Lee Smolin

Penn State

smolin@phys.psu.edu

On November 8-10, at University Park, the Fourth Annual Penn State Conference took place. This year's conference was titled ``New voices in relativity and quantum gravity'' and featured plenary speakers that were at the postdoctoral level in their careers. It also had short oral contributions in the afternoons which were allotted in a first-come, first-serve basis, much along the model of the Pacific Coast and Midwest meetings.

The plenary speakers were Greg Cook (Cornell), Simonetta Frittelli (Pittsburgh), Gabriela González (MIT-LIGO), Juan Maldacena (Rutgers), Hans-Peter Nollert (Penn State), Amanda Peet (Princeton), Thomas Thiemann (Harvard).

Between them they discussed new developments in gravitational physics, on both the quantum and classical side. González told us about the status of the construction of the LIGo detectors, while Cook and Nollert reviewed the status of calculations to model astrophysical events such as colliding black holes that may provide signals for LIGO. The important new developments in string theory, that have made it possible to compute the entropies of extermal and near extremal black holes were the subjects of the talks by Maldecena and Peet. Thomas Thiemann described his recent work in non-perturbative quantum gravity which results in the construction of at least one version of quantum general relativity, while Frittelli described the work of herself and her collaborators which leads to a reformulation of general relativity in terms of the dynamics of null surfaces.

There were also a large number (41!) of contributed talks, spanning most areas of interest in relativity.

Part of the idea of the meeting was to launch in the East a series of meetings of similar spirit to that of the Midwest and Pacific Coast meetings. The next such conference will be organized in Syracuse University next year.

Tue Feb 4 22:28:54 EST 1997