Institute for the science of origins

published research.

Extending the WMAP Bound on the Size of the Universe

By Joey Shapiro Key, Neil J. Cornish, David N. Spergel and Glenn D. Starkman
April 28, 2006

Clues to the shape of our Universe can be found by searching the CMB for matching circles of temperature patterns. A full sky search of the CMB, mapped extremely accurately by NASA’s WMAP satellite, returned no detection of such matching circles and placed a lower bound on the size of the Universe at 24 Gpc. This lower bound can be extended by optimally filtering the WMAP power spectrum. More stringent bounds can be placed on specific candidate topologies by using a combination statistic. We use optimal filtering and the combination statistic to rule out the infamous "soccer ball universe" model.

External Occulters for the Direct Study of Exoplanets

By Webster Cash, Craig Copi, Sara Heap, N. Jeremy Kasdin, Steven Kilston, Marc Kuchner, Marie Levine, Amy Lo, Charles Lillie, Richard Lyon, Ronald Polidan, Stuart Shaklan6 Glenn Starkman, Wesley Traub and Robert Vanderbei
April 2, 2007

We present a case for the use of external occulters to suppress starlight in direct observation of planetary systems. Such a system is achievable with today’s technology and will allow not only the detection of Earthlike planets, but follow-up spectroscopic observations to characterize them. A search for habitable planets around our neighboring stars and for signs of simple life outside our solar system can begin in just a few years.

Generalized Einstein-Aether Theories and the Solar System

By Camille Bonvin, Ruth Durrer, Pedro G. Ferreira, Glenn Starkman and Tom G. Zlosnik
November 6, 2007

It has been shown that generalized Einstein-Aether theories may lead to significant modifications to the non-relativistic limit of the Einstein equations. In this paper we study the effect of a general class of such theories on the Solar System. We consider corrections to the gravitational potential in negative and positive powers of distance from the source. Using measurements of the perihelion shift of Mercury and time delay of radar signals to Cassini, we place constraints on these corrections. We find that a subclass of generalized Einstein-Aether theories are compatible with these constraints.

No Large-angle Correlations on the Non-galactic Microwave Sky

By Craig J. Copi, Dragan Huterer, Dominik J. Schwarz and Glenn D. Starkman
August 27, 2008

We investigate the angular two-point correlation function of temperature in the WMAP maps. Updating and extending earlier results, we confirm the lack of correlations outside the Galaxy on angular scales greater than about 60 degrees at a level that would occur in 0.025 per cent of realizations of the concordance model. This represents a dramatic increase in significance from the original observations by the COBE-DMR and a marked increase in significance from the first-year WMAP maps. Given the rest of the reported angular power spectrum Cℓ, the lack of large-angle correlations that one infers outside the plane of the Galaxy requires covariance among the Cℓ up to ℓ = 5. Alternately, it requires both the unusually small (5 percent of realizations) full-sky large-angle correlations, and an unusual coincidence of alignment of the Galaxy with the pattern of cosmological fluctuations (less than 2 percent of those 5 percent). We argue that unless there is some undiscovered systematic error in their collection or reduction, the data point towards a violation of statistical isotropy. The near-vanishing of the large-angle correlations in the cut-sky maps, together with their disagreement with results inferred from full-sky maps, remain open problems, and are very difficult to understand within the concordance model.

BlackMax: A black-hole event generator with rotation, recoil, split branes and brane tension

By De-Chang Dai, Glenn Starkman, Dejan Stojkovic, Cigdem Issever, Eram Rizvi and Jeff Tseng
April 16, 2008

We present a comprehensive black-hole event generator, BlackMax, which simulates the experimental signatures of microscopic and Planckian black-hole production and evolution at the LHC in the context of brane world models with low-scale quantum gravity. The generator is based on phenomenologically realistic models free of serious problems that plague low-scale gravity, thus offering more realistic predictions for hadron-hadron colliders. The generator includes all of the black-hole gray-body factors known to date and incorporates the effects of black-hole rotation, splitting between the fermions, non-zero brane tension and black-hole recoil due to Hawking radiation (although not all simultaneously).

Anthropics and Myopics: Conditional Probabilities and the Cosmological Constant

By Irit Maor, Lawrence Krauss and Glenn Starkman
September 24, 2007

We re-examine claims that anthropic arguments provide an explanation for the observed smallness of the cosmological constant, and argue that correlations between the cosmological constant value and the existence of life can be demonstrated only under restrictive assumptions. Causal effects are more subtle to uncover.

Late Time Decay of the False Vacuum, Measurement and Quantum Cosmology

By Lawrence M. Krauss, James Dent and Glenn D. Starkman
October 27, 2008

The recent suggestion that late time quantum dynamics may be important for resolving cosmological issues associated with our observed universe requires a consideration of several subtle issues associated with quantum cosmology, as we describe here. The resolution of these issues will be important if we are to be able to properly ascribe probability measures associated with eternal inflation, and a string landscape.

Modifying Gravity with the Aether: an Alternative to Dark Matter

By T.G Zlosnik, P.G Ferreira and G.D. Starkman
February 4, 2008

There is evidence that Newton and Einstein’s theories of gravity cannot explain the dynamics of a universe made up solely of baryons and radiation. To be able to understand the properties of galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the universe on the whole it has become commonplace to invoke the presence of dark matter. An alternative approach is to modify the gravitational field equations to accommodate observations. We propose a new class of gravitational theories in which we add a new degree of freedom, the Aether, in the form of a vector field that is coupled covariantly, but non-minimally, with the space-time metric. We explore the Newtonian and non-Newtonian limits, discuss the conditions for these theories to be consistent and explore their effect on cosmology.

Is the Universe Out of Tune?

By Glenn D. Starkman and Dominik J. Schwarz

Imagine a fantastically large orchestra playing expansively for 14 billion years. At first, the strains sound harmonious. But listen more carefully: something is off key. Puzzlingly, the tuba and bass are softly playing a different song. So it is when scientists "listen" to the music of the cosmos played in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, our largest-scale window into the conditions of the early universe. Shortly after the big bang, random fluctuations--probably thanks to the actions of quantum mechanics--apparently arose in the energy density of the universe. They ballooned in size and ultimately became the galaxy clusters of today. The fluctuations were a lot like sound waves (ordinary sound waves are oscillations in the density of air), and the "sound" ringing throughout the cosmos 14 billion years ago was imprinted on the CMB. Now we see a map of that sound drawn on the sky in the form of CMB temperature variations.

Is Space Finite?

By Jean-Pierre Luminet, Glenn D. Starkman and Jeffrey R. Weeks

Looking up at the sky on a clear night, we feel we can see forever. There seems to be no end to the stars and galaxies; even the darkness in between them is filled with light if only we stare through a sensitive enough telescope. In truth, of course, the volume of space we can observe is limited by the age of the universe and the speed of light. But given enough time, could we not peer ever farther, always encountering new galaxies and phenomena? Maybe not. Like a hall of mirrors, the apparently endless universe might be deluding us. The cosmos could, in fact, be finite. The illusion of infinity would come about as light wrapped all the way around space, perhaps more than once-creating multiple images of each galaxy. Our own Milky Way galaxy would be no exception; bizarrely, the skies might even contain facsimiles of the earth at some earlier era. As time marched on, astronomers could watch the galaxies develop and look for new mirages. But eventually no new space would enter into their view. They would have seen it all.

The Fate of Life in the Universe

By Lawrence M. Krauss and Glenn D. Starkman

Eternal life is a core belief of many of the world's religions. Usually it is extolled as a spiritual Valhalla, an existence without pain, death, worry or evil, a world removed from our physical reality. But there is another sort of eternal life that we hope for, one in the temporal realm. In the conclusion to On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote: "As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived before the Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken.... Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of great length." The sun will eventually exhaust its hydrogen fuel, and life as we know it on our home planet will eventually end, but the human race is resilient. Our progeny will seek new homes, spreading into every corner of the universe just as organisms have colonized every possible niche of the earth. Death and evil will take their toll, pain and worry may never go away, but somewhere we expect that some of our children will carry on. Or maybe not. Remarkably, even though scientists fully understand neither the physical basis of life nor the unfolding of the universe, they can make educated guesses about the destiny of living things. Cosmological observations now suggest that the universe will continue to expand forever-rather than, as scientists once thought, expanding to a maximum size and then shrinking. Therefore, we are not doomed to perish in a fiery "big crunch" in which any vestige of our current or future civilization would be erased. At first glance, eternal expansion is cause for optimism. What could stop a sufficiently intelligent civilization from exploiting the endless resources to survive indefinitely?