A Cosmic Symphony
The first movement of the
Cosmic Symphony may be dominated by the string section if on the smallest
scales there is a fundamental stringiness to elementary particles. If this is true, then the first movement in
the cosmic symphony would have been a pizzicato movement of vibrating strings
about 10-43 seconds AB. The
inflationary movement probably followed the string movement, lasting
approximately 10-35 seconds.
The primordial soup that came out of the inflationary vacuum was so hot
that its radiation dominated the rest mass of all the particles in the universe
for the first 10,000 years. Our fossil
record of this era is the relative abundances of the different elements
produced in the big bang, three-minutes AB.
About 10,000 years after the bang the radiation finally cooled enough
for the rest mass of the particles in the universe to dominate the thermal
energy of the radiation, and the universe entered a matter-dominated era. Finally, if recent observations of the
acceleration of the expansion of the universe prove correct, then the cosmic
score may be marked da capo, and we
may return to another inflationary movement.
When the origin of the
ingredients of the primordial soup from nothing was first proposed in the early
1980s, it seemed like an idea destined to remain forever outside of the
experimental or observational arena.
But it was soon realized that the inflationary epoch would leave behind
an fossil imprint in the form of small variations in the temperature of the
cosmic background radiation temperature.
These variations, first detected in 1992 by the Cosmic Background
Explorer Satellite, may be a fossil record of the conditions in the universe 10-31seconds AB. If this is confirmed by detailed study of
the background radiation, then we will then have proof that everything comes
I believe that in the first
decade of the next millennium, detailed measurements of the temperature
fluctuations of the background radiation, new surveys of the arrangement of
matter in the universe, and possibly the discovery of the nature of dark
matter, will reveal unmistakable evidence that the ingredients of the hot
primordial soup came from the frozen vacuum of the early universe.
So if we can understand the
nature of nothing, as well as the character of the fundamental forces and
particles, we will be able to use the machinery of the big-bang model to
account for everything we see in the universe.
If this comes to pass, then
we would have witnessed yet another example of the true unity of science: the
largest things in the universe, the outer space of cosmology, cannot be
understood without knowledge of the smallest things in the universe, the inner
space of fundamental particles and forces.
But this bridge between the
large and the small is not the end of the journey.
If everything came from the
hot primordial soup, and in turn, if the hot primordial soup came from the
frozen vacuum of the expanding universe, we must now learn the origin of the
vacuum, and the origin of space and time itself.
As always in science, as we
finish one chapter, we begin writing the opening sentences of the next. Perhaps one day we will write the final
chapter, and our voyage of discovery of understanding the origin of the universe
will be over. But until then, the
journey itself could not be more wondrous.
Contributed by: Dr. Edward Kolb