Theoretical research at KICP covers a wide range of topics from clusters of galaxies to modifications of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Our research emphasizes connection of theoretical models to observation and experiment, as our major theoretical thrusts are intimately connected with our experimental programs.
The theoretical research activities at KICP are broadly grouped into 3 areas:
1) The Expansion of the Universe -- Today and in its Infancy
KICP theorists are actively investigating the following issues:
- inflationary cosmology (did the very young universe go through a phase of rapid expansion?)
- the origin of the matter/antimatter asymmetry (why is the observable universe dominated by "normal matter" and not anti-matter?)
- dark energy (why is the Universe accelerating and what is the nature of the "dark energy" that is believed to be causing this acceleration?)
- dark matter (what are the dark matter particles and how do they interact?)
- are there alternatives to general relativity that might explain the observed acceleration and account for the dark energy?
2) The Large-Scale Structure of the Universe
The large-scale structure of the Universe provides a laboratory in which KICP theorists can test models for inflation and the dark energy. Structure in the mass distribution of the universe is thought to originate as quantum fluctuations during the inflationary epoch that grow under gravity for most of subsequent expansion history and freeze after the expansion of the Universe started to accelerate. Although the mass distribution is not directly observable, structures manifest themselves in the anisotropy of the CMB, the abundance of galaxy clusters, the clustering of galaxies, and the distortion of astronomical images by gravitational lensing.
3) The Formation and Dynamics of Galaxies and Clusters
KICP members study the formation and dynamics of galaxies and clusters. We exploit the potential of the nearby structures to probe the distribution and physics of dark matter and its interaction with baryonic matter in the Universe.
KICP Theorists test predictions of the standard galaxy formation paradigm against observations and build models to explain the observations in ways that are consistent with the theoretical predictions.
The Institutes particle astrophysicists have been studying different strategies for detecting the products of dark matter annihilation in the Galactic halo substructure and in other nearby halos. They are also exploring particle properties beyond the Standard Model through relics produced in the early Universe as well as more recent astrophysical events.