Alternative Gravity Theories

Einstein’s theory of relativity unifies a 3-dimensional space and a 1-dimensional time as a spacetime and describes gravity as a fabric of curved spacetime. This picture has been very successful in explaining and predicting many gravitational phenomena. Experimentally, however, we do not know how gravity behaves at distances shorter than 0.01 mm. At shorter distances, gravity may behave completely differently from what we expect. For example there may be hidden dimensions at short distances. In fact, many theories, including superstring theories and M-theory, require the existence of such extra dimensions. Extra dimensions may exist everywhere in our universe, but they are somehow hidden from us. One possibility recently investigated very actively is called the brane-world scenario. In this scenario our universe is supposed to be a 3-dimensional surface, called brane, floating in higher-dimensional space. Although we cannot see extra-dimensions directly, we may hope to detect some indirect evidence of extra-dimensions in high-energy experiments or cosmological observations.

Gravity at very long distances (for example, billions of light-years) may also be as weird as at short distances. Precision observational data recently revealed that the expansion of our universe is accelerating. If Einstein’s theory is correct, this requires that more than 70% of our universe is filled with invisible, negative pressure, energy. This energy is named dark energy, but we do not know what it really is. This situation reminds us of a story in the 19th century: when the perihelion shift of Mercury was discovered, some people hypothesized the existence of an invisible planet called Vulcan, a so-to-speak dark planet, to explain the anomalous behavior of Mercury. However, as we all know, the dark planet was not real and the correct explanation was to change gravity, from Newton’s theory to Einstein’s. With this in mind, we wonder if we can change Einstein’s theory at long distances to address the mystery of dark energy.

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