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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 from nothing.

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

Cosmic Questions

Did the Universe Have a Beginning? Topic Index
A Recipe for Primordial Soup

A Cosmic Symphony

Two Themes
Growing Cosmology
The Universe Today
The Ten Commandments
Into the Primordial Soup
The Recipe for a Universe
The Importance of Nothing


Rocky Kolb

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