Magazine article Science News

Cosmic Radiation Analysis Hints at Series of Universal Reincarnations: Circular Patterns Suggest Latest Big Bang Was One of Many

Magazine article Science News

Cosmic Radiation Analysis Hints at Series of Universal Reincarnations: Circular Patterns Suggest Latest Big Bang Was One of Many

Article excerpt

Most cosmologists trace the birth of the universe to the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago. But a new analysis of the relic radiation generated by that explosive event suggests that the universe has cycled through myriad episodes of death and rebirth, with the Big Bang merely the most recent in a series of starting guns.

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That notion, proposed by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford in England and Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan Physics Institute and Yerevan State University in Armenia, goes against the standard theory of cosmology known as inflation.

The researchers base their findings on circular patterns they discovered in the cosmic microwave background, the ubiquitous glow left over from the Big Bang. The circular features indicate that the cosmos itself circles through epochs of endings and beginnings, Penrose and Gurzadyan assert. They describe their controversial findings in an article posted at arXiv.org on November 17.

The circular features are regions where tiny temperature variations in the otherwise uniform microwave background are smaller than average. Those features, Penrose says, cannot be explained by inflation theory, which posits that the infant cosmos underwent an enormous growth spurt, ballooning from something on the scale of an atom to the size of a grapefruit during a tiny fraction of a second. Inflation would either erase such patterns or could not easily generate them.

"The existence of large-scale coherent features in the microwave background of this form would appear to contradict the inflationary model and would be a very distinctive signature of Penrose's model" of a cyclic universe, comments cosmologist David Spergel of Princeton University. But, he adds, "The paper does not provide enough detail about the analysis to assess the reality of these circles."

Penrose interprets the circles as providing a look back, past the glass wall of the most recent Big Bang, into the universe's previous episode, or "aeon," as he calls it. The patterns, he suggests, were generated by collisions between supermassive black holes that occurred during this earlier aeon. Colliding black holes would have created a cacophony of gravitational waves--ripples in space-time generated by the acceleration of the giant masses. …

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