"The Universe's First Second"

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM (ET)
Event Type
Distinguished Visitors Program

Distinguished Visitor Adrienne Erickcek, assistant professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Cosmological observations indicate that Universe started its life devoid of any matter or radiation: in the beginning, there was only a mysterious energy source that made the Universe expand exponentially. This cosmic growth spurt is called inflation, and it created the density variations that grew into galaxies and voids. Inflation leaves the Universe cold and empty, but the observed abundance of primordial helium requires that extremely hot radiation filled the Universe one second after inflation ended. We do not know where this radiation came from nor how the Universe evolved prior to the onset of helium production. I will summarize our (lack of) knowledge of the Universe's first second and discuss how dark matter can provide the clues we need to fill this gap in the cosmological record.

Erickcek received her AB in Physics from Princeton in 2003. She was then awarded a Churchill Scholarship to attend Cambridge University, where she earned a MASt (Master of Advanced Study) in Theoretical Physics and Applied Mathematics. She received my Ph.D. in physics from Caltech in 2009. From 2009-2013, she held a joint postdoctoral fellowship at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics. She joined the physics and astronomy department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an assistant professor in July 2013. Erickcek has authored or co-authored 24 journal articles on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology, including gravitational lensing by dark matter subhalos, the origins and characteristics of density fluctuations in the early Universe, and alternatives to general relativity that can explain cosmic acceleration. She is currently investigating how we can use the smallest dark matter clumps to learn about the evolution of the Universe during its first second.

Tea at 4:15 p.m.
Sponsored by the Department of Physics and the Department of Astronomy in conjunction with the Distinguished Visitors Program

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