The accelerating universe and other cosmological aspects of modified gravity models

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Mark Trodden


Accelerating universe, Gravity, Dark energy

Subject Categories

Astrophysics and Astronomy | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Physics


I give a short introduction to standard cosmology and a review of what it is meant by "the dark energy enigma" in chapter l. In chapter 2, I mention and describe some attempts found in the literature of the past few years to attack this problem. Dark energy candidates for which the equation-of-state parameter w is less than -1 violate the dominant energy condition. In scalar-tensor theories of gravity, however, the expansion of the universe can mimic the behavior of general relativity with w < -1 dark energy, without violating any energy conditions. I examine, in chapter 3, whether this possibility is phenomenologically viable by studying Brans-Dicke models and characterizing both the naturalness of the models themselves, and additional observational constraints from limits on the time-dependence of Newton's constant. I find that only highly contrived models would lead observers to measure w < -1. In chapter 4, I consider general curvature-invariant modifications of the Einstein-Hilbert action that become important only in regions of extremely low space-time curvature. I investigate the far future evolution of the universe in such models, examining the possibilities for cosmic acceleration and other ultimate destinies. The models generically possess de Sitter space as an unstable solution and exhibit an interesting set of attractor solutions which, in some cases, provide alternatives to dark energy models. In chapter 5, I study a baryogenesis mechanism operating in the context of hyperextended inflation and making use of a coupling between the scalar field and a standard model global current, such as B or B - L . The method is efficient at temperatures at which these currents are not conserved due to some higher dimensional operator. The particle physics and cosmological phenomenology are discussed. I consider constraints stemming from nucleosynthesis and solar system experiments.


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