At a Glance

Founded1986
SupportersR. Howard Webster Foundation
Disciplines
Astrophysics; astronomy; astroparticle, computational, high energy and particle physics; observational cosmology

CIFAR Contact

Pamela Kanellis, Senior Director, Research

What is the nature of extreme gravity, and how can it help us understand the origin and evolution of the universe?

For most of human history, our observations of the Universe depended entirely on visible light. Later we were able to use other forms of electromagnetic radiation like infrared and radio waves. Now technological advances have given us the ability to detect gravitational waves, opening the door to fundamentally new ways of observing and understanding the Universe.

Gravitational waves and other converging research efforts together promise to deepen our fundamental understanding of the origin and evolution of the cosmos. Many of these efforts, including the first direct detection of gravitational waves using laser interferometry, and the possible detection of early universe gravitational waves in the cosmic background radiation, had strong involvement from members of CIFAR’s program in Cosmology & Gravity (GEU’s predecessor program) that the GEU program will build upon. 

The program addresses questions about the nature of extreme gravity, the origin and evolution of the universe, and the structure of compact objects such as black holes and neutron stars, and will answer other profound questions about fundamental physics and astrophysics.

Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 in his general theory of relativity. Einstein showed that massive accelerating objects would create “ripples” in spacetime that would radiate away from the source at the speed of light. Almost 100 years later, gravitational waves, produced by two colliding black holes 1.4 billion light years away, were finally detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

In addition to laser interferometry we could soon detect traces of gravitational waves in the cosmic background radiation. And pulsar timing arrays – which measure the timing of pulses from many different millisecond pulsars – are likely to detect gravitational waves as well. Finally, there are a number of other key initiatives and experiments, including Canada’s SNOLab and the CIFAR-member-led CHIME experiment, which will address related questions like the nature of dark matter and dark energy, as well as tackle new phenomena like mysterious fast radio bursts.

The G&EU program unites world-leading researchers from a number of relevant fields who are taking advantage of this wealth of new information. Members of the program were chosen not only for individual excellence, but also for their expertise from a variety of fields, and across theory, experiment and observation.

Contact the program’s senior director, Pamela Kanellis at pamela.kanellis@cifar.ca

Fellows & Advisors

Photo of Victoria M. Kaspi

Victoria M. Kaspi

Program Director

Victoria Kaspi's research focuses on neutron stars: massive, dense celestial objects that emit bursts of radiation as they rotate and that are formed when a massive star explodes. Kaspi studies…

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Fellows

Lars Bildsten

Associate Fellow

University of California, Santa Barbara

United States

J. Richard Bond

Senior Fellow

University of Toronto

Canada

Mark C. Chen

Senior Fellow

Queen's University

Canada

Matthew W. Choptuik

Associate Fellow

University of British Columbia

Canada

Matt Dobbs

Senior Fellow

McGill University

Canada

Richard S. Ellis

Associate Fellow

University College London, European Southern Observatory

Germany

Gabriela Gonzalez

Associate Fellow

Louisiana State University

United States

Mark Halpern

Senior Fellow

University of British Columbia

Canada

Gary Hinshaw

Senior Fellow

University of British Columbia

Canada

Gilbert Holder

Senior Fellow

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

United States

Werner Israel

Distinguished Fellow

University of Victoria

Canada

Vicky Kalogera

Senior Fellow

Northwestern University

United States

Luis Lehner

Senior Fellow

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Canada

Arthur B. McDonald

Associate Fellow

Queen's University

Canada

Robert C. Myers

Associate Fellow

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Canada

Julio F. Navarro

Senior Fellow

University of Victoria

Canada

Barth Netterfield

Senior Fellow

University of Toronto

Canada

John A. Peacock

Associate Fellow

The University of Edinburgh

United Kingdom

Ue-Li Pen

Senior Fellow

University of Toronto

Canada

Harald P. Pfeiffer

Associate Fellow

University of Toronto

Canada

E. Sterl Phinney

Associate Fellow

California Institute of Technology

United States

Frans Pretorius

Senior Fellow

Princeton University

United States

Scott Ransom

Associate Fellow

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

United States

Joseph Silk

Associate Fellow

University of Oxford

United Kingdom

David Spergel

Associate Fellow

Princeton University

United States

Ingrid Stairs

Senior Fellow

University of British Columbia

Canada

Neil Turok

Associate Fellow

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Canada

William G. Unruh

Associate Fellow

University of British Columbia

Canada

Matias Zaldarriaga

Senior Fellow

Institute for Advanced Study

United States

Advisors

Roger Blandford

Advisor

Stanford University

United States

Lyman Page

Advisor

Princeton University

United States

Eva Silverstein

Advisor

Stanford University

United States

Scott D. Tremaine

Advisory Committee Chair

Institute for Advanced Study

United States

Simon White

Advisor

Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics

Germany

Global Scholars

Parameswaran Ajith

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

India

Daryl Haggard

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar

McGill University and the McGill Space Institute

Canada

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