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The University of Southampton

PHYS6071 Physics of the Early Universe

Module Overview

Since the end of the 1990s, cosmology has experienced one of the most impressive advances among all scientific disciplines. This happened mainly because of astonishing progress in the precision and accuracy of astronomical and cosmological observations resulting in a breathtaking sequence of major scientific discoveries as witnessed by two Nobel Prizes in Physics awarded in this period for discoveries in cosmology: in 2006 to G.F.Smoot and J.C.Mather for the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation anisotropy and in 2011 to S.Perlmutter, B.S.Schmidt and A.G.Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae. It is now established that the universe experienced an early hot stage where particle physics greatly influenced the properties of the universe and its evolution: this is the early universe stage. This allows to use the universe as a special laboratory of particle physics, double checking results that we found in ground laboratories but even more importantly probing new physics, i.e., physics beyond the Standard Model. Even more excitingly we arrived to the conclusion that today cosmological observations can be only explained extending the Standard Model and, therefore, cosmology represents today one of the greats motivations for beyond the standard model physics. In the module established results, such as recombination and big bang nucleosynthesis, will be discussed together with the solutions to these challenging cosmological puzzles that require new physics.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes


- Friedmann Cosmology - Lemaitre cosmological models and the Lambda-CDM model - Recombination and Cosmic Microwave Background radiation - The radiation dominated regime - Thermodynamics of the expanding universe - Neutrino decoupling and electron-positron annihilations - Big Bang Nucleosynthesis - Inflation - Origin of perturbations and structure formation - Kinetic theory in the early universe - Models of Dark Matter - Baryogengesis - Dark Energy

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be based on lectures in class with deviation of main results on black board with auxiliary slides to show plots, pictures , summarise results. There will be 3 hours of lectures per week for a total of 36 hours.

Follow-up work18
Completion of assessment task2
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Wider reading or practice66
Total study time152


Assessment Strategy

There will be 11 problem sheets handed out on weekly basis. Although these do not count towards the final mark, they should provide useful feedback to students since detailed model answers will be posted the subsequent week. Some of the problems will be discussed in class. Notice also that a test will take place during the second hour of week 9. Though it will not contribute to the final mark, it will be marked. Results will be made available in week 11 and will provide a useful individual feedback before the final exam.


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 10%
Final Assessment  90%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: PHYS3007

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