, Volume 40, Issue 2-3, pp 357-420
Date: 19 Dec 2007

Extended theories of gravity and their cosmological and astrophysical applications

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Abstract

Astrophysical observations are pointing out huge amounts of “dark matter” and “dark energy” needed to explain the observed large scale structure and cosmic dynamics. The emerging picture is a spatially flat, homogeneous Universe undergoing the today observed accelerated phase. Despite of the good quality of astrophysical surveys, commonly addressed as Precision Cosmology, the nature and the nurture of dark energy and dark matter, which should constitute the bulk of cosmological matter-energy, are still unknown. Furthermore, up to now, no experimental evidence has been found, at fundamental level, to explain such mysterious components. The problem could be completely reversed considering dark matter and dark energy as “shortcomings” of General Relativity in its simplest formulation (a linear theory in the Ricci scalar R, minimally coupled to the standard perfect fluid matter) and claiming for the “correct” theory of gravity as that derived by matching the largest number of observational data, without imposing any theory a priori. As a working hypothesis, accelerating behavior of cosmic fluid, large scale structure, potential of galaxy clusters, rotation curves of spiral galaxies could be reproduced by means of extending the standard theory of General Relativity. In other words, gravity could acts in different ways at different scales and the above “shortcomings” could be due to incorrect extrapolations of the Einstein gravity, actually tested at short scales and low energy regimes. After a survey of what is intended for Extended Theories of Gravity in the so called “metric” and “Palatini” approaches, we discuss some cosmological and astrophysical applications where the issues related to the dark components are addressed by enlarging the Einstein theory to more general f (R) Lagrangians, where f (R) is a generic function of Ricci scalar R, not assumed simply linear. Obviously, this is not the final answer to the problem of “dark-components” but it can be considered as an operative scheme whose aim is to avoid the addition of unknown exotic ingredients to the cosmic pie.