Abstract:
We present preliminary results of an HST/NICMOS program to image merger remnants in the J, H and K bands. The nuclear brightness profiles for most sample galaxies are similar to those typical for elliptical galaxies, but some (including the well-studied NGC 3921 and 7252) have an unusually high luminosity density at small radii. This is consistent with the prediction of N-body simulations that gas flows to the center during a merger and forms new stars.

Abstract:
We explore new physics scenarios which are optimally probed through precision Higgs measurements rather than direct collider searches. Such theories consist of additional electroweak charged or singlet states which couple directly to or mix with the Higgs boson; particles of this kind may be weakly constrained by direct limits due to their meager production rates and soft decay products. We present a simplified framework which characterizes the effects of these states on Higgs physics by way of tree level mixing (with neutral scalars) and loop level modifications (from electrically charged states), all expressed in terms of three mixing angles and three loop parameters, respectively. The theory parameters are constrained and in some cases even fixed by ratios of Higgs production and decay rates. Our setup is simpler than a general effective operator analysis, in that we discard parameters irrelevant to Higgs observables while retaining complex correlations among measurements that arise due to the underlying mixing and radiative effects. We show that certain correlated observations are forbidden, e.g. a depleted ratio of Higgs production from gluon fusion versus vector boson fusion together with a depleted ratio of Higgs decays to bb versus WW. Moreover, we study the strong correlation between the Higgs decay rate to gamma gamma and WW and how it can be violated in the presence of additional electrically charged particles. Our formalism maps straightforwardly onto a variety of new physics models, such as the NMSSM. We show, for example, that with a Higgsino of mass > 100 GeV and a singlet-Higgs coupling of lambda=0.7, the photon signal strength can deviate from the vector signal strength by up to ~ 40-60% while depleting the vector signal strength by only 5-15% relative to the Standard Model.

Abstract:
Evidence continues to grow in the MiniBooNE (MB) antineutrino mode supporting a low-energy excess compatible with the MB neutrino mode and possibly also confirming the results of the LSND experiment. At least one sterile neutrino is required to explain the anomalies consistent with the observations of other experiments. At the same time, there is a strong tension between the positive signals of LSND and MB and the null results of nu_e and nu_mu disappearance experiments. We explore a scenario, first proposed in \cite{Nelson:2010hz}, where the presence of an additional heavy sterile neutrino (with mass well above an eV) can alleviate tension between LSND, MB and the null results of disappearance experiments. We compare and contrast this 3+1+1 scenario with the more standard 3+1 scenario and carry out global fits to all oscillation data including new 2011 MB anti-nu data. We find that the tension can be somewhat alleviated and that a phenomenologically viable window for the heavy neutrino, consistent with rare decays and BBN constraints, can be found if the fifth neutrino has a mass of order 0.3 - 10 GeV. We also find, however, that the 2011 MB anti-nu data exacerbates the tension with null experiments in both the 3+1 and 3+1+1 models when the lowest energy bins are included, resulting in little improvement in the global fit. We also discuss the implications of an additional neutrino for the reactor and gallium anomalies, and show that an oscillation explanation of the anomalies is disfavored by cosmological considerations, direct searches, and precision electroweak tests.

Abstract:
When part of the environment responsible for decoherence is used to extract information about the decohering system, the preferred {\it pointer states} remain unchanged. This conclusion -- reached for a specific class of models -- is investigated in a general setting of conditional master equations using suitable generalizations of predictability sieve. We also find indications that the einselected states are easiest to infer from the measurements carried out on the environment.

Abstract:
We explore new physics scenarios which are optimally probed through precision Higgs measurements rather than direct collider searches. Such theories consist of additional electroweak charged or singlet states which couple directly to or mix with the Higgs boson; particles of this kind may be weakly constrained by direct limits due to their meager production rates and soft decay products. We present a simplified framework which characterizes the effects of these states on Higgs physics by way of tree level mixing (with neutral scalars) and loop level modifications (from electrically charged states), all expressed in terms of three mixing angles and three loop parameters, respectively. The theory parameters are constrained and in some cases even fixed by ratios of Higgs production and decay rates. Our setup is simpler than a general effective operator analysis, in that we discard parameters irrelevant to Higgs observables while retaining complex correlations among measurements that arise due to the underlying mixing and radiative effects. We show that certain correlated observations are forbidden, e.g. a depleted ratio of Higgs production from gluon fusion versus vector boson fusion together with a depleted ratio of Higgs decays to bb versus WW. Moreover, we study the strong correlation between the Higgs decay rate to gamma gamma and WW and how it can be violated in the presence of additional electrically charged particles. Our formalism maps straightforwardly onto a variety of new physics models, such as the NMSSM. We show, for example, that with a Higgsino of mass > 100 GeV and a singlet-Higgs coupling of lambda=0.7, the photon signal strength can deviate from the vector signal strength by up to ~ 40-60% while depleting the vector signal strength by only 5-15% relative to the Standard Model.

Abstract:
The Ginzburg temperature has historically been proposed as the energy scale of formation of topological defects at a second order symmetry breaking phase transition. More recently alternative proposals which compute the time of formation of defects from the critical dynamics of the system, have been gaining both theoretical and experimental support. We investigate, using a canonical model for string formation, how these two pictures compare. In particular we show that prolonged exposure of a critical field configuration to the Ginzburg regime results in no substantial suppression of the final density of defects formed. These results dismiss the recently proposed role of the Ginzburg regime in explaining the absence of topological defects in 4He pressure quench experiments.

Abstract:
Many observers can simultaneously measure different parts of an environment of a quantum system in order to find out its state. To study this problem we generalize the formalism of conditional master equations to the multiple observer case. To settle some issues of principle which arise in this context (as the state of the system and of the environment are ultimately correlated), we consider an example of a system qubit interacting through controlled nots (CNOTs) with environmental qubits. The state of the system is the easiest to find out for observers who measure in a basis of the environment which is most correlated with the pointer basis of the system. In this case the observers agree the most. Furthermore, the more predictable the pointers are, the easier it is to find the state of the system, and the better is the agreement between different observers.

Abstract:
We report the first large scale numerical study of the dynamics of the second order phase transition of a U(1) $\lambda \phi^4$ theory in three spatial dimensions. The transition is induced by a time-dependent temperature drop in the heat bath to which the fields are coupled. We present a detailed account of the dynamics of the fields and vortex string formation as a function of the quench rate. The results are found in good agreement to the theory of defect formation proposed by Kibble and Zurek.

Abstract:
We consider possibly observable effects of asymmetric dark matter (ADM) in neutron stars. Since dark matter does not self-annihilate in the ADM scenario, dark matter accumulates in neutron stars, eventually reaching the Chandrasekhar limit and forming a black hole. We focus on the case of scalar ADM, where the constraints from Bose-Einstein condensation and subsequent black hole formation are most severe due to the absence of Fermi degeneracy pressure. We also note that in some portions of this constrained parameter space, non-trivial effects from Hawking radiation can modify our limits. We find that for scalar ADM with mass between 100 keV and 10^5 GeV, the constraint from pulsars in globular clusters on the scattering cross-section with neutrons ranges from \sigma_n < 10^{-45} cm^2 to 10^{-52} cm}^2. In particular, for scalar ADM with mass between 1 GeV and 1 TeV (in the case where black hole evaporation due to Hawking radiation is unimportant), the constraint on the scattering cross-section is below what is reachable with ton scale direct detection experiments.

Abstract:
We consider current observational constraints on the electromagnetic charge of dark matter. The velocity dependence of the scattering cross-section through the photon gives rise to qualitatively different constraints than standard dark matter scattering through massive force carriers. In particular, recombination epoch observations of dark matter density perturbations require that $\epsilon$, the ratio of the dark matter to electronic charge, is less than $10^{-6}$ for $m_X = 1 GeV$, rising to $\epsilon < 10^{-4}$ for $m_X = 10 TeV$. Though naively one would expect that dark matter carrying a charge well below this constraint could still give rise to large scattering in current direct detection experiments, we show that charged dark matter particles that could be detected with upcoming experiments are expected to be evacuated from the Galactic disk by the Galactic magnetic fields and supernova shock waves, and hence will not give rise to a signal. Thus dark matter with a small charge is likely not a source of a signal in current or upcoming dark matter direct detection experiments.