The “Fabric of the Universe”
Good news for “The Big Bang Theory”! New evidence reconfirms it happened, just a little later than most thought, other than Dr. Einstein, of course. It also reconfirms the special place of human beings in the grand scheme.
The idea of the Big Bang first came about back in the 1920s and 1930s. The discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background in 1964 by Arno Penzias and Bob Wilson was a breathtaking confirmation of the Big Bang. However, extrapolate back far enough, and you’ll come to a time where everything was so hot that not even neutral atoms could form.
“Despite its name, the big bang theory is not really a theory of a bang at all. It is really only a theory of the aftermath of a bang.” — Alan Guth
When scientists looked out at distant galaxies, they discovered something peculiar: the farther away from us they were, the faster they appeared to be receding from us. According to the predictions of Einstein’s General Relativity, a static Universe would be gravitationally unstable; everything needed to either be moving away from one another or collapsing towards one another if the “fabric of space” obeyed his laws. The observation of this apparent recession taught scientists that the Universe was expanding today, and if things are getting farther apart as time goes on, it means they were closer together in the distant past. NASA scientists are putting in place the technology that may uncover what even Alan Guth might call a a theory of the orgins of of a bang
Scientists found that events they would expect from the Big Bang didn’t happen. Consequently, they started thinking of alternatives to a “singularity” to the Big Bang, and what could recreate that hot, dense, expanding, cooling state while avoiding the problems they observed. In December of 1979, Alan Guth hit upon a solution.
Scientists concluded that all the energy present in the Universe would rather be bound up in the fabric of space itself: a form of vacuum energy, which causes the Universe to expand at an exponential rate. In this cosmic state, quantum fluctuations would still exist, and so as space expanded, these fluctuations would get stretched across the Universe, creating regions with slightly-more or slightly-less than average energy densities. And finally, when this phase of the Universe — this period of inflation — came to an end, that energy would get converted into matter-and-radiation, creating the hot, dense state synonymous with what is called the Big Bang.
The conclusion was inescapable: the hot Big Bang definitely happened, but doesn’t extend to go all the way back to an arbitrarily hot and dense state. Instead, the very early Universe underwent a period of time where all of the energy that would go into the matter and radiation present today was instead bound up in the fabric of space itself.
So far, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which describes space and time as a smooth fabric that’s distorted, or bent by massive objects, has been a spectacularly sucessful explaination of gravity and the large scale behavior of the universe. The co-relation between entropy and gravity, and that the beginning of the universe must be the state of minimum entropy.
According to professor Neil Turok, physicist, and the Director of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics at Princeton University, all indications are that the universe is at its simplest at the smallest and largest scales: the Planck length and the Hubble length.
Nanoarchaeum equitans is a species of tiny microbe 400 nm in diameter. Thought to be the smallest life form it was discovered in 2002 in a hydrothermal vent off the coast of Iceland by Karl Stetter. A thermophile that grows in near-boiling temperatures, Nanoarchaeum appears to be an obligatory symbiont, it must be in contact with it’s host organism to survive.
Pillars of Creation is a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of elephant trunks of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500–7,000 light years from Earth and representing the largest scale in the universe.
Elephant trunk is a term used to describe certain formations of interstellar matter found in space. More formally, scientists refer to them as cold molecular pillars, referring to their existence in molecular clouds. They are located in the neighborhood of massive O type and B type stars, which, through their intense radiation, can create expanding regions of ionized gas known as H II regions.
According to Dr. Turok “it may be no coincidence that the size of a living cell is the geometric mean of these two fundamental lengths. This is the scale of life, the realm human beings inhabit, and it is the scale of maximum complexity in the universe.” (Excerpt from the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, The universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos. Copyright © 2012 Neil Turok and CBC.) While physicists, like Dr. Turok, show us “what” human beings are within the fabric of space, poets and composers, like Stephen Schwartz, show us “who” human beings are within the scale of life within which we create the relationships that make us human and sustain humanity.
“I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives,
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are lead to those,
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return
Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today,
Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit,
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder,
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better,
But because I knew you, I have been changed for good“
“For Good”/Wicked — Stephen_Schwartz
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the farthest-ever view into the universe, a photo that reveals thousands of galaxies billions of light-years away and yet it did not see what was thought to be the space of the big bang.
The picture, called eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, combines 10 years of Hubble telescope views of one patch of sky. Only the accumulated light gathered over so many observation sessions can reveal such distant objects, some of which are one ten-billionth the brightness that the human eye can see.
The photo is a sequel to the original “Hubble Ultra Deep Field,” a picture the Hubble Space Telescope took in 2003 and 2004 that collected light over many hours to reveal thousands of distant galaxies in what was the deepest view of the universe so far. The XDF goes even farther, peering back 13.2 billion years into the universe’s past. The universe is thought to be about 13.7 billion years old so still missing even the big bang by .5 billion years.
“The light from those past events is just arriving at Earth now, and so the XDF is a ‘time tunnel into the distant past,’” according to a NASA statement. “The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the universe’s birth in the Big Bang.” Now NASA wants to know what came before that.
The James Webb Space Telescope (https://www.jwst.nasa.gov ) will look past the eXtreme Deep Field, JWST will show us a whole slew of things that Hubble cannot, by virtue of it reaching to much longer wavelengths of light than Hubble could ever hope to see.
Scientists expect JWST will show them how the Universe went from the hot Big Bang and a state with no stars, no planets and no galaxies into the Universe we have today. It will reveal the very first populations of stars, which were created out of the pristine elements — hydrogen and helium alone — which provided the first light in the Universe something like the illustration that follows.
Imagine a place colder than Pluto where rubber behaves like glass and where most gasses are liquid. That place is called the Lagrange point –1.5 million miles from Earth, where the James Webb Space Telescope will orbit. The Lagrange point marks a position where the combined gravitational pull of the two large masses provides precisely the centripetal force required to orbit with them. At the Lagrange Point, the Webb telescope can observe the whole sky while always remaining in the shadow of its tennis-court-sized sunshield.
Webb’s components need to survive temperatures that plunge as low as 27 Kelvin (-411 degrees Fahrenheit), and it is in this environment that the ISIM structure –Integrated Science Instrument Module Flight Structure will operate. NASA engineers have also created this unique engineering marvel to survive exposure to extreme cryogenic temperatures, proving that the structure will remain stable when exposed to the harsh environment of space.
These will be “heady” times for NASA astronomers and cosmologists because they will likely confirm that there is a fabric of the universe, from which the big bang originated and from which all that humanity knows and much that we don’t know emerged. We all may be very surprised what JWST pictures show and what they tells us about ourselves as we strive to survive at the scale of life. Perhaps Michelangelo’s clairvoyance gave us a glimpse of “The Fabric of the Universe” JWST will find.
Originally published at neutec.wordpress.com on October 3, 2017.