Methodology and Epistemology in Cosmology Conference

February 10-12, 2017
University of California, Irvine / Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway Room 1517

The twenty first century has, thus far, been a period of rapid progress in cosmology. And yet this very success has begun to expose the limits of current methods and forced cosmologists to explore new ways of learning about the universe and its history. At this conference, we will explore three related areas where methodological innovation has been called for, and where it has already begun. One theme will concern the epistemology of inflation. Does inflationary cosmology inexorably lead us to postulate a multiverse where anything that can happen does happen? And if so, what does it mean to test a theory that is compatible with anything we might observe? Or can we treat inflation as a more conventional theory, with unambiguous observational signatures? A second theme will concern dark matter and dark energy. We have inferred the existence of these entities by comparing observational evidence with models of general relativity. But one might just as well infer, from the behavior of the visible matter in the universe, that general relativity breaks down at cosmological (or even galactic) length scales. What are the prospects for alternatives to general relativity at cosmological scales? How might cosmology be used to test general relativity? The final theme will concern the role of simulation in our understanding of the history of the actual universe. Can simulations be used to test theories of the early universe? Do they provide an independent source of information about cosmology, or are they an intermediary between theory and observation?

View abstracts and the conference schedule.

Confirmed Speakers:
    Kev Abazajian (UC Irvine) The Limits of Scientific Cosmology
    Anthony Aguirre (UC Santa Cruz) Cosmological intimations of aggravating infinities
    Andreas Albrecht (UC Davis) Reflections on Cosmic Inflation
    Feraz Azhar (Cambridge) Three aspects of typicality in multiverse cosmology
    James Bullock (UC Irvine) Simulations and the Nature of Dark Matter
    Claudia de Rham (Case Western) Beyond Einstein
    Manoj Kaplinghat (UC Irvine) Can we understand the nature of dark matter if it does not interact with the known particles?
    Barry Madore (Carnegie Observatories) A Philosophically-Informed and Computationally-Coordinated, Empirical Search for Pure Dark-Matter Galaxies
    Ashley Perko (Stanford University) Effective Field Theory in Cosmology
    Sarah Shandera (Penn State) Cosmology in a finite universe
    Chris Smeenk (Western) Challenges to Primordial Cosmology
    Frank van den Bosch (Yale) Numerical Simulations in Cosmology: tool kit or Pandora box?
    Eric Winsberg (USF) “Testing this Extraordinary Scenario”: Simulation and models of Big Bang cosmology
Confirmed Discussants:

Image credit: NASA Hubble Space Telescope