotle theorized that the  reason a rock falls to the ground is because it possesses  “gravity”, or “heaviness”—a natural and constant tendency  to move toward the center of the universe. Isaac Newton  theorized that the rock’s fall is driven by a “gravitational”  force present between all mass-having objects, including  the rock and the Earth. Einstein’s theory is that the  rock’s motion is the result of a warping of space and time  produced by the Earth’s mass. Einstein’s theory of gravity  has passed experimental tests, and can explain observed  phenomena, that Newton’s cannot.

However, questions persist about the laws of physics at the  very first moments of the Universe, and about the physics  of gravity on very small scales. Researchers have proposed  theories to combine gravity with quantum mechanics (the  physics that applies at the smallest scales). These alternative

or modified theories of gravity suggest that gravity could  behave differently than General Relativity predicts, even  regarding the large scale structure of the Universe. They are  also often employed in attempts to explain the mysterious  “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy” which astronomers now believe to comprise the vast majority of the observable  universe, but about which little is known. However, the  scientific community is divided as regards these theories.

Frs. Gionti and Galaverni show in their new paper, “On  the canonical equivalence between Jordan and Einstein frames”,  that they can transform or “map” the solution to a physical  problem from an alternate theory of gravity into General  Relativity through a mathematical trick of looking at the  problem through two different mathematical “frames”,  known as the “Jordan” and “Einstein” frames. But are the  solutions given through these two frames equally applicable  to the real world that astronomers observe? The two  priests’ work suggests both promise and limits. “The check  of whether or not the physical observables,” they write  in the paper, “calculated separately in the Einstein and  Jordan frame, reproduce the same result in both frames,  should throw light on the physical equivalence of Jordan  and Einstein frames.” They also show that there is a similar  map between alternative theories of gravity and a peculiar  behavior of gravity called “anti-Newtonian” or “anti-gravity”.

The two find this mathematical analysis of gravity personally  compelling. “It is really fascinating to try to understand the  physical laws at the very first moments of the universe,” they  say. “The search for new physical laws and the endeavor to  fully grasp them is a process that fills our minds and hearts  with a lot of joy.” Although sometimes, they note, it can be  quite frustrating. “It is a way to contribute—together with  all the scientific community—to answer some fundamental  questions: who are we? where did we come from? what  is our origin? Furthermore, for a person of faith, it is  a wonderful possibility to interpreter his research as a  discover of new traces or signs of the beauty and of the  elegance of God in creating the universe—despite our  extremely limited knowledge!”.

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