Scientists just got a glimpse of what happened a half-second after the Big Bang




That theory, inflation, is generally accepted by scientists

someone shared this link with me recently, which helped me a lot with how we think about the shape of the universe and inflation. the "balloon" model is helpful but incomplete.


One half second after the Big Bang? I believe it was the Big "I'll call you".


"Half second" is many, MANY orders of magnitude larger than the actual time scale they're talking about. I've seen it described as a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a.second. I'm not nitpicking...I just think it's interesting to think about that fact. All this effort to study the goings on over a span of time so small it only makes sense in mathematical formulae.

Inflation was originally predicted in 1981 and has undergone a number of refinements since.

I read Steven Weinberg's "The First Three Minutes" in 1979 (it came out a few years before). The Big Bang theory had been around for a long time at that point. With "big bangs" come quick expansion outward from the blast site. I'm surprised it took so long to predict that one would cause the other in this mega-scenario.


I'm calling shenanigans... wouldn't they all be blind if they caught a glimpse of THAT?



That was a good article

Why should we suspend the notion that there was no cause to the universe? I can buy that there is no center - it's infinite. I can buy that our frame of reference is small - we can only see 13.8 billion ly distant, and that doesn't mean the universe is only 27.6 billion ly "across." I imagine it's much larger, and all we can see is what light can bring us.

But this whole notion of the origins of the universe being... well... rather recent... just seems far fetched to me. Too simplistic.

Maybe the big bang is a more local phenomenon. Maybe within a bubble or sphere of 50 b-ly. Maybe bigger? Maybe exactly 27.6 b-ly across, because it truly is "local" and we are at the exact ego center. Maybe bubbles collide and when they do, their contents catastrophically collapse and big bang again.

"Your Universe is too small!" cried the skeptic.


I find the whole idea of the Big Bang hard to accept. It seems to me the stuff of Hollywood (though admittedly that would be things that end with an explosion) and the product of a warlike society. A mind that needs explosions to defend itself against something it can't comprehend.

Infinity denial.

And we are talking about ideas produced by a species that doesn't understand the organ with which it 'thinks'.

There's some evidence of some inflation, but it seems like trying to fit the evidence to the hypothesis. What if we could have taken some other fork in the road of inquiry that could've revealed much more about the origins of the universe, or different things about it? How long do we have? Until the Sun is done completing its life cycle? Is that long enough to think about the universe and figure out where it came from?

Of course black holes do lend us the speculative possibility that there is somewhere matter can completely disappear to, somewhere that isn't, as it were, hence making it seem tenable that something could suddenly come from nothing, from something that isn't, or from a Singularity?

Or is a Singularity a something? Can there be more than one?

It seems probable that because we perceive things beginning and ending, and indeed our own lives are governed by that model, we are more comfortable with a similar process occurring macrocosmically. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's the only possible model though, does it? Is it a question of imagination as much as it is a question of 'hard' astro-physics?

Also, I am finding the application of the concept of time with this difficult, since our terracentric version of time becomes more and more irrelevant and less and less applicable in galactic and universal terms. Thinking about an inflating universe, and imagining being able to travel faster than the rate at which the proposed inflation is occurring, does that bring us to an outer edge of the universe, and if so, what is beyond that outer edge? Nothing? Or more Universe that wasn't part of the now therefore finite explosion enclosed within but expanding in even more universe?

The unverse?

On the other hand it is interesting to think about. I'm not soapboxing here, I just find it odd that the Big Bang seems to have become the only possible option worth considering.

Perhaps the universe never began? Or if it did, not an explosion, but a fugue? Or something so weird we can't imagine it yet, a model which will be easier to understand as how we perceive it evolves, and the means through which we perceive it, and the evolution of that?


Me too. The thing that annoys me is that the physics of the very small scale suspends the normal rules and substitutes things like "Planck times." Doesn't this tip us off that if the entire math needs to change, then maybe we're doing it wrong? Maybe there are alternative explanations? More-inclusive explanations? I dunno.


This Horizon special was an amazing insight into the state of play on that question. I think its fair to say that there is no longer consensus on the Big Bang as an absolute beginning point, a few big names are proposing theories to explain this, including Roger Penrose.


It also raises the question "who's understanding it?". If it can only be understood using a language that is exclusive then how does it serve the entirety of human understanding?


My hope is that like with Newtonian physics needing to transition to Einsteinian physics, and now to quantum physics, that whoever eventually unravels the first trillionth second can eventually explain it so that a smart monkey can understand it.

As it is, I think we're about as far as having Einstein fairly well explained, but not much further. I'm being generous, too, because a larger proportion of the world believes in creation. I'm talking about the lay-folks who WANT to understand some of the math behind the cosmology, at least in a casual way.

They've got to do better at explaining it. Especially this Higgs Boson business. I have read and read and read about it. Is the thing really big for a subatomic particle, or really small? I can't seem to get a straight answer. And if it's big, why is it "fundamental"? If it were fundamental, wouldn't it stay put and not break down into smaller things? If it breaks down into smaller things, then the damn thing isn't too fundamental, is it? So they need to work on that one too.

Goddammit, can't a guy get any good answers around here???


Hulk hate stupid scientists!


I might be wrong but didn't Fritjof Capra do a fairly good job of unifying Theism and quantum physics with The Tao of Physics?


Here is the critique you won't see published by science journalists, and the reason why you should be skeptical of these most recent claims about the CMB. I've tried to simplify this, but you may need to look some things up:

Our modern world is full of contradictions. People will go to great lengths today to read all of the various reviews for the products they buy on Amazon, but when it comes to their beliefs about the universe they live in, they generally fail to seek out alternative explanations.

In this particular instance, we have a creation story. It comes with models which run on supercomputers, but many aspects of these models are non-falsifiable. In other words, nobody can use science to argue against these claims, because claims about the origin of the universe are just inherently non-scientific.

That said, there are some facts which are consistently left out of the journalism we see on the CMB, which demand re-telling:

Fact 1: All cosmologies can explain a cosmic background radiation. This is not a feature which is specific to any particular cosmology. Cosmologists simply insert it in. If there is a model, and the math works out, who can argue?

Fact 2: All plasma beams generate microwaves. So, this further expands our options for cosmologies which can explain these microwaves coming at us from all directions. If the CMB is instead the result of the movement of charged particles through space, then we don't even need an expanding universe to explain this background radiation. We can do this with steady-state too, further emphasizing that all cosmologies can explain this background radiation.

A plasma is simply a gas with some percentage of charged particles. What we see in the laboratory is that once a plasma reaches some threshold of charged particles -- and this threshold is actually quite low -- then the gas' behavior changes to a plasma, and the charged particles will tend to flow in filaments. And these filaments will twist around one another, without combining. If this confuses you, go to YouTube, and search on "plasma globe". Notice that when these collimated filaments hit the glass, they oftentimes separate. What plasma physicists tell us is that these beams tend to generate microwaves.

Now, in the laboratory, magnetic fields and electric currents tend to go hand-in-hand. So, the fact that we routinely see magnetic fields associated with objects in space is directly suggestive of the possibility of electric current causes. Somebody -- experts included -- who sees the magnetic field, and yet who does not immediately wonder about a potential electric current cause, is applying what we call a worldview in science, which is as follows:

Wherever I see evidence for electricity in space, I will assume that it is localized, and a side-effect (2nd-order) of other more fundamental phenomena.

Magnetic and electric fields are central to the behavior of laboratory plasmas. Now, with that in mind, read the press release -- keeping in mind that gravity is many, many orders of magnitude weaker than the electric force ...

Those distortions take the form of twisting of the light's polarization created by gravitational disturbances from inflation: the hypothetical rapid expansion of the earliest moments of the cosmos.


However, though astronomers have known for decades that gravitational waves exist, the evidence for them is indirect, so few expect to measure primordial gravitational radiation directly in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, this gravitational radiation would affect any light passing through, curling its polarization in a unique way. Because the effect resembles the mathematical twistings of magnetic fields, which physicists perversely assign the letter "B," it is known as B-mode polarization. The distinction is important, because other phenomena can also polarize light, but without the telltale curling.

Because it bears a mathematical resemblance to electric fields, the non-twisting version is known as E-mode polarization. Gravitational radiation contributes to E-mode as well, but it is the only source of B-mode polarization.


Could aspects of the analysis of the BICEP2 data be in error instead? Polarization is challenging to observe, and there are many possible sources of confusion. Some of those include material in the foreground (dust and gas), Earth's atmosphere, and another type of gravitational distortion: the bending of light known as gravitational lensing.

So, notice that last paragraph about potential sources of confusion -- which is actually quite rare in these press releases. Is that really enough to help somebody to formulate a rational belief about this current claim on the CMB? What sense does it make to simply pursue one single model?

Now, let's look at what they are leaving out:

First: The models used to simulate cosmic plasma phenomena include highly idealized magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) plasma models. These models have been criticized since their inception. See papers by George K Parks: "Why Space Needs to Go Beyond the MHD Box" and "Importance of Electric Fields in Modeling Space Plasmas". For the history for how these models were conceived, see David Talbott's explanation for Edge, "The Plasma Universe of Hannes Alfven". Here is the most important part that you need to know:

"Through much of the 19th and 20th century, most astronomers and cosmologists had assumed the “vacuum” of space would not permit electric currents. Later, when it was discovered that all of space is a sea of electrically conductive plasma, the theorists reversed their position, asserting that any charge separation would be immediately neutralized. Here they found what they were looking for in Alfvén’s frozen-in magnetic fields and in his magnetohydrodynamic equations. Electric currents could then be viewed as strictly localized and temporary phenomena—needed just long enough to create a magnetic field, to magnetize plasma, a virtually “perfect” conductor.

The underlying idea was that space could have been magnetized in primordial times or in early stages of stellar and galactic evolution, all under the control of higher-order kinetics and gravitational dynamics. All large scale events in space could still be explained in terms of disconnected islands, and it would only be necessary to look inside the “islands” to discover localized electromagnetic events—no larger electric currents or circuitry required. In this view, popularly held today, we live in a “magnetic universe” (the title of several recent books and articles), but not an electric universe. The point was stated bluntly by the eminent solar physicist Eugene Parker, “…No significant electric field can arise in the frame of reference of the moving plasma.”

But the critical turn in this story, the part almost never told within the community of astronomers and astrophysicists, is that Alfvén came to realize he had been mistaken. Ironically—and to his credit—Alfvén used the occasion of his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize to plead with scientists to ignore his earlier work. Magnetic fields, he said, are only part of the story. The electric currents that create magnetic fields must not be overlooked, and attempts to model space plasma in the absence of electric currents will set astronomy and astrophysics on a course toward crisis, he said.

Second: All of cosmology hinges on these cosmic plasma models. Thus, it should be priority one to try to check their accuracy. And where we see idealizations, we should closely scrutinize the effect they have upon our inferences. What people might want to take into consideration is that the physical properties which have been taken out of the cosmic plasma models, relative to the laboratory plasma models, is their ability to conduct current, exhibit some small electrical resistance (as we see in the laboratory), and support dynamic magnetic fields which interact with the electric currents. In other words, the cosmic plasma is being modeled as through it is not an electrodynamic phenomena.

Now, compare that with this recent CMB claim: They are saying, "Hey, look, we have these features in the CMB which appear to us as though they are the result of electric and dynamic magnetic fields."

The appropriate response would be: Well, yeah, remember? You took that stuff out of your cosmic plasma models...

And since they are suggesting that this radiation must have originated billions of years ago, they say: "Well, this must be evidence for the big bang."

Why? Because this is clearly a path towards a Nobel Prize. It's basically a form of teaching to the test. They are training the world on how to interpret this data, in order to create a path for themselves that leads directly to the Nobel.

But, notice what happens if you take the creation element out of this story: The microwaves become local rather than at the edge of space. We switch from non-falsifiable metaphysics back to electrodynamics and plasma physics (laboratory sciences). We permit the cosmic plasmas to behave as we see plasmas behave in the laboratory, satisfying the critics -- with electric currents, the dynamic magnetic fields which they tend to produce, and with some small electrical resistance, which enables the formation of electric fields.

Is this just speculation? Well, no, not at all, actually.

The problem is that we already have data from radio astronomer, Gerrit Verschuur, which suggests that the non-creation version of this story is the accurate one. He points to the existence of critical ionization velocities all over the hydrogen all-sky surveys -- which distinguishes the filaments of HI hydrogen we see between stars as electrodynamic. It involves charged particles slamming into neutral clouds of gas at very high velocities, resulting in the emission of very specific and known redshifts.

He also links many dozens of features within the all-sky hydrogen survey (a local interstellar map) with the WMAP (which is claimed to be a relic of a primordial explosion, essentially coming at us from the "edge" of space).

In his numerous books and papers, he cautions that careful Gaussian curve fitting is required to see these CIV's. If all you do is push the hydrogen data through algorithms, you may never encounter the CiV's. This is an important warning for the future: We are at the limits of science here. There is excellent opportunity to just make shit up with a custom GIGO machine.

He also goes out of his way to complain about the term "interstellar cloud". These hydrogen phenomena we see in space are hardly cloud-like, in the way we are accustomed. In many places, they become extremely filamentary. That is the behavior of plasmas conducting electricity, folks. It can be -- barely -- explained in terms of a gravity-dominated universe, but the widespread prevalence of filaments in space demands more than explanations which depend upon accidents.

So, I urge people to please keep these details in the back of your mind as you watch peoples' reactions to this creation story. Is their reaction appropriate, given what they know? Notice how quickly people abandon their attempts to rationally inquire about alternatives, and how quickly the conversation switches to a discussion of expert opinion. And if you don't understand what's going on here, you might want to watch Daniel Kahneman's Yale lecture on what happens to people when they lack the information required to formulate a rational decision:


Several commenters seem think the "Big Bang" involved a literal explosion. The universe started and remained basically isotropic in its energy density, and it was space itself that expanded, not energy expanidng outward into pre-existing space.


Okay, but this is what we call nitpicking. You know, it is also possible to nitpick the words that astrophysicists use. You simply choose not to, apparently ...


Could we verify these new claims of the CMB's polarity outside of our own local frame of reference by checking the polarity of cosmic rays? There should be some way to observe a second set of phenomena that follow the pattern. Some observable influx of particles that would be disturbed in some way, even indirectly, by the CMB polarity.

Granted, I only followed about 1/10th of what you wrote, but I like the implication that Big Bang Theories are Creation Stories in disguise. I always suspected it, and chuckle at these scientists, the biggest big names in science, who all claim to not be religious, and they cling to this Big Bang Dogma.

But when you take it apart, who was there to release his hand and unleash the Universe from that tiny speck, but God? I just don't buy it. I really think our Universe is too small. These guys may be the best of the best, but I am not buying the crap they're selling. Sounds like a load of horse shit to me.


Yes, but everyone knows it as "The Big Bang Theory" not "The Expanding Space Theory". The word 'theory' is on the end of that. That gets forgotten. Anyway, there's a difference between looking at questions about metaphors, and stating that a metaphor is literal.