Invited Review for Physics Reports.

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T. Padmanabhan

IUCAA, Pune University Campus, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411 007, India.

Abstract. Recent cosmological observations suggest the existence of a positive cosmological constant Lambda with the magnitude Lambda(G hbar / c3) approx 10-123. This review discusses several aspects of the cosmological constant both from the cosmological (sections 1 - 6) and field theoretical (sections 7 - 11) perspectives. The first section introduces the key issues related to cosmological constant and provides a brief historical overview. This is followed by a summary of the kinematics and dynamics of the standard Friedmann model of the universe paying special attention to features involving the cosmological constant. Section 3 reviews the observational evidence for cosmological constant, especially the supernova results, constraints from the age of the universe and a few others. Theoretical models (quintessence, tachyonic scalar field, ...) with evolving cosmological `constant' are described from different perspectives in the next section. Constraints on dark energy from structure formation and from CMBR anisotropies are discussed in the next two sections. The latter part of the review (sections 7 - 11) concentrates on more conceptual and fundamental aspects of the cosmological constant. Section 7 provides some alternative interpretations of the cosmological constant which could have a bearing on the possible solution to the problem. Several relaxation mechanisms have been suggested in the literature to reduce the cosmological constant to the currently observed value and some of these attempts are described in Section 8. Next section gives a brief description of the geometrical structure of the de Sitter spacetime and the thermodynamics of the de Sitter universe is taken up in section 10. The last section deals with the role of string theory in the cosmological constant problem.

Key words: cosmological constant, dark energy, cosmology, cmbr, quintessence, de Sitter spacetime, horizon, tachyon, string theory
PACS: 98.80.-k, 98.80.Es , 98.80.Cq , 98.80.Qc , 04.60.-m

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