Particles, Fields, and Gravitation Projects

Life on Earth and Elsewhere

We have a research program in astrobiology, in particular in modeling the role of the environment on the emergence of early life on Earth and how it may inform our search for life elsewhere. Topics of interest include the origin of biochirality and the role of information on the origin of the genetic code.

FACULTY CONTACT: Marcelo Gleiser

Information Theory and the Complexity of Nature

We have been developing a formalism to describe and quantify the role of information theory in Nature. For this purpose, we use tools from field theory, in particular as applied to localized structures such as solitons and other nonlinear configurations from the subatomic to the astrophysical scale, to explore the connection of order and complexity in the natural world. The overarching theme of this research is How did the universe evolve from a soup of free particles to being a crucible for complex, localized forms?

FACULTY CONTACT: Marcelo Gleiser

Big Bang After Cosmic Inflation

According to current cosmological theory, the big bang is not the first thing that happened in the universe but the explosive heating-up that happened after a phase of rapid expansion known as cosmic inflation. We are interested in understanding the physics of this crucial transition, and how it has impacted the nature of the Universe. For this, we make use of a combination of numerical and analytical techniques to model the nonlinear, nonequilibrium physics of the early universe.

FACULTY CONTACT: Marcelo Gleiser

Dark Energy Interactions

Dark energy may not be completely dark -- it may harbor couplings to the Standard Model or dark matter that for one reason or another have eluded our grasp. Yet, if the Standard Model itself is a guide, then no couplings are superfluous: anything not prohibited is mandatory. So we may ask whether the allowed couplings of dark energy are essential to its behavior as the universal accelerant. A number of our projects (Bielefeld, Caldwell & Linder 2014, Caldwell, Gluscevic & Kamionkowski 2011) aim at this question.

FACULTY CONTACT: Robert Caldwell

Fundamental Tests of Cosmology

The cosmic microwave background (CMB), the "afterglow of creation," is a spectrum of 2.75K radiation. Small variations in the temperature at different directions on the sky give us clues to the large scale distribution of matter in the universe, spanning nearly 14 billion years of cosmic history. Small distortions of the spectrum -- departures from a perfect blackbody -- give deeper clues. We are currently using these spectral distortions in fundamental tests of cosmology, to probe theories of dark energy and dark matter. These theories may be put to the test in the near future by a satellite telescope dedicated to measuring the CMB spectrum.

FACULTY CONTACT: Robert Caldwell

Physics of Cosmic Acceleration

The physics underlying the accelerated expansion of the universe is unknown. Most of my recent research aims to explore various explanations. Examples include: a dynamical scalar field, quintessence; new gravitational phenomena; and alternative scenarios that dispense with dark energy altogether. My students and I develop these ideas, to make predictions for comparison with observations and experiments.

FACULTY CONTACT: Robert Caldwell