Student: Kenneth Heitritter, PhD student in Physics, University of Iowa
Faculty Advisor: Vincent G. J. Rodgers
Cosmological and Quantum Gravitational Implications of Projective Connections
Einstein’s theory of gravity, known as general relativity, is one of the most robustly tested physical theories of the modern-day. Even so, it is not without its shortcomings. Namely, general relativity is known as a classical theory of physics and therefore does not take into account the fundamentally quantum nature of all physics. Much effort has been put into the development of a quantum theory of gravity in the forms of string theory and loop quantum gravity. My research is concerned with understanding the implications of a somewhat overlooked physical field, which was first noticed in two-dimensional quantum gravity. This field is known as the diffeomorphism field and has recently been shown to arise as a component in a so-called projective connection. By building a dynamical theory of these projective connections, one finds both Einstein’s theory of general relativity as well as additional contributions from the diffeomorphism field. Under certain assumptions, I show that this additional field can give rise to a model that fits all experimental data regarding cosmological inflation, a period in the early the universe when rapid expansion occurred. This discovery could shed light on issues of quantum gravity which known methods have missed.