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The George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy

Why invest in our work?

We have made tremendous strides towards understanding the Universe and tracking its history from the earliest times. However, we have only begun to understand the fundamental nature of our Universe.

We are entering a critical phase of discovery. We now understand that atoms account for only 4 percent of the present energy budget of the Universe, while Dark Matter contributes 23 percent, and the remaining 73 percent is “Dark Energy.” Everything in the Universe is connected from the lightest particles to the largest structures. But how?

To illuminate these connections more requires synergistic efforts from high energy theorists, cosmologists, astronomers, and high energy experimentalists. The Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy is poised to play a unique role in understanding the interconnection between particle physics and cosmology.

We expect to see a revolution in cosmology and particle physics in the next decade in these important areas:

  • Development of a profound theoretical understanding of inflation and the mysterious nature of Dark Energy, providing a more precise history of the Universe.
  • Identification of Dark Matter particles at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), with the Fermi gamma-ray space telescope, and through direct detection experiments.
  • Precise measurements of the properties of Dark Energy, the geometry of space, and the process of inflation through several large projects, including the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX); the Dark Energy Survey (DES); the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST); and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The unique integration of scientists at the Mitchell Institute stands ready to play a critical role in these discoveries. We are also committed to sharing this knowledge through Education and Public Outreach – to inspire and enlighten the next generation of scientists.

Our research programs advance our scientific knowledge, but there are also practical applications that touch our everyday lives. For centuries, new ideas and breakthroughs in astronomy and physics have transformed our world. For instance, knowledge of the constellations and the motion of the stars and Sun have been instrumental to navigation. Even today, a precise knowledge of the position of stars helps satellites orient themselves in space.

Likewise, a multitude of inventions have arisen from physics breakthroughs. Nearly every piece of electronics equipment as well as semiconductors, lasers, and solar cells rely on our understanding of quantum mechanics, a 20th century physics discovery. Similarly, technologies ranging from radio to remote sensing are based on Maxwell’s unification of electricity and magnetism, a 19th century breakthrough.

Finding answers to the fundamental nature of our Universe will continue to change the way we live today and tomorrow. The more we understand our Universe, the better we are equipped to imagine, innovate, and invent.