University of Cambridge
Kavli Institute for Cosmology
For centuries, the University of Cambridge has been pushing back the frontiers of knowledge about the universe. Joining this rich tradition of inquiry is the Kavli Institute of Cosmology, founded in 2006 as the first member of the Kavli network in the U.K.
The Institute’s focus is on the physics of the early universe, the time just after the primordial event that is believed to have created the cosmos some 15 billion years ago. Led by George Efstathiou, Professor of Astrophysics at Cambridge, the Institute brings together scientists from the University’s Institute of Astronomy, Cavendish Laboratory (the Department of Physics) and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. It also is establishing fellowships for outstanding scientists early in their careers.
Cambridge’s long history as a center for astronomy and cosmology includes Isaac Newton’s discovery of the law of gravitation and, in modern times, the discovery of pulsars and crucial contributions to the development of the Big Bang model of the universe. The Kavli Institute is helping to continue this work by creating a single site at which the University’s cosmologists from different academic departments can share knowledge and work together on major projects.
When fully operational, the Institute will have some 50 researchers working on projects typically lasting five years. It will offer these scientists the benefit of close interaction as well as advanced technology, including giant telescopes and space satellites. Meanwhile, the Institute’s fellowship program will host promising scholars from around the globe for stays of up to five years. They will be free to pursue their own independent research as well as taking part in the world-class flagship projects led by distinguished Cambridge scientists.
The Institute’s primary subject, the infancy of the universe, is a seemingly inexhaustible source of discovery and debate. Study of this epoch sheds light not only on the distant past but on the present and future as well. Efstathiou and others, for instance, have found evidence for “dark energy” – a mysterious anti-gravity that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the universe – by comparing the structure of galaxy clusters now with that of the cosmic background radiation (CMB) left over from the Big Bang. Scientists are just starting to develop theories about what this “energy” might be. The Kavli Institute of Cosmology is at the forefront of efforts to answer this and other key questions about cosmic origins.
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