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. Laura Mersini-Houghton
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Richard Holman, Carnegie Melon

Project Title

The Puzzle of the Initial Conditions and the Multiverse

Project Summary

We believe our universe started with high energy inflation. We also know it is inflating again at present. Both events seem extremely unlikely with our current understanding of physics. This disturbing fundamental issue seem to guide us to a picture where the missing piece in the puzzle is an extension of our theories to the multiverse framework and where the dynamics of gravity plays a crucial role. Three important theories predict a multiverse. Yet only one can correspond to physical reality. We thus need a better understanding of the ontology of the multiverse; its background space-time; and, potential observational imprints. We proposed to study the selection of the initial conditions by taking the multiverse to be the landscape of (3+1) dimensional worlds predicted by string theory. In this picture matter content in each initial patch tries to crunch the domain to a point while the energy of the vacuum (inflaton energy) tries to blow it apart. Thus the only way for our universe to grow large and to survive the pull of matter is by starting at high energies. One of our predictions here, the existence of a giant void was confirmed by observations only 7 months later.

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