The big bang is a laboratory to explore the properties of particles that cannot be created in terrestrial laboratories. In addition to thermal processes, there is another source of cosmological particle production. In 1939 Edwin Schrödinger pointed out that particle-antiparticle pairs could be created merely by the violent expansion of space. The spontaneous appearance of particles from the vacuum so disturbed Schrödinger that he referred to it as an "alarming" phenomenon. The phenomenon is now thought to be the origin of density fluctuations produced in inflation as well as a background of gravitational waves. Gravitational particle production is a rich phenomenon, which continues to be explored.
Rocky is the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, as well as a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. Currently he is serving as the Dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences.