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Title: Cosmological probes of light relics
Author: Wallisch, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 7401
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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One of the primary targets of current and especially future cosmological observations are light thermal relics of the hot big bang. Within the Standard Model of particle physics, an important thermal relic are cosmic neutrinos, while many interesting extensions of the Standard Model predict new light particles which are even more weakly coupled to ordinary matter and therefore hard to detect in terrestrial experiments. On the other hand, these elusive particles may be produced efficiently in the early universe and their gravitational influence could be detectable in cosmological observables. In this thesis, we describe how measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and the large-scale structure (LSS) of the universe can shed new light on the properties of neutrinos and on the possible existence of other light relics. These cosmological observations are remarkably sensitive to the amount of radiation in the early universe, partly because free-streaming species such as neutrinos imprint a small phase shift in the baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) which we study in detail in the CMB and LSS power spectra. Building on this analytic understanding, we provide further evidence for the cosmic neutrino background by independently confirming its free-streaming nature in different, currently available datasets. In particular, we propose and establish a new analysis of the BAO spectrum beyond its use as a standard ruler, resulting in the first measurement of this imprint of neutrinos in the clustering of galaxies. Future cosmological surveys, such as the next generation of CMB experiments (CMB-S4), have the potential to measure the energy density of relativistic species at the sub-percent level and will therefore be capable of probing physics beyond the Standard Model. We demonstrate how this improvement in sensitivity can indeed be achieved and present an observational target which would allow the detection of any extra light particle that has ever been in thermal equilibrium. Interestingly, even the absence of a detection would result in new insights by providing constraints on the couplings to the Standard Model. As an example, we show that existing bounds on additional scalar particles, such as axions, may be surpassed by orders of magnitude.
Supervisor: Baumann, Daniel Sponsor: Cambridge Philosophical Society ; European Research Council ; Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Theoretical Physics ; Cosmology ; Cosmic Microwave Background ; Large-Scale Structure of the Universe ; Baryon Acoustic Oscillations ; Cosmological Parameters ; Cosmological Perturbation Theory ; Neutrinos ; Particle Physics-Cosmology Connection ; Physics Beyond the Standard Model ; Axions ; Effective Field Theory