This series consists of talks in the areas of Cosmology, Gravitation and Particle Physics.
I consider some of the issues we face in trying to understand dark energy. Huge fluctuations in the unknown dark energy equation of state can be hidden in distance data, so I argue that model-independent tests which signal if the cosmological constant is wrong are valuable. These can be constructed to remove degeneracies with the cosmological parameters. Gravitational effects can play an important role. Even small inhomogeneity clouds our ability to say something definite about dark energy.
Although inflation is, by far, the best known mechanism to explain the observed properties of our Universe, there is still some room for alternative models, most of which implying a contracting phase preceding the current expanding one. Both phases are connected by a bounce at which the expansion rate must vanish. General relativity can only produce such a phase provided the spatial curvature is positive, in contradiction with the current observations.
Dark matter, constituting a fifth of the mass-energy in the Universe today, is one of the major "known unknowns" in physics. A number of different experimental and observational techniques exist to try to identify dark matter. However, these techniques are not only sensitive to the "physics" of dark matter (mass, cross sections, and the theory in which the dark matter particles live) but to the "astrophysics" of dark matter as well, namely the phase-space density of dark matter throughout the Milky Way and other galaxies and its evolution through cosmic time.
We have announced the results from 7 years of observations of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) on January 26. In this talk we will present the cosmological interpretation of the WMAP 7-year data, including the detection of primordial helium, images of polarization of microwave background around temperature peaks, and new limits on inflation and properties of neutrinos. We also report a significant detection of the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect and discuss implications for the gas pressure in clusters of galaxies.
We present a holographic description of four-dimensional single-scalar inflationary universes in terms of a three-dimensional quantum field theory. The holographic description correctly reproduces standard inflationary predictions in their regime of applicability. In the opposite case, wherein gravity is strongly coupled at early times, we propose a holographic description in terms of perturbative QFT and present models capable of satisfying the current observational constraints while exhibiting a phenomenology distinct from standard inflation.
We discuss a candidate mechanism through which one might address the various cosmological constant problems. We observe that the renormalization of gravitational couplings manifests non-local modifications to Einstein's equations as quantum corrected equations of motion, and in doing so offers a complimentary realization of the degravitation paradigm-- a realization through which its non-linear completion and the corresponding modified Bianchi identities are readily understood.
After prodigious work over several decades, binary black hole mergers can now be simulated in fully nonlinear numerical relativity. However, these simulations are still restricted to mass ratios q = m2/m1 > 1/10, initial spins a/M < 0.9, and initial separations r/M < 10. Fortunately, analytical techniques like black-hole perturbation theory and the post-Newtonian approximation allow us to study much of this region in parameter space that remains inaccessible to numerical relativity.
Stellar evolution from a protostar to neutron star is of one of the best
studied subjects in modern astrophysics. Yet, it appears that there is still
a lot to learn about the extreme conditions where the fundamental particle physics meets strong gravity regime. After all of the thermonuclear fuel is spent, and
after the supernova explosion, but before the remaining mass crosses its own
Schwarzschild radius, the temperature of the central core of the star might
become higher than the electroweak symmetry restoration temperature. The