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Precision tests of the inflationary scenario

Final Report Summary - PRECISION INFLATION (Precision tests of the inflationary scenario)

At present, our best picture of the very early universe comes from the "inflationary" paradigm. In inflationary models, small gravitational potential wells are generated by quantum fluctuations at very early times. Later, matter and radiation are drawn into these potential wells where they condense to form the complex web of galaxies that we see around us. For some time, the principal obstruction to progress in this field has been the difficulty of comparing theory with observation, which has traditionally required a mix of complex quantum mechanical pen-and-paper calculations with highly developed numerical methods. In this project, we developed tools and infrastructure to simplify this comparison.

The principal deliverable was a major compute code that automates the calculation of inflationary observables directly from a "Lagrangian", which is the typical way in which particle physicists write down their models. By doing so we enable theorists whose expertise may lie in other areas to rapidly develop and apply cosmological constraints to their models. In addition, we have used our toolkit to perform the first exploration of models whose predictions are so complex that they cannot realistically be performed "by hand". In the future, we plan to extend and develop these tools to provide off-the-shelf techniques to compute any observable of cosmological interest for a wide range of early universe models.