Since the measurements of COBE/FIRAS in the mid-90’s we know that the energy spectrum of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) is extremely close to that of a perfect blackbody at an average temperature T0≃2.726 K. However, a number of early-universe processes are expected to create CMB spectral distortions —departures of the average CMB energy spectrum from a blackbody— at a level that is within reach of present-day technology. This provides strong motivation to study the physics of CMB spectral distortions and ask what these small signals might be able to tell us about the Universe we live in. In this lecture, I will give a broad-brush overview of recent theoretical and experimental developments, explaining why future spectroscopic measurements of the CMB will open an unexplored new window to early-universe and particle physics. I will give an introduction about the different types of distortions, how they evolve and thermalize and highlight some of the physical processes that can cause them. I hope to be able to convince you that CMB spectral distortions could open an exciting new path forward in CMB cosmology, which is complementary to planned and ongoing searches for primordial B-mode polarization signals. Spectral distortions should thus be considered very seriously as part of the activities in the next decades.
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