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7 July 2006

Funding for Dark Universe

"Dark Universe": new transregional long-term collaborative research project at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bonn and Munich — Rector Prof. Hommelhoff: "A further distinction for our university, which now has 14 current long-term collaborative research projects to its name" — Initial funding 6.5 million euros

In conjunction with Bonn and Munich, the University of Heidelberg has a new transregfional long-term collaborative research project to its name: "Dark Universe" (SFB/TR 33). Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff had this to say: "The University of Heidelberg is immensely gratified by the new transregional long-term collaborative research project at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bonn and Munich on Dark Matter and Dark Energy. This is a further distinction for our university, which currently has 14 long-term collaborative projects to its name."

Together, Dark Matter and Dark Energy account for over 95 percent of the energy density of our universe and solving the enigma surrounding them is a crucial objective in modern-day theoretical and experimental physics. The existence of Dark Matter has been deduced indirectly on the basis of a whole range of measurements. Though it represents anything up to a quarter of the energy density of the universe, nothing is known about its physical nature or constitution. At present we only have this kind of knowledge about the 5 percent of baryonic matter susceptible of direct observation and measurement.

The major part of the energy density of the universe consists of the Dark Energy distributed equally throughout it. Measurement of the light from remote supernovae indicate that our universe is expanding at an ever faster pace. Theoretically an explanation for this phenomenon has been sought either in the so-called "cosmological constant" mooted in Einstein's Field Equations or in a time-dependent description. Finding an answer to the question of whether Dark Energy is static or dynamic is of immense significance for physics. It has a crucial bearing not only on cosmology and astrophysics but also on particle physics.

The new transregional project at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bonn and Munich will draw on the research on Dark Matter and Dark Energy already being done at those locations and extend its scope. One essential aim of the initiative is to examine the possible interaction between Dark Matter (probably involving hitherto unknown elementary particles) and Dark Energy. Alongside new theoretical insights, a feature of especial importance is the opportunity to undertake new measurements with which, for example, the fraction of Dark Energy can be defined as a function of time. These will be incorporated into the investigations of the new project. Another research focus will be the likelihood of Dark Matter and Dark Energy having a common origin.

The new collaboration between scientists at three German universities who have already been working on various aspects of the proposed initiative provides an opportunity to achieve a leading international position in a field of research that can be expected to expand appreciably in the coming years. To this end 15 part-projects have been initiated in the framework of this transregional undertaking. These part-projects are grouped into three categories: the origin of Dark Energy and Dark Matter; the time history of Dark Energy; the connections between Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

The significance of this project is reflected by the fact that at the same time the German Research Foundation (DFB) has given the go-ahead for the establishment of a new long-term collaborative research project on a related topic at the University of Hamburg: "Particles, Strings and the Early Universe. The Structure of Matter and Space-Time". The assumption is that these two long-term projects will benefit from one another.

The German Research Foundation has earmarked some 6.5 million euros for the funding of the new collaborative research project SFB/TR 33 at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bonn and Munich in the first four years of its existence. After expert international review, this period can be extended first to eight years and subsequently to a maximum of 12 years. By far the largest portion of the resources will go into 31 temporary posts for scientists and pre-docs. Heidelberg is the coordinating university, with Prof. Christof Wetterich of the Institute of Theoretical Physics acting as spokesman for the first four years.

http://www.darkuniverse.uni-hd.de

Please address any inquiries to:
Georg Wolschin
University of Heidelberg
Institute of Theoretical Physics
phone: 06221/549415, fax: 549333
wolschin@uni-hd.de

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317
michael.schwarz@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/index.html


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