Origin of Space-Time

space-timeOrigin of Space-Time


Cosmic microwave background
Cosmic microwave background as seen by planck (ESA and the Planck Collaboration)

The discovery by the ancients that the Earth is round, together with the quantitative inference of its size, profoundly changed their picture of their situation within the known universe. We now live in a similarly remarkable time in which cosmology (the study of the Universe as a whole) is becoming a precision science, allowing the overall size and shape of the Universe to be mapped with some confidence for the very first time. This is changing our picture of how we fit within the Universe in ways that are equally profound, including the discovery that the Universe is currently dominated by two hitherto unknown forms of matter (Dark Matter and Dark Energy) and the growing evidence that at very early times the Universe underwent a period of accelerated expansion (perhaps a 'bounce' from an earlier contracting phase, or 'inflation' where the rate of expansion dramatically increased). The Origins of Space-Time theme aims to understand the implications of this flood of new information.

Research opportunities

SNO plus dark matter experiment in SNOLab (from the Queen's University website)

Many lines of inquiry are being pursued, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. Understanding the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy requires both expertise in astronomy and cosmology and understanding of elementary particles (both their theory and the methods for their detection). Because their existence is inferred using their gravitational effects, also crucial is a detailed understanding of how gravity works in exotic situations and how it might be sensibly modified. The energies required for cosmic inflation or a cosmic bounce are much higher than those we can currently access, possibly large enough to require an understanding of quantum gravity itself.