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In November 1915, Albert Einstein put the finishing touches on his radical reinvention of space, time, gravity and the Universe itself. Throughout the following 100 years, experimenters have confirmed the general theory of relativity to ever-higher precision, and theorists have unravelled implications of it that even Einstein had not dreamed of, from black holes to the Big Bang. In this special collection and in a companion e-book, Nature celebrates the past triumphs of Einstein’s creation and the milestones yet to come.
Thanks to theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, real science is embedded in Christopher Nolan's film Interstellar, in which explorers seek a new home for humankind. Thorne talks about what he learned from the film's unprecedented visualizations of black holes and wormholes, what it and his accompanying book can teach, and the likelihood of humans escaping the Solar System.
Testing general relativity on the large scales of the Universe remains a fundamental challenge to modern cosmology. The theoretical framework of cosmology is defined by gravity, for which general relativity is the current model. Wojtak et al. now show that a classical test of general relativity — the gravitational redshift experienced by photons propagating outwards from a gravitational potential well — provides a direct means of testing gravity on scales of several megaparsecs, independent of cosmology. Their observations of the gravitational redshift of light coming from galaxies in clusters at the 99% confidence level agree with the predictions of general relativity, and are inconsistent with alternative models designed to avoid the presence of dark matter.