Cosmological problems with multiple axion-like fields

Katherine J. MacK, Paul J. Steinhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Incorporating the QCD axion and simultaneously satisfying current constraints on the dark matter density and isocurvature fluctuations requires non-minimal fine-tuning of inflationary parameters or the axion misalignment angle (or both) for Peccei-Quinn symmetry-breaking scales fa > 1012 GeV. To gauge the degree of tuning in models with many axion-like fields at similar symmetry-breaking scales and masses, as may occur in string theoretic models that include a QCD axion, we introduce a figure of merit F that measures the fractional volume of allowed parameter space: the product of the slow roll parameter and each of the axion misalignment angles, θ0. For a single axion, F ≲10-11 is needed to avoid conflict with observations. We show that the fine tuning of F becomes exponentially more extreme in the case of numerous axion-like fields. Anthropic arguments are insufficient to explain the fine tuning because the bulk of the anthropically allowed parameter space is observationally ruled out by limits on the cosmic microwave background isocurvature modes. Therefore, this tuning presents a challenge to the compatibility of string-theoretic models with light axions and inflationary cosmology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number001
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


  • axions
  • physics of the early universe
  • string theory and cosmology


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