Light from the Early Universe and Quantum effects in Gravity
Eva Silverstein, Stanford University
Inflationary cosmology -- exponential expansion of the universe at early times -- provides a simple, observationally tested scenario for understanding the observed flatness and homogeneity of the universe and the seeds of structure formation. Within this broad framework, there are diverse mechanisms for theoretically modeling inflation and structure, many of which make distinctive predictions for observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR).
The mechanism behind inflation is sensitive to very high-energy physics, and requires input from a more complete theory of gravity (such as string theory) going beyond Einstein's General Relativity.
After introducing the phenomenon of early universe inflation, I will describe two effects of interest -- gravitational radiation, and nonlinear effects in the CMBR -- and their role in the challenging problem of trying to connect string theory to observations.