Abstract:
The cosmic microwave background (CMB) anisotropies have turned out to represent one of the most stringent 'bottle necks' for scenarios of large scale structure formation. As a possibility to relax this constraint, it has been proposed that early reionization can damp CMB fluctuations on small scales due to photon diffusion in the ionized plasma. As an example, I investigate the recently proposed scenario with cold dark matter (CDM) and texture seeds. There, an analysis of CMB anisotropies shows that early reionization is a crucial ingredient for this scenario. Without damping, the small scale anisotropies would dominate and exceed observed limits. In this paper I present analytical and numerical results for the amount of damping due to early reionization for CMB perturbations induced by a collapsing texture. Furthermore, the spectral distortion of the CMB due to Compton scattering of the hotter plasma electrons is calculated. Next I discuss the physical processes which lead to a system of coupled ordinary differential equations for the degree of ionization, the electron temperature and the evolution of the ionizing radiation.

Abstract:
After an introduction to the problem of cosmological structure formation, we develop gauge invariant cosmological perturbation theory. We derive the first order perturbation equations of Einstein's equations and energy momentum ``conservation''. Furthermore, the perturbations of Liouville's equation for collisionless particles and Boltzmann's equation for Compton scattering are worked out. We fully discuss the propagation of photons in a perturbed Friedmann universe, calculating the Sachs--Wolfe effect and light deflection. The perturbation equations are extended to accommodate also perturbations induced by seeds. With these general results we discuss some of the main aspects of the texture model for the formation of large scale structure in the Universe (galaxies, clusters, sheets, voids). In this model, perturbations in the dark matter are induced by texture seeds. The gravitational effects of a spherically symmetric collapsing texture on dark matter, baryonic matter and photons are calculated in first order perturbation theory. We study the characteristic signature of the microwave background fluctuations induced in this scenario and compare it with the COBE observations.

Abstract:
The analysis of anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) has become an extremely valuable tool for cosmology. We even have hopes that planned CMB anisotropy experiments may revolutionize cosmology. Together with determinations of the CMB spectrum, they represent the first cosmological precision measurements. This is illustrated in the talk by Anthony Lasenby. The value of CMB anisotropies lies to a big part in the simplicity of the theoretical analysis. Fluctuations in the CMB can be determined almost fully within linear cosmological perturbations theory and are not severely influenced by complicated nonlinear physics. In this contribution the different physical processes causing or influencing anisotropies in the CMB are discussed. The geometry perturbations at and after last scattering, the acoustic oscillations in the baryon-photon-plasma prior to recombination, and the diffusion damping during the process of recombination. The perturbations due to the fluctuating gravitational field, the so called Sachs-Wolfe contribution, is described in a very general form using the Weyl tensor of the perturbed geometry.

Abstract:
I discuss the generation of a stochastic background of gravitational waves during a first order phase transition. I present simple general arguments which explain the main features of the gravitational wave spectrum like the $k^3$ power law growth on large scales and a estimate for the peak amplitude. In the second part I concentrate on the electroweak phase transition and argue that the nucleosynthesis bound on its gravitational wave background seriously limits seed magnetic fields which may have been generated during this transition.

Abstract:
We discuss gravitational effects of global scalar fields and, especially, of global topological defects. We first give an introduction to the dynamics of global fields and the formation of defects. Next we investigate the induced gravitational fields, first in a flat background and then in the expanding universe. In flat space, we explicitly calculate the gravitational fields of exact global monopole and global texture solutions and discuss the motion of photons and massive particles in these geometries. We also show that slowly moving particles and the energy of photons are not affected in static scalar field configurations with vanishing potential energy. In expanding space, we explore the possibility that global topological defects from a phase transition in the very early universe may have seeded inhomogeneities in the energy distribution which yielded the observed large scale structure in the Universe, the sheets of galaxies, clusters, voids ... . We outline numerical simulations which have been performed to tackle this problem and briefly discuss their results.

Abstract:
In this letter a new formula for light deflection is derived using only physically observable concepts. The general result is specialized to cosmological perturbation theory and expressed in terms of gauge--invariant perturbation variables. The resulting scalar, vector and tensor equations are supplemented by simple examples for illustration. The gravity wave example may be of more than academic interest and even represent a new way to detect gravitational waves.

Abstract:
An introduction to topological defects in cosmology is given. We discuss their possible relevance for structure formation. Especial emphasis is given on the signature of topological defects in the spectrum of anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background. We present simple analytic estimates for the CMB spectrum on large and intermediate scales and compare them with the corresponding approximations for models where initial perturbations are generated during an inflationary epoch.

Abstract:
Structure formation with topological defects is described. The main differences from inflationary models are highlighted. The results are compared with recent observations. It is concluded that all the defect models studied so far are in disagreement with recent observations of CMB anisotropies. Furthermore, present observations do not support 'decoherence', a generic feature of structure formation from topological defects.

Abstract:
In this note I try to clarify the problem of perturbations in the ekpyrotic universe. I write down the most general matching conditions and specify the choices taken by the two debating sides. I also bring up the problem of surface stresses which always have to be present when a transition from a collapsing to an expanding phase is made.

Abstract:
In this paper I discuss what we truly know about dark energy. I shall argue that up to date our single indication for the existence of dark energy comes from distance measurements and their relation to redshift. Supernovae, CMB anisotropies and observations of baryon acoustic oscillations, they all simply tell us that the observed distance to a given redshift is larger than the one expected from a Friedmann Lemaitre universe with matter only and the locally measured Hubble parameter.