Abstract:
We consider the effects of large structures in the Universe on the Hubble diagram. This problem is treated non-linearly by considering a Swiss Cheese model of the Universe in which under-dense voids are represented as negatively curved regions of space-time. Exact expressions for luminosity distances and redshifts are used to investigate the non-linear effects of structure on the magnitudes of astrophysical sources. It is found that the intervening voids we consider, between the observer and source, produce changes in apparent magnitude of less than 0.012. Sources inside voids, however, can be affected considerably at redshifts below z~0.5. By averaging observable quantities over many randomly generated distributions of voids we find that the presence of these structures has the effect of introducing a dispersion around the mean, which itself can be displaced the background value. Observers in an inhomogeneous universe, who take averages of observables along many different lines of sight, may then introduce systematic biases, and under-estimate errors, if these effects are not taken into account. Estimates of the potential size of these effects are made using data from simulated large-scale structure.

Abstract:
We describe and discuss the application of Gumbel statistics, which model extreme events, to WMAP 5-year measurements of the cosmic microwave background. We find that temperature extrema of the CMB are well modelled by the Gumbel formalism and describe tests for Gaussianity that the approach can provide. Comparison to simulations reveals Gumbel statistics to have only weak discriminatory power for the conventional statistic: $f_{NL}<1000$, though it may probe other regimes of non-Gaussianity. Tests based on hemispheric cuts reveal interesting alignment with other reported CMB anomalies. The approach has the advantage of model independence and may find further utility with smaller scale data.

Abstract:
It is well known that observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) are highly sensitive to the spatial curvature of the Universe, k. Here we find that what is in fact being tightly constrained by small angle fluctuations is spatial curvature near the surface of last scattering, and that if we allow k to be a function of position, rather than taking a constant value everywhere, then considerable spatial curvature is permissible within our own locale. This result is of interest for the giant void models that attempt to explain the supernovae observations without Dark Energy. We find voids models with a homogeneous big bang can be compatible with the observed small angle CMB, but only if they exist in a positively curved universe. To be compatible with local measurements of H_0, however, we find that a radially varying bang time is required.

Abstract:
There is a distinct possibility that current and future cosmological data can be used to constrain Einstein's theory of gravity on the very largest scales. To be able to do this in a model-independent way, it makes sense to work with a general parameterization of modified gravity. Such an approach would be analogous to the Parameterized Post-Newtonian (PPN) approach which is used on the scale of the Solar System. A few such parameterizations have been proposed and preliminary constraints have been obtained. We show that the majority of such parameterizations are only exactly applicable in the quasistatic regime. On larger scales they fail to encapsulate the full behaviour of typical models currently under consideration. We suggest that it may be possible to capture the additions to the `Parameterized Post-Friedmann' (PPF) formalism by treating them akin to fluid perturbations.

Abstract:
Statistically anomalous signals in the microwave background have been extensively studied in general in multipole space, and in real space mainly for circular and other simple patterns. In this paper we search for a range of non-trivial patterns in the temperature data from WMAP 7-year observations. We find a very significant detection of a number of such features and discuss their consequences for the essential character of the cosmos.

Abstract:
There are a number of approaches to testing General Relativity (GR) on linear scales using parameterized frameworks for modifying cosmological perturbation theory. It is sometimes assumed that the details of any given parameterization are unimportant if one uses it as a diagnostic for deviations from GR. In this brief report we argue that this is not necessarily so. First we show that adopting alternative combinations of modifications to the field equations significantly changes the constraints that one obtains. In addition, we show that using a parameterization with insufficient freedom significantly tightens the apparent theoretical constraints. Fundamentally we argue that it is almost never appropriate to consider modifications to the perturbed Einstein equations as being constraints on the effective gravitational constant, for example, in the same sense that solar system constraints are. The only consistent modifications are either those that grant near-total freedom, as in decomposition methods, or ones which map directly to a particular part of theory space.

Abstract:
Observations by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite have identified an excess of microwave emission from the centre of the Milky Way. It has been suggested that this WMAP haze emission could potentially be synchrotron emission from relativistic electrons and positrons produced in the annihilations of one (or more) species of dark matter particles. In this paper we re-calculate the intensity and morphology of the WMAP haze using a multi-linear regression involving full-sky templates of the dominant forms of galactic foreground emission, using two different CMB sky signal estimators. The first estimator is a posterior mean CMB map, marginalized over a general foreground model using a Gibbs sampling technique, and the other is the ILC map produced by the WMAP team. Earlier analyses of the WMAP haze used the ILC map, which is more contaminated by galactic foregrounds than the Gibbs map. In either case, we re-confirm earlier results that a statistically significant residual emission remains after foreground subtraction that is concentrated around the galactic centre. However, we find that the significance of this emission can be significantly reduced by allowing for a subtle spatial variation in the frequency dependence of soft synchrotron emission in the inner and outer parts of the galaxy. We also re-investigate the prospect of a neutralino dark matter interpretation of the origin of the haze, and find that significant boosting in the dark matter annihilation rate is required, relative to that obtained with a smooth galactic dark matter distribution, in order to reproduce the inferred residual emission, contrary to that deduced in several recent studies.

Abstract:
We analyze correlations between the first letter of the name of an author and the number of citations their papers receive. We look at simple mean counts, numbers of highly-cited papers, and normalized h-indices, by letter. To our surprise, we conclude that orthographically senior authors produce a better body of work than their colleagues, despite some evidence of discrimination against them.

Abstract:
Weak gravitational lensing has the potential to constrain cosmological parameters to high precision. However, as shown by the Shear TEsting Programmes (STEP) and GRavitational lEnsing Accuracy Testing (GREAT) Challenges, measuring galaxy shears is a nontrivial task: various methods introduce different systematic biases which have to be accounted for. We investigate how pixel noise on the image affects the bias on shear estimates from a Maximum-Likelihood forward model-fitting approach using a sum of co-elliptical S\'{e}rsic profiles, in complement to the theoretical approach of an an associated paper. We evaluate the bias using a simple but realistic galaxy model and find that the effects of noise alone can cause biases of order 1-10% on measured shears, which is significant for current and future lensing surveys. We evaluate a simulation-based calibration method to create a bias model as a function of galaxy properties and observing conditions. This model is then used to correct the simulated measurements. We demonstrate that this method can effectively reduce noise bias so that shear measurement reaches the level of accuracy required for estimating cosmic shear in upcoming lensing surveys.

Abstract:
We present and describe im3shape, a new publicly available galaxy shape measurement code for weak gravitational lensing shear. im3shape performs a maximum likelihood fit of a bulge-plus-disc galaxy model to noisy images, incorporating an applied point spread function. We detail challenges faced and choices made in its design and implementation, and then discuss various limitations that affect this and other maximum likelihood methods. We assess the bias arising from fitting an incorrect galaxy model using simple noise-free images and find that it should not be a concern for current cosmic shear surveys. We test im3shape on the GREAT08 Challenge image simulations, and meet the requirements for upcoming cosmic shear surveys in the case that the simulations are encompassed by the fitted model, using a simple correction for image noise bias. For the fiducial branch of GREAT08 we obtain a negligible additive shear bias and sub-two percent level multiplicative bias, which is suitable for analysis of current surveys. We fall short of the sub-percent level requirement for upcoming surveys, which we attribute to a combination of noise bias and the mis-match between our galaxy model and the model used in the GREAT08 simulations. We meet the requirements for current surveys across all branches of GREAT08, except those with small or high noise galaxies, which we would cut from our analysis. Using the GREAT08 metric we we obtain a score of Q=717 for the usable branches, relative to the goal of Q=1000 for future experiments. The code is freely available from https://bitbucket.org/joezuntz/im3shape