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Fulvio Melia: The Cosmological Spacetime

The "golden age" of relativity, from 1960 to 1974, was a period during which black holes were closely studied and understood.

Cosmology today finds itself at a similar stage of development, with breathtaking observations now making it possible to more fully grasp the role played by general relativity in shaping our view of the origin and evolution of the cosmos as a whole. The Universe has much in common with black holes, and appears to be far simpler than once thought.

Fulvio Melia  is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Arizona and Associate Editor of The Astrophysical Journal Letters and he is the author of six books and more than 230 articles on theoretical astrophysics.

In a career that has seen him publish over 230 research papers and several books, Melia has made important contributions in High Energy Astronomy and the physics of supermassive black holes.

He is especially known for his work on the galactic center, particularly developing a theoretical understanding of the central supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*. With his students and collaborators, he was the first to propose imaging this object with millimeter-interferometry, which should be feasible within a few years, proving beyond any doubt that it possesses an event horizon, as predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.

 He is also a well-respected and popular publicist of astronomy and science in general, delivering many lectures at public venues, including museums and planetariums. His books have won several awards of distinction, including the designation of Outstanding Academic Books by the American Library Association, and selection as worldwide astronomy books of the year by Astronomy magazine.

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity describes the effect of gravitation on the shape of space and the flow of time. But for more than four decades after its publication, the theory remained largely a curiosity for scientists; however accurate it seemed, Einstein's mathematical code — represented by six interlocking equations — was one of the most difficult to crack in all of science. That is, until a twenty-nine-year-old Cambridge graduate solved the great riddle in 1963. Roy Kerr's solution emerged coincidentally with the discovery of black holes that same year and provided fertile testing ground — at long last — for general relativity. Today, scientists routinely cite the Kerr solution, but even among specialists, few know the story of how Kerr cracked Einstein's code.

Fulvio Melia here offers an eyewitness account of the events leading up to Kerr's great discovery. Cracking the Einstein Code vividly describes how luminaries such as Karl Schwarzschild, David Hilbert, and Emmy Noether set the stage for the Kerr solution; how Kerr came to make his breakthrough; and how scientists such as Roger Penrose, Kip Thorne, and Stephen Hawking used the accomplishment to refine and expand modern astronomy and physics. Today more than 300 million supermassive black holes are suspected of anchoring their host galaxies across the cosmos, and the Kerr solution is what astronomers and astrophysicists use to describe much of their behavior.

By unmasking the history behind the search for a real world solution to Einstein's field equations, Melia offers a first-hand account of an important but untold story. Sometimes dramatic, often exhilarating, but always attuned to the human element, Cracking the Einstein Code is ultimately a showcase of how important science gets done.