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A new test that takes data from several realms of physics could explain what really happened in the first sliver of a second after the Big Bang.
Most cosmologists believe the universe burst from an extremely dense, hot state around 13.7 billion years ago, and has been expanding and cooling ever since. The universe ballooned ridiculously fast in its first moments, doubling in size thousands of times in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second.
“That would take a region the size of an atomic nucleus or a proton, and stretch it to a size exponentially greater than our observable universe at present,” said cosmologist Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University. “Superlatives are not enough here. Incredible, remarkable, unbelievable amounts of stretching.”
This idea, known as inflation, is the most popular theory for explaining why the universe looks the way it does. But so far, no one has proved it.
“At the moment it’s our best theory, but it could be literally on the wrong track,” said Latham Boyle, a cosmologist at the Perimeter Institute in Canada. “It’s important to remember that it’s not a fact.”
In a paper published Dec. 6 in Physical Review Letters, Boyle and Steinhardt show how a cluster of unrelated observations could clinch the case for inflation.
“You take two completely different sets of measurements,” Steinhardt said. “If those two numbers match, either that’s a remarkable coincidence, or inflation was the cause. This is the new test that we’re introducing.”
Cosmologists dreamed up inflation in the 1980s to account for some weird coincidences that the original Big Bang theory, which assumed the universe expanded at a relatively slow, constant rate, couldn’t explain. The universe looks nearly the same in every direction, even in regions so distant from each other that they shouldn’t know about each other. The time for light to travel from one point to the other is longer than the age of the universe.
“Why would you expect two regions of the universe to have identical properties if they never had a chance to communicate with one another?” said Steinhardt, who was one of the original authors of inflation theory. “Before inflation, the only thing you had to say was, ‘I don’t know the answer, but we have to suppose it is so.’”
Inflation offered an explanation: Those two distant points in the universe started out next door to each other, but blew apart almost immediately. Later observations of the cosmic microwave background, the subtle glow of the first atoms to release light, fit closely with what cosmologists expected if inflation were true. continues in the link.”
Originally posted by RUSSO
If matter was accelerated to velocities faster than the speed of light, what does that mean to the notion that the speed of light is the “speed limit” of the universe? Einstein was wrong?
The basic answer, however, is quite simple. Nothing can travel faster than
the speed of light through space. This does not, however, limit the speed
at which space can expand. In the first 1E-35 seconds (that is 0.00..(34
zeroes)..01 seconds after the big bang the universe expanded to a diameter
of something like 1 meter carrying all matter with it. So it was expanding
something like 3E26 (that is 3 followed by 26 zeroes) times faster than the
speed of light! And that includes the matter that was just sitting there at
rest in space. Although it is not moving relative to space (whatever that
means), a piece of matter can be increasing its distance from another piece
of matter at speeds much faster than the speed of light if the space is
expanding rapidly enough.
An analogy may help (though analogies are never completely accurate). You
have undoubtedly heard of the two dimensional model for the expansion of
space where little bugs are sitting on the surface of a balloon as it is
being blown up. The separation between the bugs can clearly increase even
though the bugs are sitting still.
Dick Plano, Professor of Physics emeritus, Rutgers University