Conference of the Southern African Relativity Society

N T Bishop, University of South Africa, Pretoria

The Southern African Relativity Society was founded in 1995 at a meeting at the University of Zululand. This, the second conference of the society, was held at the University of South Africa, Pretoria, on 6 and 7 February 1997. The conference was organized by the Council of the society (G.F.R. Ellis (President), A. Beesham, N.T. Bishop, W. Lesame and S.D. Maharaj), with local organizing committee consisting of N.T. Bishop, F.E.S. Bullock and S.D. Maharaj. The conference was funded by the University of South Africa and the Foundation for Research Development.

There were 31 delegates at the conference: mainly from South Africa, but also from Egypt, India, Italy, Malawi, Nigeria, Russia, U.K. and U.S.A. The plenary speakers were R.A. Isaacson (N.S.F., U.S.A.), J.V. Narlikar (I.U.C.A.A., India) and J. Winicour (Pittsburgh, U.S.A.).

Richard Isaacson reported on the LIGO project, which is expected to open a new window on the Universe in about 2001; of course, the interesting things that will be seen through this window are those that are not anticipated. Jayant Narlikar talked about the revival of the cosmological constant, arguing that the standard FRW model does not satisfy the observational constraints imposed by the ages of globular clusters, etc. Jeffrey Winicour discussed the optics of black hole formation, and showed computations of the caustics of the event horizon in the axisymmetric case.

Research in relativity in South Africa is concentrated at three centres: Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria. The best known group is probably that at Cape Town led by George Ellis. Their work is now very much focussed on cosmology, and includes the cosmic microwave background, gravitational lensing, observational cosmology and almost-FRW universes. There are more relativists in and around Durban than in Cape Town, not because there is one large group in Durban, but because there are several universities in the area each with an active interest in relativity. Their interests include symmetries and exact solutions, cosmology and inflation, and computer algebra. The group in Pretoria (led by Nigel Bishop) mainly works on numerical relativity, in collaboration with the Binary Black Hole Alliance in the U.S.A. Other interests include observational cosmology, computer algebra and numerical analysis.

In conclusion, the conference provided a useful opportunity for discussion amongst relativists in southern Africa and other parts of the world. The next conference is scheduled for early 1999 in Cape Town. The Conference Proceedings (participants and abstracts) are available on the world wide web at:

Jorge Pullin
Wed Sep 10 15:05:58 EDT 1997