by Dr Cora Dvorkin
Cosmological observations have provided us with answers to age-old questions, involving the age, geometry, and composition of the universe. However, there are profound questions that still remain unanswered. In this talk, I will describe ongoing efforts to shed light on some of these questions. The origin of the small anisotropies that later grew into the stars and galaxies that we see today is still unknown. However, the nature of the anisotropies in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) provides strong evidence that they were generated long before the CMB radiation had its last interaction with ordinary matter. In the first part of this talk, I will explain how we can use measurements of the CMB, which was last scattered when the universe was 380,000 years old, to reconstruct the detailed physics of much earlier epochs, when the universe was only a tiny fraction of a second old. In the last part of the talk, I will discuss how we can use observations of the CMB and the large-scale structure of the universe to improve our understanding of another open question in fundamental physics. Cosmological observations and galaxy dynamics seem to imply that 84% of all matter in the universe is composed of dark matter, which is not accounted for by the Standard Model of particles. The particle nature of dark matter is one of the most intriguing puzzles of our time. I will identify cosmological processes in which the particle interactions of dark matter are of relevance and show how we can use current and future cosmological data to probe these interactions both at large and small scales.