Ivan Booth

Professor of Mathematics
cross-appointment to the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography

PhD Waterloo, 2000
B.Sc. Memorial, 1995
Motivational Teaching Award, 2007

Office: HH-3033
Phone: (709) 864-4401
Fax: (709) 864-3010


Personal website

Dr. Booth received a B.Sc. in applied mathematics and physics from Memorial University in 1995. The next year he did a coursework M.Sc. degree in physics from the University of Waterloo and then went on to do his Ph.D. which he completed in the summer of 2000. From Waterloo he moved to the University of Alberta where he worked as an NSERC postdoc until September of 2002, when he came home to St. John's to take a job as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

His research area is general relativity (GR) and gravitational physics. Briefly, GR is Einstein's theory that says that what we think of as gravity is not really a force, but instead is a manifestation of the curvature of four-dimensional spacetime. Objects that we think of as moving under the influence of gravity (for example planets around the sun) are actually moving along "straight" lines in that curved spacetime. As strange as this sounds to someone who learns of it for the first time, GR is one of the basic building blocks in our modern understanding of reality and is fundamental to an understanding of the origin and ultimate end of our universe as well as everything in between these two extremes. GR is the theory that predicted the big bang as well as the existence of black holes and gravitational waves. On the wilder side of science it is also the theory that underlies speculations about time machines, wormholes, and faster-than-light travel (which GR says are equivalent concepts).

GR is a physical theory but it is also very mathematical. To describe the curvature of spacetime we use differential geometry. Einstein's equations are a complicated set of partial differential equations that link the curvature of spacetime to the matter/energy in that spacetime. Some solutions to these equations can be found analytically, but today most of the work on finding solutions to Einsteins equations is done numerically. Other fields of mathematics that play important roles in understanding GR, its solutions, and its implications are group theory (especially Lie groups and algebras) and topology (algebraic and differential). Of course, to then understand the part that GR plays in the wider fabric of reality, we also require a good knowledge of theoretical physics and especially field theories. In the ongoing attempts to develop a theory of quantum gravity, quantum mechanics and quantum field theory (and therefore from the mathematical point of view, functional analysis) naturally play critical roles.