The ERC project EUSTRONG will enable major breakthroughs in understanding strong interactions in nuclei and neutron stars, and where strong interactions are essential in dark matter direct detection and neutrino physics. Recently, great progress has been made in constraining the nuclear equation of state from nuclear physics combined with neutron star observations and the neutron star merger GW170817. At the same time, ab initio calculations of nuclei using chiral effective field theory (EFT) interactions have reached nuclei with up to 100 nucleons. These successes are based in parts on developments in my past ERC Starting Grant. Taking these to the next level, we will explore the equation of state with the goal to provide first constraints directly on dense matter interactions from astrophysics, including from new NASA NICER observations. This will enable us to answer which microscopic interactions are consistent with astrophysical observations, or where there are tensions. To this end, we will develop the equation of state to high densities using Fermi liquid theory, and explore new degrees of freedom at intermediate densities. The second work package will advance the ab initio frontier to key heavy nuclei including full uncertainty quantification. This will be realized by developing eigenvector continuation and tensor network methods to the ab initio in-medium similarity renormalization group. Another milestone will explore EFTs and novel power countings for nuclei. This will open new horizons in the physics of nuclei, with global ab initio predictions of nuclear masses for r-process simulations. The third work package will derive ab initio nuclear responses for dark matter direct detection and coherent neutrino scattering, where a reliable understanding of strong interaction effects is crucial. Moreover, universal correlations and EFTs will be explored to predict nuclear matrix elements for neutrino physics.
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