Search This Blog

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Before the Big Bang, and Beyond the Universe

Not very many years ago the title of this post would have been oxymoronic. There was no "before" the Big Bang, and no "beyond" the universe; the Big Bang defined the beginning of Time and the universe defined the limits of Space.

This month, for the first time, astronomers studying patterns in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) have discovered artifacts both from before the Big Bang and beyond this universe. At least four other universes have "bumped" into our own. The images below are of "bruises" in the CMB of our own universe. 

By rights this announcement should be as big, or bigger than the Copernican Revolution, which first proved that Earth was not the center of the Universe. But only 90 years ago it was still scientifically accepted that the sun was at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which was the only galaxy and therefore the entire universe (the other observable galaxies being mistaken for small nebulae within the Milky Way). The Shapley-Curtis debate in 1920 marked the beginning of our present understanding of the cosmos. Heber Curtis correctly surmised that the Andromeda "nebula" and others were in fact "island universes"; separate galaxies unto themselves. Harlow Shapley, for his part, correctly surmised that rather than inhabiting the exalted real estate of the center of the galaxy, the Sun actually exists far away from the center of the galaxy. We now know that the sun is in the Orion-Cygnus spur, not even one of the major galactic Spiral Arms.    

So, within a human lifetime, we have been relocated within the collective conscious from the center of the universe to a speck in some galactic backwater in only one of countless billions of galaxies. So perhaps the further relocation from a single universe with a unique beginning to just one of countless universes just doesn't seem that important to anyone other than astronomers and physicists. That's okay. I still think it's pretty damned cool.

Here's the story from the Daily Mail:  Cosmic Bruises

Here's the original paper, and a response to another group of researchers who were able to reproduce the data but didn't agree with the original team's conclusions.

No comments:

Post a Comment