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Axion Monodromy and its Signatures

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The study of the anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background radiation over the past two decades has provided us with important information about the early universe. In particular, there is strong evidence that these anisotropies were generated long before the cosmic microwave radiation was emitted. The most commonly studied idea is that they originated as quantum fluctuations during a period of inflation. In addition to a spectrum of scalar perturbations consistent with the one that has been observed, inflation also predicts the presence of gravitational waves. These might be observable in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background. An observation of this signal would indicate that the inflaton must have traversed a super-Planckian distance. Realizing this in string theory has been challenging. I will describe the basic ingredients for a string theoretic setup in which the inflaton can move over a super-Planckian distance, leading to an observable gravitational wave signal within string theory. In addition to an observable tensor signal, the model may also lead to other interesting signatures which I will discuss such as modulations in the power spectrum of scalar perturbations, interesting shapes of non-Gaussianities, and possibly the formation of oscillons at the end of inflation.