Spring 2008 Physics 690

Special Topics in Astrophysics: The Dark Universe

Thursdays 1:40-3:40pm, Serin 372
Instructor: Saurabh W. Jha


The last decade has witnessed a revolution in our cosmological understanding: multiple lines of evidence show that we live in a Universe dominated by the effects of dark energy and dark matter. Characterizing the properties of these components is the frontier of current research. In this seminar, we will trace the development of these dark components in the standard cosmological model. We will also discuss current and proposed experiments to constrain the nature of dark matter and dark energy, and explore potential alternatives to the standard paradigm.

With quantum fluctuations in the early universe seeding superclusters and voids today, particle dark matter halos shaping and supporting galaxies, and vacuum energy driving the accelerating expansion, modern cosmology directly connects physics at the largest and smallest scales. As such, this course is broadly aimed to engage graduate students across physics, enabling a synthesis of observational, experimental, and theoretical results.

The course will have a reading/seminar format. We will meet weekly to discuss a few (~4) important papers on a specific topic, and two students will be assigned to lead the presentation for that week.


January 24
Organizational meeting
January 31
The concordance cosmology
Matthew Klimek, Dusan Maletic
Dark matter
February 7
Historical evidence for dark matter
Amruta Deshpande, Luke Hovey
February 14
Cold, non-baryonic dark matter vs. the alternatives
Matthew Calhoun, Dusan Maletic,
Saurabh Jha
February 21
Modern constraints
Chelsea Sharon, Yue Zhao
February 28
Dark matter halos and their demons
Danielle Buggé, Yi Zhang
March 6
Direct and indirect detection of particle dark matter
Saquib Ahmed, AJ Richards
Dark energy
March 13
Evidence and discovery
Danielle Buggé, Luke Hovey
March 20
no class (spring break reading assignment)
March 27
Dark energy models
Matthew Klimek, Yi Zhang
April 3
Modern constraints part 1
AJ Richards, Chelsea Sharon
April 10
Modern constraints part 2
Saquib Ahmed, Matthew Calhoun,
Amruta Deshpande
April 17
Future experiments and a historical perspective
Yan-chi Shi, Yue Zhao
April 24
Final presentations
Danielle Buggé, Chelsea Sharon,
Saquib Ahmed, AJ Richards,
Yi Zhang
May 1
Final presentations
Amruta Deshpande, Matthew Klimek, Luke Hovey, Yue Zhao,
Matthew Calhoun

Grading and Format

Grading will be based on three factors: class participation (50%), seminar presentation (30%), and final presentation (20%). Because class participation is so important, missing class is not recommended! If you know you will be absent, please discuss it with me.

Each week, we will read ~4 papers from the scientific literature. Everyone is expected to read the papers, and two people will be assigned to be the discussion leaders. The leaders will prepare a journal-club style presentation (Powerpoint, Keynote, or PDF) about the papers to guide the discussion. The presentations should place the papers in context, explain the basic physics involved, highlight the main results, and critically assess the conclusions. They should be designed to last ~15 minutes per paper, so that including discussion, we cover each paper for ~30 minutes.

Presenters are required to go over their slides with me by 5pm on the Tuesday before class so I can provide feedback.

In the last two class meetings, everyone will present a paper of their own choosing based on the themes of the course.


Here are some web resources you may find helpful or indispensable:

Other Items

Auditors and other visitors are welcome, especially if you have read the papers in advance and are willing to contribute to the discussion!

Students with disabilities should consult the department policy.

Contact Information

Feel free to contact me with questions, including about any of the readings!

email: saurabh@physics.rutgers.edu
tel: 732-445-6979

office: Serin 315
office hours: by appointment; Tuesday afternoon is usually a good time.


Last updated: April 14, 2008 swj