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- Acceleration, Then and Now

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13120059

There is good evidence that the universe underwent an epoch of accelerated expansion sometime in its very early history, and that it is entering a similar phase now. This talk is in two parts. The first part describes what I believe to be the take-home message about inflationary models, coming both from the recent Planck results and from attempts to embed inflation within a UV completion (string theory). I will argue that both point to a particularly interesting class of inflationary models that also evade many of the tuning problems of inflation. These models also turn out to make the tantalizing prediction that the scalar-to-tensor ratio, r, could be just out of reach, being predicted to be proportional to (n_s - 1)^2, where n_s ~ 0.96 is the spectral tilt of the scalar spectrum. The second part provides an update on an approach to solving the "cosmological constant problem", which asks why the vacuum energy seems to gravitate so little. This is the main theoretical obstruction that makes it so difficult to understand the origins of the present epoch of acceleration. In the approach described - Supersymmetric Large Extra Dimensions - observations can be reconciled with a large vacuum energy because the vacuum energy curves the extra dimensions and not the ones measured in cosmology. It leads to a picture of very supersymmetric gravity sector coupled to a completely non-supersymmetric particle-physics sector (which predicts in particular no superpartners to be found at the LHC). The update presented here summarizes the underlying mechanism whereby supersymmetry in the extra dimensions acts to suppress the gravitational effects of quantum fluctuations. Because the large quantum contributions are under control it becomes possible to estimate the size of to be expected of the observed dark energy. For the simplest configuratin the result is of order C (m Mg/4 pi Mp)^4, where m is the heaviest particle on the branes (and so no smaller than the top quark mass), Mg is the extra-dimensional gravity scale (no smaller than 10 TeV due to astrophysical constraints, implying two extra dimensions that are of order a micron in size) and Mp is the 4D Planck mass. C is a constant unsuppressed by symmetry-breaking effects, and C = 6 x 10^6 gives the observed dark energy density, using the smallest values given above for m and Mg. If there is time I will sketch arguments as to why there must be other light degrees of freedom in the theory as well, whose implications might ultimately be used to test the picture.

©2012 Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics