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article imageOp-Ed: Scientists create cosmic microwave background in 10 milliseconds

By Paul Wallis     Sep 1, 2013 in Science
Sydney - Every now and then, in between unforgivable outbreaks of patronizing no-think infallibility, physics does something interesting. A new experiment has produced an almost dead ringer for the cosmic microwave background for the first time ever.
Science Daily:
Physicists have reproduced a pattern resembling the cosmic microwave background radiation in a laboratory simulation of the big bang, using ultracold cesium atoms in a vacuum chamber at the University of Chicago.
The sudden expansion of the universe during its inflationary period created ripples in space-time in the echo of the big bang. One can think of the big bang, in oversimplified terms, as an explosion that generated sound, phycisist Cheng Chin said. The sound waves began interfering with each other, creating complicated patterns. "That's the origin of complexity we see in the universe," he said.
These excitations are called Sakharov acoustic oscillations, named for Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov, who described the phenomenon in the 1960s. To produce Sakharov oscillations, Chin's team chilled a flat, smooth cloud of 10,000 or so cesium atoms to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero, creating an exotic state of matter known as a two-dimensional atomic superfluid.
(The acoustics of the Big Bang are truly fascinating. New recordings indicate multiple peaks.)
The result was a very close approximation of the cosmic microwave background including hot spots, about the size of a human hair. The significance of this result is that it more or less confirms the process associated with the “inflation” period of the universe. (The Big Bang was in fact a far more complex process than a simple bang, including an era of expansion. At this stage, space as we know it was being created.)
This actually is a significant achievement. Theories don’t replace facts, and the actual process of universal expansion has been one of the keystones of theory. UC has proven the process. The ultracold element in particular provides an environment which may well approximate the original thermodynamics of the early universe.
What, no dark matter?
Cynics may note, while applauding the science:
It is noted that no dark energy, dark matter, or turgid dark rhetoric was used by UC in this process.
There were no “fizzy popular” scientific episodes in dumbed-down mode.
The work is useful and exploratory.
Unlike the usual speculation-tacked-on-to-quotes-from-the-physics-museum work, this actually was pure science.
UC deserves credit for doing the work of physics without the fizz.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about University of Chicago, cosmic microwave background, Sakharov acoustics
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