The purpose of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology is to advance the scientific understanding of our Universe, developing cosmological theories that are both mathematically consistent and observationally testable.
CTC builds on one of the most famous cosmology and gravitation groups in the world, responsible for pioneering advances linking fundamental theory to the origin and nature of our Universe. Our researchers continue to drive the field forward today. It will also engage in communicating these discoveries to the general public. CTC aims to establish an international focal point in theoretical cosmology and gravitation, strengthening and complementing a long Cambridge tradition and ensuring an enduring legacy honouring Stephen Hawking's singular contributions to the field.
At present cosmology is arguably one of the most exciting and rapidly advancing fields in the physical sciences; over the past two decades, a watershed confrontation has been developing between mathematical models of the early Universe and new observational data. Major developments are becoming commonplace.
Many of the key ideas in modern cosmology and gravitational theory originated in DAMTP, including key contributions to the following:
• Proving that there must have been a Big Bang and a beginning to time
• Recognising the potential role of 'quantum fluctuations' – i.e. 'ripples' in the fabric of space-time, as primordial 'seeds' from which galaxies formed
• Developing theories for the quantum origin of the Universe
• Understanding the implications of variations in the fundamental constants of nature
• Establishing the uniqueness of rotating black hole solutions
• The discovery of black hole radiation
The subject area retains its vibrancy here, with theorists continuing to make leading contributions internationally. The CTC and GR group remains one of the largest groups numerically within DAMTP (with over 50 members) and the best-funded, supported by a large STFC rolling grant (for over 20 years), as well as supercomputer and other grants. Cambridge is a natural hub for strong UK activity in theoretical cosmology, in part, because DAMTP houses and operates COSMOS, the national cosmology supercomputer.
Within the University of Cambridge, leading research in cosmology is also actively pursued within the Institute of Astronomy and the Cavendish Laboratory, with their efforts being partly amalgamated within the Kavli Institute, in which DAMTP also participates. Strong interdisciplinary links are enjoyed between all three departments with a joint cosmology seminar for all Cambridge cosmologists held every Monday lunchtime in DAMTP. There are also other important interactions through the Cambridge Planck Analysis Centre and the COSMOS supercomputer. CTC is entirely complementary to the Kavli Institute: CTC focuses on fundamental theories and their predictions, while in Kavli the emphasis is on testing theories with observations. This complementary emphasis has been borne out by subsequent appointments to Kavli and CTC fellowships, greatly strengthening both the breadth and the depth of Cambridge cosmology.
CTC's ambitious scientific goals over the next five years include:
• To develop critical tests of the inflationary hypothesis (that the Universe underwent a period of rapid expansion shortly after the Big Bang)
• To seek the 'signatures' left behind by violent processes in the very early Universe – e.g. primordial gravitational waves