Colloquium: Cosmological Implications of Recent Low-noise, High-resolution Measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background

Dr. Lloyd Knox University of California, Davis

Observing the sky in the microwave region of the spectrum allows us to directly image the universe when it was just a few hundred thousand years old. The universe was much simpler then, simple enough that its expected statistical properties, given a model, can be calculated with high accuracy. Recent improvements in measurement resolution and sensitivity, most notably from the Planck satellite, but also from the South Pole Telescope, have provided precision tests of the standard cosmological model. In this colloquium I will introduce the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and the standard cosmological model. I will explain the nature of these precision tests and what we are learning about the origin of all structure in the universe, and about the background of neutrinos thermally produced in the big bang. I will also cover how the improvements in resolution and sensitivity are opening up a new window on the dark universe, via gravitational lensing of the CMB.