Advisory Board

Professor Laura Mersini-Houghton

The NewScientist article Mystery of a Giant Void in Space said

It is a modern tale of much ado about nothing. But that “nothing” is an enormous hole in the cosmos that defies standard cosmology and might just be the imprint of another universe bumping against our own.
In 2004, a giant cold spot was discovered, with its cosmic microwave background a chilly 20 to 45 per cent lower than the average for the rest of the sky, according to NASA’s WMAP satellite.
Intrigued, astronomer Lawrence Rudnick decided to take a closer look by examining a survey done by the Very Large Array radio telescope in Socorro, New Mexico. Then in August, his team announced that the most likely cause of the cold spot was a giant void nearly 1 billion light years across that contained almost no stars, galaxies or dark matter.
It might be time to turn to exotica for answers. Laura Mersini-Houghton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has an idea: the void was caused by a collision with another universe. String theory says that ours is just one of 10500 possible universes, and Mersini-Houghton’s calculations suggest that this giant void could have been caused by a neighboring universe pushing against our own, repelling gravity and the galaxies within.

Laura Mersini-Houghton, Ph.D. is a theoretical physicist-cosmologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Laura earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Tirana in her native Albania, and she earned her PhD in 2000 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with the thesis Vacuum dynamics in the early universe scenarios of phase transitions and extra dimensions.
She has worked on a variety of topics on the particle physics-cosmology interface. She is particularly interested in the possibility of generating dark energy from transplanckian physics in string theory, gravity and quantum field theory in curved space, and higher-dimension braneworlds.
Laura authored Birth of the Universe from the Multiverse, Thoughts on Defining the Multiverse, Cosmological Implications of the String Theory Landscape, The Arrow of Time Forbids a Positive Cosmological Constant Λ, Wavefunction of the Universe on the Landscape, and Do We Have Evidence for New Physics in the Sky?, and coauthored Probing Dark Energy with Black Hole Binaries, Nontrivial Geometries: Bounds on the Curvature of the Universe, Eternal Inflation is “Expensive”, Cosmological Avatars of the Landscape I: Bracketing the SUSY Breaking Scale, Cosmological Avatars of the Landscape II: CMB and LSS Signatures, Why did the Universe Start from a Low Entropy State?, and A Fly in the SOUP.
Listen to her on North Carolina Public Radio WUNC. Read Scientists explore what happened before the universe’s theoretical beginning.