This award funds the research activities of Professors Jacques Distler, Willy Fischler, Can Kilic, Sonia Paban and Steven Weinberg of the Theory Group at the University of Texas at Austin.
Since its foundation, the Theory Group has had a strong track record of conducting research on a broad range of topics with the goal of exploring the fundamental laws of nature. These topics include the dynamics of the very early universe, the relationship between information and black holes (which may lead to crucial insights into the fundamental theory of gravity), the possible extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics (which describes all known particles and their interactions) and the experimental signatures of such extensions, and the exploration of string theory and formal aspects of quantum field theory. This diversified effort to improve our understanding of nature at the deepest levels is well aligned with the goal of advancing the national interest by maintaining and further boosting the role of the United States as the global leader in theoretical high-energy physics. The Theory Group is also actively committed to making physics accessible to a wider audience and achieving a substantial impact outside of academia. This is achieved through popular lectures given to live audiences as well as over other media, through the publication of books at both the public and technical levels, and through the development of web technologies. In addition, the Theory Group takes pride in the training of graduate students and postdocs who continue on to successful careers in this field.
Specifically, the avenues of research to be conducted during the term of this project include, but are not limited to, the following: Distler will extend the classification of N=2 four-dimensional superconformal field theories and explore a generalization of important results in topological string theory. Fischler will continue his exploration of the physical effects of theta angles on black hole horizons and their experimental signatures as seen by observers hovering at a fixed distance from black holes. He will complete his research on the effects of shockwaves in de Sitter space and the implications for holographic information. He will study the description of mixmaster universes in the context of AdS/CFT. Fischler will also continue his longstanding work on holographic space-time and revisit the initial conditions for inflation. Kilic will explore aspects of collider physics as well as models of dark matter and their experimental signatures. Paban will study theories of inflation with many fields and the conditions under which they reach the adiabatic limit at the end of inflation. Weinberg will continue the search for a modified version of quantum mechanics that will avoid the usual unsatisfactory aspects while retaining the successes of the existing theory.