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Clay Fellowship Lecture : Fast Radio Bursts

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Streamed live on May 9, 2019

In the last decade, we have established the existence of extragalactic fast radio bursts (FRBs) of sub-millisecond durations, likely originating at cosmologically significant distances. Explaining the FRB phenomenon has proved a compelling challenge to theory, with the number of distinct models only this year being superseded by the 65 reported events. The high FRB occurrence rate (comparable to the core-collapse supernova rate), isotropic-equivalent luminosities comparable to the most luminous quasars, the wide range of intrinsic and propagation-induced phenomenology, and the repetition of at least a sub-sample of objects are particularly noteworthy. FRBs have also opened a powerful new window into otherwise unseen matter in the Universe. Observations of large FRB samples will help assess the baryon contents and physical conditions in the hot/diffuse circumgalactic, intracluster, and intergalactic medium, and test extant compact-object dark matter models. I will review the state of the field and its promise for the future.

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