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Beacons in the Dark (Beacon)
Start date: Sep 1, 2011, End date: Aug 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

BEACON aims at performing an ambitious multi-disciplinary (optical, radio astronomy and theoretical physics) study to enable a fundamentally improved understanding of gravitation and space-time. For almost a century Einstein's general relativity has been the last word on gravity. However, superstring theory predicts new gravitational phenomena beyond relativity. In this proposal I will attempt to detect these new phenomena, with a sensitivity 20 times better than state-of-the-art attempts. A successful detection would take physics beyond its current understanding of the Universe.These new gravitational phenomena are emission of dipolar gravitational waves and the violation of the strong equivalence principle (SEP). I plan to look for them by timing newly discovered binary pulsars. I will improve upon the best current limits on dipolar gravitational wave emission by a factor of 20 within the time of this proposal. I also plan to develop a test of the Strong Equivalence Principle using a new pulsar/main-sequence star binary. The precision of this test is likely to surpass the current best limits within the time frame of this proposal and then keep improving indefinitely with time. This happens because this is the cleanest gravitational experiment ever carried out.In order to further these goals, I plan to build the ultimate pulsar observing system. By taking advantage of recent technological advances in microwave engineering (particularly sensitive ultra-wide band receivers) digital electronics (fast analogue-to-digital converters and digital spectrometers) and computing, my team and me will be able to greatly improve the sensitivity and precision for pulsar timing experiments and exploit the capabilities of modern radio telescopes to their limits.Pulsars are the beacons that will guide me in these new, uncharted seas.
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