To promote scientific discussions during this pandemic, we are organizing an online seminar series, i.e. Copernicus Webinar Series, seeking the most outstanding speakers to introduce innovative ideas and important progress in the field of gravity and cosmology. This series is named after the famous Polish Astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, whose discovery eventually marked the dawn of modern science.
In the approach to a singularity in general relativity, spacetime often becomes largely shear dominated and highly anisotropic. Any speculative cosmological scenario with a contracting phase prior to a Big Bounce must therefore address the issue of large anisotropies. In this talk, I will review this anisotropy problem and the status of isotropisation mechanisms in this context, which involve, e.g., modified gravity or non-perfect fluids. An emphasis will be given on the latter, in light of the recent work arXiv:2109.11701 [gr-qc].
An important and unresolved question in cosmology today is whether there is new physics that is missing from our current standard Lambda Cold Dark Matter (LCDM) model. Recent measurements of the Hubble constant, Ho -- based on Cepheids and Type Ia supernovae (SNe) -- are discrepant at the 4-5-sigma level with values of Ho inferred from measurements of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The latter assumes LCDM, and the former assumes that systematics have been fully accounted for. If real, the current discrepancy could be signaling a new physical property of the universe. I will present new results based on an independent calibration of SNe Ho based on measurements of the Tip of the Red Giant Branch (TRGB). The TRGB marks the luminosity at which the core helium flash in low-mass stars occurs and provides an excellent standard candle. Moreover, the TRGB method is less susceptible to extinction by dust, to metallicity effects, and to crowding/blending effects than Cepheid variable stars. I will address the current uncertainties in both the TRGB and Cepheid distance scales, as well as discuss the current tension in Ho and whether there is need for additional physics beyond the standard LCDM model.