Quintessence in a quandary: on prior dependence in dark energy models
The archetypal theory of dark energy is quintessence: a minimally coupled scalar field with a canonical kinetic energy and potential. By studying random potentials we show that quintessence imposes a restricted set of priors on the equation of state of dark energy. Focusing on the commonly-used parametrisation, $w(a)\approx w_0+w_a(1-a)$, we show that there is a natural scale and direction on the $(w_0, w_a)$ plane that distinguishes quintessence as a general framework. We calculate the expected information gain for a given survey and show that, because of the non-trivial prior information, it is a function of more than just the figure of merit. This allows us to make a quantitative case for novel survey strategies.