Overview of the KICP
Cosmological discoveries over the past two decades have had an impact on both astronomy and physics. For example, we have found that the Universe is a giant particle accelerator which enables particles to have energies that are 30 million times higher than those found in terrestrial accelerators. Another area where physics and astronomy are intertwined is in understanding "dark matter". The Universe contains large amounts of "dark matter" which scientists feel is made of a particle that is yet to be discovered. The origin of structure in the Universe such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies is believed to have happened through sub-atomic quantum fluctuations, whose ripples we see as tiny fluctuations in the temperature of cosmic microwave background across the sky.

These and other discoveries show that physics at the smallest scale - interactions of the quarks and leptons - is intimately connected with the largest scale - the constitution and birth of the cosmos itself. The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics is at the forefront of research that exploits these connections. It is committed to the development of innovative approaches that combine both physics and astronomy to further our understanding of the birth and earliest evolution of the Universe. The KICP was founded in August 2001 as one of the National Science Foundation's Physics Frontier Centers and was originally named the Center for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. On March 10th 2004, following a generous endowment from the Kavli Foundation the CfCP was renamed the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. This generous endowment has made this research institute devoted to interdisciplinary cosmological physics a permanent entity at the University of Chicago.
There are three profound questions that form the primary scientific focus of the Institute:
  • What is the nature of the dark energy that dominates the Universe and what is its impact on the evolution of the Universe?
  • Was there an inflationary epoch in the first moments of the Universe, and if so, what is the underlying physics that caused it?
  • What clues do nature's highest energy particles offer about the unification of forces?
  • To attempt to answer these questions a variety of experimental work is being carried out at the Institute that comes under the purview of three major research components. The fourth major research component at the KICP involves theoretical work that is closely tied to the experiments. A brief description of the 4 research themes of the Institute are given here. To find out more about them, kindly refer to our research pages.
Structures in the Universe
This experimental effort is devoted to measuring the expansion history of the Universe and probing the nature of the dark energy. Strong and weak gravitational lensing is being studied using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to obtain an independent verification of the acceleration of the Universe. High redshift clusters discovered through the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Effect will be used to probe the equation of state of dark energy. The Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Array is being built for this purpose. The South Pole Telescope (SPT) will also look for additional clusters of galaxies in the high redshift universe.
Cosmic Background Radiations
The research in this area focuses on three experiments that study the cosmic microwave and cosmic infra-red backgrounds. CAPMAP is an experiment that will look for polarization anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background. While the EDGE balloon experiment, which is still in the planning phase, will study the cosmic infra-red background. In 2004 the KICP has become involved in the development of the QUIET experiment, which is another experiment to look for polarization anisotropies in the CMB.
Particles from Space
The search for particle dark-matter annihilations, violations of Lorentz invariance, and the study of neutrinos through the detection of ultra-high energy neutrinos can be carried out using high energy particles from space. The VERITAS TeV gamma ray telescope, the Pierre Auger Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Ray Observatory, the CERN Axion Solar Telescope are three such high energy particles collaborations that the KICP is involved in. The Chicagoland Observatory for Underground Particle Physics (COUPP) started in the underground laboratory in LASR and has now moved to the much deeper SNOlab in Canada. CoGeNT, another experiment to search directly for dark matter candidates is located in the Soudan Underground Laboratory.
This area covers a wide range of investigations relating models of fundamental physics to cosmological phenomena. The issues being addressed are tightly interwoven with each other and with the experimental programs of the Institute. In addition to the science questions mentioned above, the theoretical work includes models of dark matter, the evolution of large-scale structure, the nature of spacetime on small scale and related issues.

The KICP also serves the community at large through the following programs: (a) It has an associates and affiliates program to allow researchers both in the Chicago area and elsewhere to become a part of the KICP and to contribute to its activities. (b) The KICP has a very active visitor and seminar program and organizes workshops and symposia on topical issues every few months (c) There is wide-ranging education and outreach program that enables K-12 students, school teachers and planetarium educators and the general public to learn about cosmology.

We welcome you explore our web site further to discover more about the Institute and what the latest research in cosmology is unearthing about our Universe.