This series consists of talks in the areas of Cosmology, Gravitation and Particle Physics.
Hawking's discovery of black holes radiance along with Bekenstein's conjecture of the generalized second law of thermodynamics inspired a conceptually pleasing connection between gravity, thermodynamics and quantum theory. However, the discovery that the spectrum of the radiation is in fact thermal, together with the no-hair theorem, has brought along with it some undesirable consequences, most notably the information loss paradox.
The advent of large spectroscopic surveys of galaxies in the early 1980s has shown us that galaxies assemble in large scale structures.
Recently, cosmic voids have received more attention through the availability wide and deep galaxy surveys. Voids have a simple phase space structure and thus are easier to model than cluster of galaxies.
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.
General relativity is a covariant theory of two transverse, traceless graviton degrees of freedom. According to a theorem of Hojman, Kuchar, and Teitelboim, modifications of general relativity must either introduce new degrees of freedom or violate the principle of general covariance. In my talk, I will discuss modifications of general relativity that retain the same number of gravitational degrees of freedom, and therefore explicitly break general covariance. Motivated by cosmology, the modifications of interest maintain spatial covariance.
Problematic growths of curvature and anisotropy are found in nonsingular bouncing cosmologies that include both an ekpyrotic phase and a bouncing phase. Classically, initial curvature and anisotropy that are suppressed during the ekpyrotic phase will grow back exponentially during the nonsingular bouncing phase. Besides, curvature and shear perturbations are generated by quantum fluctuations during the ekpyrotic phase. In the bouncing phase, an adiabatic curvature perturbation grows to dominate and gives rise to a blue spectrum that spoils the scale-invariance.
The talk consists of two parts: (1) Quasi-single inflation, where the isocurvature direction has mass of order Hubble parameter. This part is based on 0911.3380 and new results about higher mass, and a sharp turn in trajectory. (2) Multi-stream inflation, where the inflationary trajectory bifurcates. This part is based on 0903.2123, 1006.5021 and a on-going project on calculating the bifurcation probability in a complicated landscape.
Cosmic strings are a generic prediction of Grand Unified Theories that can leave a sufficient imprint in the Cosmic Microwave Background anisotropies to open an observational window into an otherwise unreachable high energy domain. Being formed as topological defects of a Higgs field, they are also naturally coupled to various other fields, that can lead to superconducting-like currents, hence radically changing their structure and properties.
Several mechanisms can lead to production of particles during inflation. I discuss how this phenomenon can induce a contribution to the primordial spectrum of gravitational waves with unusual properties: the tensors produced this way can violate parity; can have a large three-point function; can have a relatively large tensor-to-scalar ratio even if inflation occurs at low energies; finally, their spectrum can display a feature that can be directly detected by second-generation gravitational interferometers such as advanced LIGO.
The time variation of physical constants has been much discussed in the literature, motivated by claims of fine structure constant variations together with several theoretical ideas. Although it is well understood (by most, but not all!) cosmologists that one must consider only dimensionless constants, most discussions of the strength of gravity involve "G", which is of course dimensional. I discuss some applications of variations of "G" on cosmological observables, stressing the need to stay dimensionless. "Constants" might also vary in space.
A recently discovered class of active galactic nuclei, TeV luminous blazars, constitute a small fraction of the power output of black holes. Nevertheless, there are suggestions that unlike the UV and X-ray luminosity of quasars, the very-high energy gamma-ray emission from the TeV blazars can be thermalized on cosmological scales with order unity efficiency, resulting in a potentially dramatic heating of the low-density intergalactic medium.