Recent observations suggest the Big Bang began with inflation, a period of accelerated expansion in the very early Universe. But what set inflation in motion? Is our observable Universe part of a larger multiverse? a compactification of a larger-dimensional Universe? Does the Universe follow from the merger of quantum mechanics and gravity? or is there something more? Is the multiverse connected with the origins of life and consciousness in the cosmos? Theorists have over the years been prolific in speculative answers to these questions, but with an explosion of observations, a deeper investment in ideas to test the various hypotheses is warranted. This proposal aims to fund a program of theoretical research to consider new hypotheses for what set the Universe in motion, think about novel ways to test them, and to thus make contact between speculations about these deep questions and the realm of measurements. Funding will support a vibrant postdoctoral program in theory, with contact with numerical simulations and the application of statistics to cosmology, in a strong observational environment under the tutelage of established senior investigators. There will also be a vigorous visitor program to make contact with a spectrum scientists elsewhere, and to provide opportunities for cosmologist beyond Johns Hopkins to contribute to and benefit from this Templeton-funded program. The outputs of the proposed program will be a significant body of research papers published in research journals, as well as the training of three promising young scientists in idea-oriented theoretical research. Longer-term outcomes will include the development of new directions for major new observational programs. Enduring impacts may include new answers to some of the deepest and oldest scientific questions and new paradigms for the origin and evolution of the Universe and man's place within it.
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