Big bang nucleosynthesis in the new cosmology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN) describes the production of the lightest elements in the first minutes of cosmic time. We review the physics of cosmological element production, and the observations of the primordial element abundances. The comparison between theory and observation has heretofore provided our earliest probe of the universe, and given the best measure of the cosmic baryon content. However, BBN has now taken a new role in cosmology, in light of new precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Recent CMB anisotropy data yield a wealth of cosmological parameters; in particular, the baryon-to-photon ratio ν = nb/nγ is measured to high precision. The confrontation between the BBN and CMB "baryometers" poses a new and stringent test of the standard cosmology; the status of this test are discussed. Moreover, it is now possible to recast the role of BBN by using the CMB to fix the baryon density and even some light element abundances. This strategy sharpens BBN into a more powerful probe of early universe physics, and of galactic nucleosynthesis processes. The impact of the CMB results on particle physics beyond the Standard Model, and on non-standard cosmology, are illustrated. Prospects for improvement of these bounds via additional astronomical observations and nuclear experiments are discussed, as is the lingering "lithium problem.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExotic Nuclei and Nuclear/Particle Astrophysics (II) - Proceedings of the Carpathian Summer School of Physics 2007, CSSP07
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008
EventCarpathian Summer School of Physics 2007, CSSP07 - Sinaia, Romania
Duration: Aug 20 2007Aug 31 2007

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


ConferenceCarpathian Summer School of Physics 2007, CSSP07


  • BIG bang nucleosynthesis
  • Formation and abundances of the elements
  • Origin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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