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Course# PHYS-428: Relativity and cosmology II

Summary

This course is the basic introduction to modern cosmology. It introduces students to the main concepts and formalism of cosmology, the observational status of Hot Big Bang theory and discusses major physical processes in the early Universe.

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The Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric (FLRW; ˈfriːdmən_ləˈmɛtrə...) is a metric based on the exact solution of the Einstein field equations of general relativity. The metric describes a homogeneous, isotropic, expanding (or otherwise, contracting) universe that is path-connected, but not necessarily simply connected. The general form of the metric follows from the geometric properties of homogeneity and isotropy; Einstein's field equations are only needed to derive the scale factor of the universe as a function of time.

The expansion of the universe is the increase in distance between gravitationally unbound parts of the observable universe with time. It is an intrinsic expansion; the universe does not expand "into" anything and does not require space to exist "outside" it. To any observer in the universe, it appears that all but the nearest galaxies (which are bound by gravity) recede at speeds that are proportional to their distance from the observer, on average.

The observable universe is a ball-shaped region of the universe comprising all matter that can be observed from Earth or its space-based telescopes and exploratory probes at the present time; the electromagnetic radiation from these objects has had time to reach the Solar System and Earth since the beginning of the cosmological expansion. Initially, it was estimated that there may be 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, although that number was reduced in 2021 to only several hundred billion based on data from New Horizons.

The shape of the universe, in physical cosmology, is the local and global geometry of the universe. The local features of the geometry of the universe are primarily described by its curvature, whereas the topology of the universe describes general global properties of its shape as a continuous object. The spatial curvature is described by general relativity, which describes how spacetime is curved due to the effect of gravity.

In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional continuum. Spacetime diagrams are useful in visualizing and understanding relativistic effects such as how different observers perceive where and when events occur. Until the turn of the 20th century, the assumption had been that the three-dimensional geometry of the universe (its description in terms of locations, shapes, distances, and directions) was distinct from time (the measurement of when events occur within the universe).