Cosmological Pertubations: Very Early Universe

Lead Research Organisation: University of Portsmouth
Department Name: Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation

Abstract

This grant will support cosmology and astrophysics research in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) at the University of Portsmouth. The ICG was formed in 2002 through a strategic investment from the university, and now hosts 50 researchers making it one of the largest extragalactic astronomy groups in the UK.

Cosmology and astrophysics are experiencing a golden age of discovery driven by new experiments and theoretical advances. However, we still face three fundamental challenges before a more complete model of the Universe can be achieved, including "What is the origin and distribution of structures in the Universe?".

We will address this question by investigating models of inflation in the very early universe. This tests the laws of physics at extremely high energies where we need to account for the effects of both general relativity and quantum physics. String theory could offer a consistent picture of the very early universe, and we will test such ideas through the distribution of primordial density and metric perturbations that would be generated from quantum fluctuations during a period of inflation. We will make detailed predictions for observable quantities in the cosmic microwave background and large-scale structure.

Planned Impact

Over recent years the ICG has established a comprehensive public engagement programme, with full-time outreach officer since 2012, including:

1) Providing popular talks to numerous local astronomical societies, local schools, festivals, and public events. The ICG delivered major BBC `Stargazing Live' eventa at Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower in January 2012 and on board HMS Warrior in 2013. We also include public talks in our professional meetings, e.g., in Nov 2011, Carlos Frenk gave a popular talk to 300 people. We will continue to deliver such popular talks at roughly one a month.

2) Contributing work experience for school students (short work visits or longer Nuffield summer bursaries). Local pupils to attend our annual "Cosmology Masterclass" to provide pupils with additional material for their physics GSCE modules. We will continue this engagement with schools, building upon our strong relationship with local teachers, SEPNet and the University school liaison officer.

3) Continuing to engage local and national media. ICG has obtained excellent local exposure with frequent articles in the Portsmouth News, many radio interviews and features on local TV news. Nationally, our staff are featured in science magazines, newspapers, and BBC science shows. We will continue to liaise with the university media office and offer all staff and postdocs professional media training.

4) Deployment of the latest technologies, e.g., ICG members are deeply involved in Galaxy Zoo (GZ), which has had phenomenal impact, including the education of GZ users via blogs and forums and the development of online teaching materials. Portsmouth is an official member of the Zooniverse "Citizen Science Alliance" and we will strengthen our involvement in a broad range of citizen science projects. We will continue to engage with these new technologies and plan to make them central to our impact agenda.

5) Engaging policy makers: Bob Nichol has lobbied STFC & DIUS as Chair of the STFC Far Universe Advisory Panel (FUAP). David Willetts visited the University of Portsmouth in July 2011 to discuss a range of issues including science funding, immigration and EU competition rules. We will continue this engagement with policy makers, including local MPs.

We support all staff to consider commercial applications of their research. Portsmouth is a member of the South-East Physics network (SEPnet) which is developing a new employer engagement and impact development programme. The University Research and Innovation Services provides all staff with access and training on knowledge exchange and innovation. We are in discussion with STFC Innovation Partnerships Scheme and we will host a session on industrial applications of astrophysics research as part of the National Astronomy Meeting in 2014.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Research at the ICG has helped understand the formation and evolution of the universe. This information is important to advance our understand of fundamental physics as well as being of great interest and fascination by the general public.
Exploitation Route Research at ICG is published in peer-reviewed journals and have received significant citations over the last decade. Researchers at the ICG are some of the highest cited astrophysicists and cosmologists in the UK, showing their work is used and influential (mainly by other academics in our field of research)
Sectors Education

 
Description Research at the ICG has helped understand the formation and evolution of the universe. This information is important to advance our understand of fundamental physics as well as being of great interest and fascination by the general public.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Continuation of funding as new STFC consolidated grant "Cosmology and Astrophysics at Portsmouth"
Amount £1,378,546 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 04/2015
 
Description Astronomical Societies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Many of the co-I's have given public talks at both local astronomy societies (South Downs, Eastbourne, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Hampshire, Farnham, Worthing, Guildford etc.) and national astronomical society meetings (BAA, SPA).

Increased awareness of Portsmouth research across the region
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
 
Description Cosmology Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Since 2012 the Cosmology Masterclass has engaged and inspired over 200 A level students with research at the ICG. The Cosmology Masterclass began as a collaboration with The Portsmouth Grammar School in 2010 and is now held annually on campus, with several additional 'mini-Masterclasses' each year at local colleges.

- Feedback from the 2013 event was some of the best the University has received for an A level event.
- Over the years 13 students have subsequently joined ICG for summer placements of which four cite their experiences at ICG as helping them to decide to pursue STEM subjects at university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Galaxy Zoo 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Members of the public are asked to classify images of galaxies on www.galaxyzoo.org to contribute to astronomical research, resulting in nearly 50 peer reviewed publications to date.

Galaxy Zoo has produced a unique database that could not have been obtained without the involvement of the public; visual classifications for over a million galaxies. This database has significant scientific value for astronomy as well as other subjects (computer vision). The public have also been involved in the scientific process and via webblogs and forums, have learnt about the science of GalaxyZoo, as well as being involved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
URL http://www.galaxyzoo.org
 
Description Public Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Co-Is are regularly invited to give public talks at a variety of events in the local area, nationally and aboard. These include Science Festivals, Astronomy Festivals, community events, and special interest group meetings. These talks always spark a lot of questions and discussion following the talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Schools Physicist of the Year Awards 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Schools were asked to nominate year 9 and 12 pupils as their "Ogden schools physicist of the year". Award winners were invited to an awards ceremony with their parents and teachers. The event sparked lots of discussion and questions between the students, parents and ICG researchers. In 2016, the awards were changed to be for year 10 and year 12 pupils.

One school has requested further activities from the ICG.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Stargazing Live 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 5500 people attended a BBC Learning Stargazing Live event for which the ICG was the main academic partner. The event was held in Portsmouth due to the success of the previous year's event at the Historic Dockyard. Members of the public participated in a number of activities linked to ICG research, sparking questions and discussion.

- there was an increase in traffic to the ICG website two days after the event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Stargazing Live 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 450 members of the public attended the annual Stargazing Live at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard event organised by the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation with HMS Warrior and Action Stations. The majority of Co-Is participated in the event, talking to attendees about their research through stands and hands-on activities. The event was also attended by several local councillors. Many attendees reported that the event had inspired them to find out more about astronomy or attend more science-related events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description TV appearance - Horizon - Nichol 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Professor Bob Nichol featured in an episode of BBC Horizon: Dancing in the Dark - The End of Physics?

The Horizon crew accompanied Professor Nichol to Chile and, in the documentary, he discusses the scope of cosmology, the observational evidence for the nature of dark matter, and the mystery of dark energy which is expected to occupy astrophysics for some time.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Work Experience Programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the ICG held a work experience week for Year 10 pupils to experience a cosmology research environment. Pupils were selected from local schools through a competitive process.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016