Large Grants
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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Dr. Raphael Bousso
University of California at Berkeley

Project Title

Why is the Universe Large?

Project Summary

The universe is expanding, though for most of the 20th century, it was hard to say just how fast. In the past decade, our understanding of cosmology has improved dramatically. We know the rate of expansion with great precision, and we know that the expansion is accelerating. This has allowed us to conclude that the universe will become infinitely large. Ironically, however, most of it will be forever hidden from us. Precisely because of the ever more rapid expansion, light from distant enough galaxies can never reach us, no matter how long we wait. For all practical purposes, we live in a box. By human standards, the box is big: billions of light years. To a physicist, it is shockingly enormous, more than 1061 (a one with 61 zeros) times larger than the natural length scale handed to us by the laws of physics. Can we explain this large disparity? Why is the universe the size it is? Recent insights in string theory and theoretical cosmology promise to shine light on this mystery. I have played a role in developing some of these new tools, and I propose to apply them to this simple yet profound question.

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