Members of the astrophysics group study the evolution of the Universe and the objects in it. We use observations of galaxies, gas, and the primordial plasma, in order to constrain the small number of cosmological parameters describing the Universe, and further to test our fundamental physical theories. We are particularly interested in the application of principled statistical techniques, pioneered by the work of the Imperial Centre for Inference and Cosmology.
Several members of the Astrophysics Group are part of the Space Plasma Climate Section. Relevant research in this group includes studies of the formation and evolution of dusty galaxies, studies of the formation of stars and planets, investigations into the habitability of planets forming around stars of varied types, the study of the Sun and Sun-like stars, quantification of the variability of the Sun for use in climate modelling, and the search for signs of biological activity within our own Solar System.
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High Energy Physics
High energy particles
High energy physics addresses basic questions about matter and energy, such as the origin of mass and the observed asymmetry between matter and anti-matter. Much of the Imperial HEP programme is directed at discovering where the Standard Model — which has proved amazingly successful in the description of electro-weak interactions — will break down, since theoretical expectations imply that it cannot be the final story. This will be accomplished by testing predictions to high accuracy and looking for phenomena outside the model such as supersymmetry or extra dimensions. Already outside the Standard Model, the recently discovered neutrino oscillations are being probed with new superbeam experiments.
Imperial HEP Group members lead many of the current and future international experiments at CERN (Europe), Fermilab (USA), and KEK (Japan). The Group conducts a programme of state of the art detector development and accelerator R&D aimed at the eventual construction of a muon collider. In the astro-particle field the group works on providing instrumentation and data analysis for a future space-based gravitational wave observatory. The Group is actively involved in the development of Grid computing technologies required to support large scale distributed data processing by the LHC experiments. We have also set up an ambitious development programme by which to deliver the novel technologies required to drive forward the discovery programme and to serve society through the advancement of bio-medical technique.
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String/M-Theory and Quantum Field Theory
The Theoretical Physics Group was founded in 1956 by Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam. The Group's research probes the theoretical laws of nature at the most fundamental level. One important theme is quantum gravity, the attempt to unify Einstein’s theory of General Relativity with quantum theory. A major focus of activity of the Group is centred on String/M-theory and its associated profound connections with both quantum field theory as well as pure mathematics and even condensed matter theory.
The Group also works on other approaches to quantum gravity as well as the foundations of quantum mechanics. Our research in quantum field theory covers a wide range of applications from particle physics and cosmology to effective theories of condensed matter systems and quantum gravity. Interconnected is our cosmology research which aims to discover ways of testing innovative particle physics and quantum gravity theories against hard astrophysical data.