In the past decade cosmology has undergone a renaissance, transforming from a data-starved science to a data-driven one. The COBE satellite and subsequent observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) have begun to give us a detailed picture of the early Universe; telescopes have found galaxies at distances corresponding to the Universe at one-tenth of its present age; large-scale redshift surveys have begun to map out the structure of the nearby Universe. However, the size of these datasets threatens to leave cosmology data-swamped. Realizing our scientific goals will depend on meeting the qualitatively new computational challenges set by the quantitatively new data. The issues cosmologists will face in the analysis, synthesis and presentation of the data---including data compression and transmission, mass storage, data mining, parallel algorithms and scaling, inverse problems and regularization methods, and complex data visualization---are also at the forefront of current research in Computer Science and Statistics. The investigators and their colleagues will involve a focused collaboration between astrophysicists, statisticians and computer scientists that will revolutionize our use of computational tools, techniques and technologies to cope with the new challenges posed by these datasets. The needs of Cosmology will provide a practical spur to new developments in Computer Science and Statistics, enabling and informing new research both within astrophysics and more widely in other data-intensive disciplines. Research will be organized along four interlocking paths. First, they must be appropriate tools to analyze the individual datasets. Second, will be the synthesis and simulation of the datasets to formulate a coherent picture of the evolution of structure in the Universe. Finally, there must be access to the data and the products of the analysis, both to members of the collaboration, and the outside community.
Cosmology is the quest for the understanding of the Universe on the largest scales, and of the events that unfolded in the first moments after the Big Bang. Light that now makes up the Cosmic Microwave Background (or CMB) last interacted with matter in the Universe when it was about one hundred thousand years old (a small fraction of its age today of fifteen billion years); observing the CMB allows cosmologists to map out the Universe at these very early times. Somewhat closer to home, observing the distribution of galaxies lets them see the present state of the Universe. Only ten years ago, the amount of data involved in these studies was tiny. Advances in telescope and detector technology has allowed a manyfold increase in this data; this vast increase pushes the limits of our computational ability to analyze it. The investigators and their colleagues, at the forefront of astrophysics, computer science and statistics, will pool their resources and talents to develop tools to analyze and synthesize this vast amount of data. This will allow them to form a coherent and complete picture of the evolution of the Universe from the earliest times to the present day and--perhaps most importantly--far into the future.
The collaborators on this work come from various disciplines.