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The Consequences of Modifying Fundamental Cosmological Theories


Erickcek, Adrienne Lynn (2009) The Consequences of Modifying Fundamental Cosmological Theories. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/ST6B-1S91.


In this work, we examine alternatives to three fundamental cosmological theories: extended Press-Schechter merger theory, general relativity, and single-field inflation, and derive their observational consequences. The extended Press-Schechter merger rate for dark matter haloes is mathematically inconsistent and double-valued, and yet it has been widely applied in cosmology. One such application is the merger rate of supermassive black holes, and we show that the two predictions for this rate from extended Press-Schechter merger theory are nearly equal. We then compare the supermassive-black-hole merger rate derived from the extended Press-Schechter merger formalism to the rate derived from an alternate theory, in which halo merger rates are obtained by inverting the coagulation equation.

Next, we show how two modifications to general relativity may be tested inside the Solar System. First we consider f(R) gravity, which was proposed to explain late-time cosmic acceleration. We find that several forms of f(R) gravity are inconsistent with observations, and we establish a set of criteria that determines whether or not a given form of f(R) gravity is ruled out by Solar System gravitational tests. Second, we study Chern-Simons gravity: a parity-violating theory inspired by string theory. We find that Chern-Simons gravity predicts orbital precessions that are different from those predicted by general relativity, and we use the motion of satellites to constrain the Chern-Simons coupling parameter.

Finally, we consider an alternative to single-field inflation; in the curvaton scenario, the inflaton does not generate all of the primordial perturbations. Using this theory, we propose an origin for the hemispherical power asymmetry that has been observed in the cosmic microwave background on large angular scales. While this asymmetry cannot be produced by a superhorizon fluctuation in the inflaton field, it may be generated by a superhorizon fluctuation in the curvaton field. A superhorizon fluctuation would also induce large-scale anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background; we analyze this effect and prove that our model is consistent with observations. We also show how the power asymmetry may be suppressed on smaller scales if the curvaton creates isocurvature perturbations when it decays.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:galaxy mergers; modified gravity; multi-field inflation; theoretical cosmology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Awards:Everhart Distinguished Graduate Student Lecturer Award, 2009. John Stager Stemple Memorial Prize in Physics, 2008.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kamionkowski, Marc P.
Thesis Committee:
  • Kamionkowski, Marc P. (chair)
  • Weinstein, Alan Jay
  • Benson, Andrew J.
  • Thorne, Kip S.
  • Carroll, Sean M.
Defense Date:26 May 2009
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05292009-132414
Persistent URL:
Erickcek, Adrienne Lynn0000-0002-0901-3591
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2276
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:29 May 2009
Last Modified:26 Nov 2019 20:24

Thesis Files

PDF (thesis_erickcek.pdf) - Final Version
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