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The Quantum Origin of Structure in the Universe

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Quantum fluctuations in the vacuum play an important role in fundamental physics. In this talk, I will show that these fluctuations get stretched to cosmic scales if the early universe experienced a period of inflationary expansion. Using little more than the quantum mechanics of a simple harmonic oscillator, I will compute this effect and explain how it provides the primordial seeds for all structure in the universe. I will show how these predictions compare to recent observations of the cosmic microwave background. Finally, I will speculate about the physical cause for the inflationary expansion.

This talk is part of the Trinity Mathematical Society series.

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