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Mark Jackson : Superstring Cosmology: New Physics in the Sky

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Striking advances in observational cosmology over the past two decades have ushered in a golden era in cosmology, where our focus has turned from what the universe is made of to why it has the form we observe. The leading theory capable of answering such a question, Superstring Theory, does not appear capable of being tested using conventional accelerator-based experiments, forcing us to be more creative in our goal to verify or dismiss it. Focusing on brane inflation as a string theory-inspired model of inflationary cosmology, I will review how the cosmic microwave background (CMB) will provide a deluge of high- precision data into otherwise inaccessible energy scales. These data include possible "Transplanckian" signatures in the power spectrum, indications of variable sound speed or extra dimensions in non- Gaussianity, or constraining the inflation model parameter space using polarization. I then describe how the production of cosmic (super)strings in brane inflation would provide an additional means to verify superstring theory, and which would yield much detailed information about the underlying theory parameters.

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