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The

Origin of Everything
<by Angela Cheng>
Why is our universe the way it is?
The theory that everything in our universe originated from an infinitesimal point 15
billion years ago is commonly known as the Hot Big Bang model. While the reason
our universe came into existence may be a mystery, details of its evolution during
this time may help us understand a variety of basic elements in modern physics.

<Inflation> <Scientific Controversy>


Inflation is the term for the exponential expansion of the The implication of a multiverse makes us question the
universe in the first moments of its existence. It states nature of existence. Inflation and expansion, the uneven
that the universe expanded faster than the old Big Bang distribution of matter, the fundamental forces, and the
model suggested. According to cosmic inflation, in the elementary particles all have to be exactly right for hu-
the first 10-34 seconds, the universe expanded from a man life--or else we wouldn’t be here to think about it.
few centimeters across to about the size of your fists. Basically, the idea is that there are many universes,
The theory bridges particle physics and cosmology by but the one we happen to observe is necessarily one
helping explain how matter was able to form. that allows our existence. The idea that the universe
Our universe continues to expand today, only at a must be the way it is because we are around to observe
slower rate; this is not merely the motion of galaxies it is called the Anthropic Principle. While some physi-
away from each other, but the expansion of space cists think this might be all we will ever know, at
itself. Evidence points to accelerating expan- least in the foreseeable future, some are unsat-
sion, caused by a mysterious “dark energy” isfied, and seek a more conclusive answer.
or “vacuum energy”. Despite much specu- Prof. Leonard Susskind discusses these im-
lation, little is generally known about dark plications in his book The Cosmic Landscape:
energy. String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent
Design.

<Multiverse> “People used to think, before Kepler, that


An offshoot of inflation is the idea of a multi- our solar system was the whole universe. The
verse, a collection of all the universes that could big questions were: Why are the planets at the
possibly exist. There are about 10500 possibilities of distances that they are? Why is the distance of the
natural laws that describe a universe. Our universe, for earth just right to allow for liquid water to exist?” says
example, has specific numbers that describe physical Stanford theoretical particle physicist Savas Di-
laws such as gravity, electricity, and magnetism. mopoulos. “From thinking that our world might
According to multiverse theories, every possible (but be one of many worlds, our galaxy part of a
not conceivable) universe exists, independently of our collection of galaxies, we are now considering
own. These universes would have different physical our universe as one of a virtually infinite num-
laws and fundamental constants from our own. ber of universes.”
The multiverse theory is still the subject of active de-
bate in the physics community. Stanford Professor Leon- With such an all-encompassing idea, physicists will be
ard Susskind, for example, is attracted to the idea, but occupied in proving/disproving their hypothesis for
prefers the term “megaverse”. Not all physicists are of quite awhile.
this mindset, however. Since we may never observe
other “bubble” universes, much rests on opinion.
When asked whether he believed in a multiverse,
Prof. Steven Shenker replied “I’m agnostic.”
Variations of
millionths of a
<WMAP> degree are dis-
As the universe cooled, matter eventually spread out tinguished as
enough for light to travel freely through space. This “warmer” (red)
so-called cosmic microwave background (CMB) radia- htt
and “cooler”
tion, created 379,000 years after the Big Bang, is the _bi
g.j
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antw (blue) spots.
rp.gs wmap
oldest detectable light in the universe. The Wilkinson
fc.nasa y _
.gov/apod/image/0509/sk

Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team has made A physics major, freshman Angela Cheng is fascinated by any and all
the first detailed full-sky map ofthis radiation. The new things science-related. She loves travel - to Asia, to Europe, and to
data support and strengthen the Big Bang and Inflation main campus, from Frosoco. Her aspirations include finishing Lucre-
Theories. tius’ De Rerum Natura and learning how to jump curbs.

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