Understanding how structure emerged in the universe provides one of today's great scientific challenges. Huge quantities of new astronomical data, including maps of the cosmic microwave sky fluctuations and of the distribution of galaxies, are providing stringent constraints on possible theories. At the same time, the results of new particle physics experiments are beginning to imply very strong constraints on the possible nature of the dark matter. The two structure formation theories investigated in most detail so far involve quantum fluctuations generated during inflation, and cosmic defects produced at symmetry breaking phase transitions. Both theories involve physics beyond the standard model, and if either is proven correct, there will be important implications for high energy theory.
The programme will begin with discussions of the latest observational data, including the statistical techniques needed to analyse the new data sets, with the aim of fitting the observations together in a coherent framework. Extensions and variants of current theories, as well as entirely novel approaches will then be considered. During the programme, fundamental questions regarding the big bang and inflationary theory will be addressed, as well as connections to string theory and quantum gravity.