Talks & Events

Ph.D. Thesis Defenses Past Ph.D. Thesis Defenses Challenges in theoretical modeling of cosmic reionization Ph.D. Committee members: Andrey Kravtsov, HsiaoWen Chen, Wayne Hu "Dr. Alexander Kaurov's work on studying cosmic reionization  the process of ionization of the bulk of cosmic gas by ultraviolet radiation from the first stars and quasars  was instrumental in combining diverse theoretical concepts into a single, unified paradigm that connects directly with modern stateoftheart numerical simulations. This breakthrough will have numerous practical applications for the analysis and interpretation of the forthcoming observational data from the future James Webb Space Telescope, Giant Magellan Telescope, and radio observations of the epoch when the first galaxies lit up."  Nickolay Y. Gnedin, Ph.D. advisor Thesis Abstract: As the sensitivity and precision of modern instruments increases, the observations start to approach two digit redshifts, which is a midreionization epoch. In the upcoming decade we expect to have many of highly diverse observations of the epoch of reionization. Those observations will include: 21cm global signal and tomography experiments, improved CMB polarization measurements, the properties of individual galaxies including Lyα emitters, and the ionization state of the IGM through observations of the spectra of highz quasars. Even though for each of these observations theoretical models are already developed; there is no unified theoretical framework to analyze them altogether in a selfconsistent way, i.e. to perform a full Bayesian analysis of all available observations. Therefore, I would like to discuss why it is still an unsolved problem and how it can be approached. In particular, I will talk about our latest developments in numerical simulations of cosmic reionization with full radiation transfer, and their interplay with approximate semianalytical methods. Most importantly, I will review possibilities for the parameter spaces used in reionization models. In addition, I will present our recent results on more exotic reionization scenarios that include dark matter annihilation. Snapshots of Faraway Places: Intensive Atmosphere Characterization of Extrasolar Planets Scientific Advisor: Jacob L. Bean Ph.D. Committee members: Daniel Fabrycky, HsiaoWen Chen, and Andrey Kravstov "Laura conducted the most ambitious observational programs ever on the topic of exoplanet atmospheres for her dissertation. She used large investments of Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescope time to measure exoplanet atmospheric compositions, thermal structures, energy budgets, and dynamics to understand planetary origins and physics. The papers resulting from her work are the new benchmarks in the field, and provide a foundation for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets with future facilities."  Jacob L. Bean, Ph.D. advisor Thesis Abstract: Exoplanet atmosphere characterization has the potential to reveal the origins, nature, and even habitability of distant worlds. This thesis represents a step towards realizing that potential for a diverse group of four extrasolar planets. Here, I present the results of intensive observational campaigns with the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to study the atmospheres of the superEarth GJ 1214b and the hot Jupiters WASP43b, WASP12b, and WASP103b. I measured an unprecedentedly precise nearinfrared transmission spectrum for GJ 1214b that definitively reveals the presence of clouds in the planet's atmosphere. For WASP43b and WASP12b, I also measured very precise spectra that exhibit water features at high confidence (>7 sigma). The retrieved water abundance for WASP43b extends the wellknown Solar System trend of decreasing atmospheric metallicity with increasing planet mass. The detection of water for WASP12b marks the first spectroscopic identification of a molecule in the planet's atmosphere and implies that it has solar composition, ruling out carbontooxygen ratios greater than unity. For WASP103b, I use the new technique of phaseresolved spectroscopy to determine the planet's temperature structure, dynamics, and energy budget. In addition to these observations, I also present the BATMAN code, an opensource Python package for fast and flexible modeling of transit light curves. Taken together, these results provide a foundation for comparative planetology beyond the Solar System and the investigation of Earthlike, potentially habitable planets with future observing facilities. Experimental Constraints on the Exotic Shearing of SpaceTime Ph.D. Advisor: Stephan S. Meyer Ph.D. Committee members: Craig Hogan, Daniel Holz, Edward Kibblewhite, Stephan S. Meyer "Jon's thesis represents an important milestone. He's done much of the critical work to make the Holometer experiment a reality. It's the most sensitive instrument ever built to study tiny random jitters of space. In his thesis, he shows that the scale of random shear jitter is more than an order of magnitude less than the Planck length, which was the theoretical expectation. The experiment essentially rules out this effect. He's working with our team now to reconfigure the machine to study the other possibility, a jitter of rotational motion, at similar sensitivity. There is some hope that this effect in the laboratory may connect with the cosmic dark energy problem."  Craig J. Hogan Thesis Abstract: The Holometer program is a search for first experimental evidence that spacetime has quantum structure. The detector consists of a pair of colocated 40m powerrecycled interferometers whose outputs are read out synchronously at 50 MHz, achieving sensitivity to spatiallycorrelated fluctuations in differential position on time scales shorter than the lightcrossing time of the instruments. Unlike gravitational wave interferometers, which timeresolve transient geometrical disturbances in the spatial background, the Holometer is searching for a universal, stationary quantization noise of the background itself. This dissertation presents the final results of the Holometer Phase I search, an experiment configured for sensitivity to exotic coherent shearing fluctuations of spacetime. Measurements of highfrequency crossspectra of the interferometer signals obtain sensitivity to spatiallycorrelated effects far exceeding any previous measurement, in a broad frequency band extending to 7.6~MHz, twice the inverse lightcrossing time of the apparatus. This measurement is the statistical aggregation of 2.1 petabytes of 2byte differential position measurements obtained over a monthlong exposure time. At 3sigma significance, it places an upper limit on the coherence scale of spatial shear two orders of magnitude below the Planck length. The result demonstrates the viability of this novel spatiallycorrelated interferometric detection technique to reach unprecedented sensitivity to coherent deviations of spacetime from classicality, opening the door for direct experimental tests of theories of relational quantum gravity. 