### abstract

- Both inflationary and quintessence cosmologies require scalar fields which roll very slowly over cosmological time scales, and so typically demand extremely flat potentials. Sufficiently flat potentials are notoriously difficult to obtain from realistic theories of microscopic physics, and this poses a naturalness problem for both types of cosmologies. We propose a brane-world-based microscopic mechanism for generating scalar potentials which can naturally be flat enough for both types of cosmological applications. The scalars of interest are higher-dimensional bulk pseudo-Goldstone bosons whose scale of symmetry breaking is exponentially suppressed in the higher-dimensional theory by the separation between various branes. The light scalars appear in the effective 4D theory as pseudo-Goldstone bosons. Since naturalness problems are more severe for quintessence models, motivated by our construction we explore in more detail the possibilities for using pseudo-Goldstone bosons to build quintessence models. Depending on how the cosmological constant problem is solved, these models typically imply the universe is now entering a matter-dominated oscillatory phase for which the equation of state parameter w = p/rho oscillates between w = 1 and w = -1.