Although there is a great deal of evidence for the big bang, it does raise an interesting question. If the universe began with the big bang, what caused the big bang? One of the more popular answers is that the universe quite literally came from nothing.
For generations humans looked up at the night sky and had only questions. Now we can look up at the night sky and know. Not just what stars and planets are, but the whole sky, the universe in its entirety. And yet there are still more questions to be asked.
With all the news about BICEP2 and the possible detection of early inflation, there have been a lot of misconceptions about what inflation actually is. One of the biggest is the idea that during inflation the universe expanded faster than light. It’s a misconception that even many experts get wrong.
Yesterday a research project known as BICEP2 announced important results regarding cosmic inflation. The result centers on what is known as B-mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background. This is pretty big news, but it is also pretty complex, so let’s look at what’s really going on here and why this matters.
Popular science loves to portray the big bang as an explosion from a point. It was even portrayed this way in the new Cosmos series. The only problem is that isn’t how the universe began, and portraying it this way raises all sorts of misconceptions.
What happened before the big bang? You might ask what is north of the North Pole.
When measuring the motion of distant galaxies, we use the Doppler effect to measure their speed relative to us. Basically, as a galaxy moves away from us, the light from the galaxy appears more red than it actually is. This is similar to the way the sound of a train can sound lower as it moves away from you. Of …
The most widely accepted model for the universe, sometimes called the standard model of cosmology, is known as the ΛCDM model. The Λ or “lambda” refers to the dark energy parameter known as the cosmological constant (which often uses lambda to represent its value). The CDM stands for Cold Dark Matter, which is the type of dark matter currently best supported by observation. In the ΛCDM model, the matter of the universe consists of regular matter (about 5%), cold dark matter (about 27%). Dark energy is then caused by a cosmological constant, which is a property of space and time itself, giving rise to dark energy.
NASA has recently released the WMAP 9 year mission results. It’s taken the WMAP team two years to analyze this latest (and last planned) round of data. On the one hand, the results are just as we expect.