The Big Bang theory says that our universe began with a colossal explosion, about 14 billion years ago, and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Astronomers combine mathematical models with observations to develop workable theories of how the universe came to be, including Albert Einsteins general theory of relativity along with standard theories of fundamental particles. Today, NASA spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope continue measuring the expansion of the universe.We can now tell an unbroken story, from inflation to the postinflation period, to the Big Bang and beyond, says David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and professor of physics at MIT, about the postinflation reheating period that set up the conditions for the Big Bang, and in some sense puts the bang in the Big Bang. Its this bridge period where all hell breaks loose and matter behaves in anything but a simple way. We can trace a continuous set of processes, all with known physics, to say this is one plausible way in which the universe came to look the way we see it today.
Cosmic Inflation Lasted Less than a Trillionth of a Second
Just before the Big Bang launched the universe onto its ever-expanding course, physicists believe, there was another, more explosive phase of the early universe at play: cosmic inflation, which lasted less than a trillionth of a second. During this period, matter a cold, homogeneous goop inflated exponentially quickly before processes of the Big Bang took over to more slowly expand and diversify the infant universe.
The Big Bang Vanishes Scientists Doubt Most Famous Scientific Theory Since Einsteins Relativity
Recent observations have independently supported theories for both the Big Bang and cosmic inflation. But the two processes are so radically different from each other that scientists have struggled to conceive of how one followed the other.
All Hell Breaks Loose Bridging Cosmic Inflation with the Big Bang
Now physicists at MIT, Kenyon College, and elsewhere have simulated in detail an intermediary phase of the early universe that may have bridged cosmic inflation with the Big Bang, reports MIT. This phase, known as reheating, occurred at the end of cosmic inflation and involved processes that wrestled inflations cold, uniform matter into the ultrahot, complex soup that was in place at the start of the Big Bang.
The Extreme Energy that Drove Inflation
Kaiser and his colleagues simulated in detail how multiple forms of matter would have interacted during this chaotic period at the end of inflation. Their simulations show that the extreme energy that drove inflation could have been redistributed just as quickly, within an even smaller fraction of a second, and in a way that produced conditions that would have been required for the start of the Big Bang.
Quantum Effects Deviate from Theory of General Relativity
The team found this extreme transformation would have been even faster and more efficient if quantum effects modified the way that matter responded to gravity at very high energies, deviating from the way Einsteins theory of general relativity predicts matter and gravity should interact.
Alan Guths Theory Small Speck of Matter About a Hundred-Billionth the Size of a Proton
MIT theoretical physicist and cosmologist Alan Guth, who pioneered the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second after the Big Bang famously said the Big Bang theory says nothing about what banged, why it banged, or what happened before it banged.
The theory of cosmic inflation, first proposed in the 1980s by Guth, the V.F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics, predicts that the universe began as an extremely small speck of matter, possibly about a hundred-billionth the size of a proton. This speck was filled with ultra-high-energy matter, so energetic that the pressures within generated a repulsive gravitational force the driving force behind inflation. Like a spark to a fuse, this gravitational force exploded the infant universe outward, at an ever-faster rate, inflating it to nearly an octillion times its original size (thats the number 1 followed by 26 zeroes), in less than a trillionth of a second.
Powering the Universe? Relic Light of the Big Bang Reveals an Exotic Unknown Force
Like a Spark to a Fuse
Like a spark to a fuse, this gravitational force exploded the infant universe outward, at an ever-faster rate, inflating it to nearly an octillion times its original size (thats the number 1 followed by 26 zeroes), in less than a trillionth of a second.
Kaiser and his colleagues attempted to work out what the earliest phases of reheating that bridge interval at the end of cosmic inflation and just before the Big Bang might have looked like.
The earliest phases of reheating should be marked by resonances. One form of high-energy matter dominates, and its shaking back and forth in sync with itself across large expanses of space, leading to explosive production of new particles, Kaiser says. That behavior wont last forever, and once it starts transferring energy to a second form of matter, its own swings will get more choppy and uneven across space. We wanted to measure how long it would take for that resonant effect to break up, and for the produced particles to scatter off each other and come to some sort of thermal equilibrium, reminiscent of Big Bang conditions.
The teams computer simulations, says MIT, represent a large lattice onto which they mapped multiple forms of matter and tracked how their energy and distribution changed in space and over time as the scientists varied certain conditions. The simulations initial conditions were based on a particular inflationary model a set of predictions for how the early universes distribution of matter may have behaved during cosmic inflation.
The scientists chose this particular model of inflation over others because its predictions closely match high-precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background a remnant glow of radiation emitted just 380,000 years after the Big Bang, which is thought to contain traces of the inflationary period.
A Slight Tweak Quantum Mechanics
The simulation tracked the behavior of two types of matter that may have been dominant during inflation, very similar to a type of particle, the Higgs boson, that was recently observed in other experiments.
Before running their simulations, the team added a slight tweak to the models description of gravity. While ordinary matter that we see today responds to gravity just as Einstein predicted in his theory of general relativity, matter at much higher energies, such as whats thought to have existed during cosmic inflation, should behave slightly differently, interacting with gravity in ways that are modified by quantum mechanics, or interactions at the atomic scale.
In Einsteins theory of general relativity, the strength of gravity is represented as a constant, with what physicists refer to as a minimal coupling, meaning that, no matter the energy of a particular particle, it will respond to gravitational effects with a strength set by a universal constant.
However, at the very high energies that are predicted in cosmic inflation, matter interacts with gravity in a slightly more complicated way. Quantum-mechanical effects predict that the strength of gravity can vary in space and time when interacting with ultra-high-energy matter a phenomenon known as nonminimal coupling.
Kaiser and his colleagues incorporated a nonminimal coupling term to their inflationary model and observed how the distribution of matter and energy changed as they turned this quantum effect up or down.
A Faster Transition
In the end they found that the stronger the quantum-modified gravitational effect was in affecting matter, the faster the universe transitioned from the cold, homogeneous matter in inflation to the much hotter, diverse forms of matter that are characteristic of the Big Bang.
By tuning this quantum effect, they could make this crucial transition take place over 2 to 3 e-folds, referring to the amount of time it takes for the universe to (roughly) triple in size. In this case, they managed to simulate the reheating phase within the time it takes for the universe to triple in size two to three times. By comparison, inflation itself took place over about 60 e-folds.
Reheating was an insane time, when everything went haywire, Kaiser says. We show that matter was interacting so strongly at that time that it could relax correspondingly quickly as well, beautifully setting the stage for the Big Bang. We didnt know that to be the case, but thats whats emerging from these simulations, all with known physics. Thats whats exciting for us.
Guth, the original architect for the theory of cosmic inflation, sees the groups results as an important new development in the study of inflationary models.
While versions of inflation based on a single form of matter give a remarkably good fit to observations, Dave and his collaborators have for a number of years been studying well-motivated models that involve multiple forms of matter also giving an excellent fit to the data, Guth says. Until now, however, the work has been limited to studying the early stages of the ending of inflation, where the math is relatively simple. The new work is based on a high-powered numerical lattice simulation which can probe much further into the complicated interactions at the end of inflation. The work shows more definitively than ever that a large class of models involving multiple forms of matter are in excellent agreement with observations.
The Least Understood Part of the Story
There are hundreds of proposals for producing the inflationary phase, but the transition between the inflationary phase and the so-called hot big bang is the least understood part of the story, says Richard Easther, professor of physics at the University of Auckland, who was not involved in the research. This paper breaks new ground by accurately simulating the postinflationary phase in models with many individual fields and complex kinetic terms. These are extremely challenging numerical simulations, and extend the state of the art for studies of nonlinear dynamics in the very early universe.
The Daily Galaxy, edited by Max Goldberg, via MIT News
Image credit: Shutterstock License
- Physics - The Tiniest Superfluid Circuit in Nature - Physics - February 27th, 2021
- Can god be disproved using the laws of physics? An expert explains how it depends on perspective - Scroll.in - February 27th, 2021
- How philosophy blends physics with the idea of free will - Big Think - February 27th, 2021
- Exclusive! Ashwin Sanghi on his dream to cast Sushant Singh Rajput in 'Keepers Of The Kalachakra' series: He was like an excited child when it came to... - February 27th, 2021
- SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: PennyLane - SDTimes.com - February 27th, 2021
- Google Teams With D-Wave in Massive Quantum Computing Leap, Cracking Simulation Problem - The Daily Hodl - February 27th, 2021
- Tech Talk: Universe or multiverse? | Free - Ashland Daily Press - February 27th, 2021
- Physicists Show a Speed Limit Also Applies in the Quantum World - SciTechDaily - February 25th, 2021
- Can the laws of Physics help settle the debate over the existence of God? - Firstpost - February 25th, 2021
- OU appoints three to rank of Distinguished Professor - 2021 - Office of the Provost - News - OU Magazine - News at OU - February 25th, 2021
- Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance Expands Impact and Reach with Addition of 10 New Partners - PR Web - February 25th, 2021
- Everything you need to know about quantum physics (almost ... - February 22nd, 2021
- Quantum mechanics - Wikipedia - February 22nd, 2021
- Six Things Everyone Should Know About Quantum Physics - February 22nd, 2021
- A new Approach Could Tease out the Connection Between Gravity and Quantum Mechanics - Universe Today - February 22nd, 2021
- And So It Begins Quantum Physicists Create a New Universe With Its Own Rules - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel - February 22nd, 2021
- IBM adds 10 historically Black colleges and universities to quantum computing center - TechRepublic - February 22nd, 2021
- Physicists Need to Be More Careful with How They Name Things - Scientific American - February 22nd, 2021
- Can the laws of physics disprove God? - The Conversation UK - February 22nd, 2021
- Planet Earth Report The Quantum Century to Events That Could Have Ended Humanity - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel - February 22nd, 2021
- A New Measurement of Quantum Space-Time Has Found Nothing Going On - ScienceAlert - February 22nd, 2021
- With a $50,000 Grant, Black Quantum Futurism Will Continue to Disrupt Space and Time - GalleristNY - February 22nd, 2021
- Gravity May Play a Tiny But Important Role in The Microworld of Particle Physics - ScienceAlert - February 22nd, 2021
- IBM Adds Future Developer And Software Details To Its Quantum Roadmap - Forbes - February 22nd, 2021
- Physics - A Superconducting Qubit that Protects Itself - Physics - February 22nd, 2021
- Black Quantum Futurism receives the Knight Foundations new art and technology fellowship - WHYY - February 22nd, 2021
- What science tells us about the quantum origin of the universe - Sunday Vision - February 22nd, 2021
- Quantum Mechanics, Free Will and the Game of Life - Scientific American - February 14th, 2021
- Quantum Theory Proposes That Cause and Effect Can Go In Loops - Universe Today - February 14th, 2021
- The search for dark matter gets a speed boost from quantum technology - The Conversation US - February 14th, 2021
- Microsofts Big Win in Quantum Computing Was an Error After All - WIRED - February 14th, 2021
- Kangaroo Court: Quantum Computing Thinking on the Future - JD Supra - February 14th, 2021
- New EU Consortium shaping the future of Quantum Computing USA - PRNewswire - February 14th, 2021
- 2020 Quantum Communications in Space Research Report: Quantum Communications are Expected to Solve the Problem of Secure communications First on... - February 14th, 2021
- Mutually unbiased bases and symmetric informationally complete measurements in Bell experiments - Science Advances - February 14th, 2021
- Yale Quantum Institute Co-sponsored Event - Alternative Realities for the Living - Quantum Physics & Fiction - Yale News - February 14th, 2021
- Dont Tell Einstein, but Black Holes Might Have Hair - WIRED - February 14th, 2021
- A Magnetic Twist to Graphene Could Offer a Dramatic Increase in Processing Speeds Compared to Electronics - SciTechDaily - February 14th, 2021
- The Interplay between Quantum Theory And Artificial Intelligence - Analytics India Magazine - February 14th, 2021
- In Violation of Einstein, Black Holes Might Have 'Hair' - Quanta Magazine - February 14th, 2021
- Dr. William Audeh - The Gazette - February 10th, 2021
- Quantum Physics | Rakuten Viki - February 6th, 2021
- Switching Nanolight On and Off | Columbia News - Columbia University - February 6th, 2021
- Scientists narrow down the 'weight' of dark matter trillions of trillions of times - Livescience.com - February 6th, 2021
- The Super Bowl: What is time? - SB Nation - February 6th, 2021
- 'Friends' Star Matthew Perry Dated Julia Roberts By Wooing Her With Quantum Physics and Funny Jokes - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - February 6th, 2021
- A world-first method to enable quantum optical circuits that use photons - Tech Explorist - February 6th, 2021
- Quantum Physics Story Helgoland to Be Adapted by Fremantles The Apartment, CAM Film (EXCLUSIVE) - Variety - February 2nd, 2021
- Quantum physics and romance collide in the streaming production of Constellations - Chicago Reader - February 2nd, 2021
- 'A Glitch in the Matrix' Director Was Skeptical About Simulation Theory Until He Started Doing Research - IndieWire - February 2nd, 2021
- Record-Breaking Source for Single Photons Developed That Can Produce Billions of Quantum Particles per Second - SciTechDaily - February 2nd, 2021
- Can public clouds fix the developer experience in the HPC domain? - Forbes - February 2nd, 2021
- 29 Scientists Came Together in the "Most Intelligent Photo" Ever Taken - My Modern Met - February 2nd, 2021
- Silence your stoner friends with this video of a room entirely constructed out of mirrors - The A.V. Club - February 2nd, 2021
- Valuable contributor to society - The Tribune India - February 2nd, 2021
- Copperizing the Complexity of Superconductivity - Newswise - February 2nd, 2021
- A Zoom with a view: Wintersession offers a virtual journey from the kitchen to Hollywood - Princeton University - February 2nd, 2021
- IBMs top executive says, quantum computers will never reign supreme over classical ones - The Hindu - January 29th, 2021
- How quantum is it? U of T physicist Aaron Goldberg may have the answer - News@UofT - January 29th, 2021
- Wormholes May Be Lurking in the Universe Here Are Proposed Ways of Finding Them - SciTechDaily - January 29th, 2021
- The Convergence of Internet of Things and Quantum Computing - BBN Times - January 29th, 2021
- Who You Really Are And Why It Matters | Practical Ethics - Practical Ethics - January 29th, 2021
- The relativity principle of physics in technology - The National - January 29th, 2021
- If Wormholes Are Lurking in Our Universe, This Is How We Could Find Them - ScienceAlert - January 17th, 2021
- New quantum particle may have been accidentally discovered - New Atlas - January 13th, 2021
- Exploring the unanswered questions of our universe with quantum technologies - University of Birmingham - January 13th, 2021
- Wormholes may be lurking in the universe and new studies are proposing ways of finding them - The Conversation UK - January 13th, 2021
- Surprising Discovery of Unexpected Quantum Behavior in Insulators Suggests Existence of Entirely New Type of Particle - SciTechDaily - January 13th, 2021
- New quantum technology projects to solve mysteries of the universe - Open Access Government - January 13th, 2021
- University of Sheffield to lead multi-million pound project which could open up a new frontier in physics - University of Sheffield News - January 13th, 2021
- The Greatest: Four Legends Gather in One Night in Miami - Memphis Flyer - January 13th, 2021
- Raytheon UK part of team transforming the Royal Navy's technology, training and learning solutions - PRNewswire - January 13th, 2021
- Optical selection and sorting of nanoparticles according to quantum mechanical properties - Science Advances - January 13th, 2021
- Birds Have a Mysterious 'Quantum Sense'. For The First Time, Scientists Saw It in Action - ScienceAlert - January 9th, 2021
- The unhackable computers that could revolutionize the future - CNN - January 9th, 2021
- How understanding light has led to a hundred years of bright ideas - The Economist - January 9th, 2021
- Quantum Nanodevice Can Be Both a Heat Engine and Refrigerator at the Same Time - SciTechDaily - January 9th, 2021
- Illumination at the limits of knowledge - The Economist - January 9th, 2021
- Detective Work in Theoretical Physics: Comprehensive Review of Physics of Interacting Particles - SciTechDaily - January 5th, 2021
- The 10 biggest physics stories of 2020 - Livescience.com - January 5th, 2021