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Cosmological Consequences of Dark Matter Interactions and Vacuum Fluctuations


Boddy, Kimberly K. (2014) Cosmological Consequences of Dark Matter Interactions and Vacuum Fluctuations. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/9YN7-RS46.


This thesis is divided into two parts: interacting dark matter and fluctuations in cosmology. There is an incongruence between the properties that dark matter is expected to possess between the early universe and the late universe. Weakly-interacting dark matter yields the observed dark matter relic density and is consistent with large-scale structure formation; however, there is strong astrophysical evidence in favor of the idea that dark matter has large self-interactions. The first part of this thesis presents two models in which the nature of dark matter fundamentally changes as the universe evolves. In the first model, the dark matter mass and couplings depend on the value of a chameleonic scalar field that changes as the universe expands. In the second model, dark matter is charged under a hidden SU(N) gauge group and eventually undergoes confinement. These models introduce very different mechanisms to explain the separation between the physics relevant for freezeout and for small-scale dynamics.

As the universe continues to evolve, it will asymptote to a de Sitter vacuum phase. Since there is a finite temperature associated with de Sitter space, the universe is typically treated as a thermal system, subject to rare thermal fluctuations, such as Boltzmann brains. The second part of this thesis begins by attempting to escape this unacceptable situation within the context of known physics: vacuum instability induced by the Higgs field. The vacuum decay rate competes with the production rate of Boltzmann brains, and the cosmological measures that have a sufficiently low occurrence of Boltzmann brains are given more credence. Upon further investigation, however, there are certain situations in which de Sitter space settles into a quiescent vacuum with no fluctuations. This reasoning not only provides an escape from the Boltzmann brain problem, but it also implies that vacuum states do not uptunnel to higher-energy vacua and that perturbations do not decohere during slow-roll inflation, suggesting that eternal inflation is much less common than often supposed. Instead, decoherence occurs during reheating, so this analysis does not alter the conventional understanding of the origin of density fluctuations from primordial inflation.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:dark matter; self-interacting dark matter; chameleon; inflation; cosmology; de Sitter; Higgs
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Carroll, Sean M.
Group:Caltech Theory
Thesis Committee:
  • Wise, Mark B. (chair)
  • Carroll, Sean M.
  • Cheung, Clifford W.
  • Weinstein, Alan Jay
Defense Date:21 May 2014
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05302014-163148727
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8447
Deposited By: Kimberly Boddy
Deposited On:02 Jun 2014 22:34
Last Modified:26 Oct 2021 17:57

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