Laura Mersini-Houghton - Research


The main questions Laura Mersini-Houghton explores are: Why did our universe start from such an incredibly low entropy state? Can we test the origins of the universe with our current ground and space based experiments? If cosmology is embedded in a richer structure, the multiverse, what observational evidence can test it? The motivation comes from the need for a coherent theory of the origins of the universe and a deeper understanding of nature at extreme energies. The objective is to link the current major experiments, the Planck Mission and LHC, to predictions of candidate theories.

Soon after the discovery of the landscape, L.M-H proposed a theory for the birth of the universe from the landscape multiverse. The main idea is based on placing the wavefunction of the universe on the landscape in order to calculate the most probable wavefunction of the universe. This theory takes into account the out of equilibrium dynamics in the initial states and it includes decoherence among the various wavefunctions. The derived probability distribution results in states of high energy inflation being the most probable initial condition to start a universe. The selection mechanism arises from the out of equilibrium evolution of gravitational versus matter degrees of freedom, as follows: gravity is a ’negative heat capacity system’ (vacuum energy tends to equilibrium by expanding the initial space to infinity), while matter degrees of freedom are in the class of ’positive heat capacity’ systems (that tend to equilibrium by collapsing the system to a point). Any realistic cosmology contains both contributions massive fluctuations, and, vacuum energy. Therefore, the evolution of the opposing tendencies of the degrees of freedom in the initial states drives the state out of equilibrium and selects only high energy initial states as ’survivor’ universes from the back reaction of massive fluctuations since only high energy states can grow. Initial states that contain large vacuum energies give rise to expanding physical universes. Low energy initial states cannot survive the back reaction of massive fluctuations, cannot grow and thus result in ’terminal’ universes.

In 2007, Mersini-Houghton proposed that the observed CMB cold spot was "the unmistakable imprint of another universe beyond the edge of our own", just as she and her collaborator had predicted in her theory 8 months earlier.

In November 2008, a NASA team led by Alexander Kashlinsky observed the Dark Flow of galaxy clusters in the universe at exactly the velocity and alignment predicted by her earlier in the 'Cosmological Avatars of the Landscape I, II' papers in 2006.

In the same year (2006) WMAP reached agreement with SDSS experiment, that the overall amplitude of fluctuation is less than 1. If these observational findings, predicted in the 2006 papers by Mersini-Houghton et al. are confirmed over the next few years, then they may offer the first evidence of a universe beyond our own. Such confirmation would tie the standard model of cosmology into a more coherent picture where our universe is not at the center of the world, but part of it.

After the observational confirmation of the three predictions (the Void, Dark Flow and Sigma8) her work continues to attract international media attention, GCHEP/UNC, in the New Scientist, Bild der Wissenschaft, Scientific American, and Discover magazine.

Two astrophysicists reported recently that they have found evidence of the northern hemisphere void in analysis of WMAP data.

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