Our universe is roughly 13.7 billion years old. On very large scales the universe is smooth, but galaxy clustering and the distribution of hot and cold spots in the microwave background show that the universe contains coherent structures over 100 million light years across. The seeds for these structures appear to have been planted by quantum mechanical fluctuations less than a trillion-trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, at energy scales billions of times higher than those that are probed in the largest particle accelerators. Richard Easther and his collaborators at Auckland work to understand the physical processes that took place in the very early universe, exploring both the origin of our universe, and the fundamental forces of nature.
In particular, Easther and his group explore the properties of different models of inflation, a hypothetical period immediately after the big bang during which the expansion rate of the universe accelerates dramatically. By carefully analyzing the properties of different inflationary models Easther and his group can test their predictions against observations of the sky.