Understanding the early Universe

Our understanding of the early Universe has greatly increased in the past few years due to the high-quality observational data on the cosmic microwave background and large scale structure. The unprecedented precision of the Planck results enabled to significantly restrict the range of allowed inflationary models. The quest for measuring the primordial B-mode polarization, which would have profound implications, has acquired a new boost from the results of BICEP2 collaboration. Still, the remaining possibilities are too diverse and a theoretical input is required to reduce them further. It is time to ask what common features distinguish the inflationary models favored by the data, what symmetry principles can stand behind them and how they can be incorporated in a complete quantum theory containing the Standard Model and gravity. The reheating stage that follows inflation in the evolution of the Universe is characterized by violent dynamics, whose details are highly model-dependent. Therefore any direct observational signal from this stage can potentially teach us  a lot about the theory describing Nature at energy scales well beyond those reached at colliders. However, in general, most probes carrying information from reheating are either inaccessible by current technology, degenerate with other post-reheating phenomena, or washed away by the subsequent thermalization. It is important to understand, which part of the information remains and how it can be decoded.

The aim of this Theory Institute is to bring together researchers interested in the physics of the early Universe to discuss the above and related questions. The program will include review talks on the latest experimental data including the Planck release expected at the end of 2014.

Topics to be discussed at the conference:

  • Inflationary theory in light of latest experimental data
  • Universality classes of inflationary models
  • Embedding inflation into quantum gravity
  • Consistent theories of graceful exit and reheating
  • Primordial non-Gaussianities and gravitational waves
  • Large Scale Structure as a probe of the early Universe
  • Other future probes