This award funds the research activities of Professors Savas Dimopoulos, Peter Graham, Shamit Kachru, Renata Kallosh, Andrei Linde, Leonardo Senatore, Steve Shenker, Eva Silverstein and Leonard Susskind at Stanford University.
We live in an era of rapid progress on central questions in fundamental particle physics, early-universe cosmology, and quantum gravity. In particle physics, the origin of the masses of many of the elementary particles is expected to be explained by new types of particles and interactions found at energies of roughly 100 times the proton mass --- a scale known as the weak scale. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has attained energies in proton-proton collisions that are high enough to produce such new particles, and has discovered the elusive Higgs boson, confirming this picture. But serious questions remain about the properties of the Higgs particle itself, and the LHC has yet to shed light on these. Professors Dimopoulos and Graham will focus on developing complementary experimental methods of probing fundamental physics as well as new theoretical mechanisms to explain the still mysterious properties of the Higgs particle. Professors Kallosh, Linde, Senatore, and Silverstein will lead diverse efforts to develop the theory of inflation --- our leading candidate for the physics underlying the Big Bang --- in terms of its possible experimental signatures and underlying theoretical structures. The Stanford group will also develop new models and tests of a diverse array of potential early-Universe phenomena. Professors Kachru, Shenker, and Susskind are working on issues in quantum gravity. These include studies of how the mysterious physics of black holes (which seem to destroy particles and information by absorbing them) can be reconciled with quantum mechanics. They also include attempts to understand new mathematical structures underlying quantum gravity. Collectively, this work advances the national interest by developing new tools and paradigms in fundamental science. The broader impacts of this work include the training of numerous junior scientists who then play prominent roles in academia, industry, and finance, as well as the dissemination of material which educates the general public about cutting-edge issues in modern theoretical physics.
More technically, Professors Dimopoulos and Graham are developing ideas to look for new forces at the micron scale (plausibly transmitted by light moduli) and new solutions to the hierarchy problem that involve cosmological history, such as the relaxion mechanism. Professors Kallosh, Linde, Senatore, and Silverstein are justifying new models of large-field inflation using supergravity and string-theory ideas; developing new ways of probing non-Gaussianity of the primordial fluctuations coming from inflation; and developing systematic techniques to extract primordial cosmological data from studies of large-scale structure. Professor Kachru is exploring connections between structures in number theory (especially the theory of automorphic forms) on the one hand and BPS states, black holes and string vacua on the other. Professor Shenker is investigating the chaotic properties of dynamics and spectra in quantum field theories, with a focus on those theories that may be relevant in holography. Finally, Professor Susskind is developing a theory of complexity in holography.