joi, 25 noiembrie 2010

The Inflationary Universe

Alan Guth's story of how a community of scientists is working a problem so complex as to know what happened at <1 second after the universe appeared is astonishing.

I always thought that it takes a lot of determination, patience and perseverance to tackle big questions and reading this account of how the theory on an inflating universe appeared, only validated my assumptions. The remarkable thing, alongside with the explanation for the universe, was the fact that a community of physicists were so actively involved in disseminating the knowledge, and in trying to think of explanations for how things appeared to be. Only in a community which solves a "puzzle problem"(main characteristic of a puzzle type problem is that a big number of scientists are involved in solving it) could the spreading of ideas be so fast. Another important characteristic is the fact that the culture was ready to accommodate with a new theory for explaining the universe. This, I come to think, after reflecting at big discoveries, is an important factor which contributes to the general public's acceptance of an explanatory theory.

To make the most of what I understood of the inflationary theory, or the new inflationary theory, I'll try to summarize it in a few words: At a point in which matter was in quasiequilibrium state(false vacuum) the energy density was so big and yet the matter acted in a stable form until some nonuniformities appeared, which set the motion of the inflation. An inflaton field was created so quickly near a false vacuum bubble, that once some energy got separated it went on to expand at a rate of unimaginable speed. Due to the nonuniformities, it appears that the universe is expanding but the speed with which it is doing this is mostly constant, but slowing. The data in cosmic radiation support this slowing of the expansion. Of course the numbers are so big, that even to try to imagine the zero's was a huge task, but I understood something about the physics and its laws, and my curiosity grew bigger.

I mean to find out that there are many universes, and that the one in which we live is a pocket of universe, and even our observable universe is a speck in the universe in which we reside, not to say that the Milky Way is just a galaxy amongst other galaxies, not even at the center of the universe (this pocket universe). And to think that our sun is just a medium size star in a galaxy at the outskirts of the Milky Way, and that our planet is inhabited by more than six billion people, it really makes you think about the uniqueness of each other. And coming to speak about humans, which have a tiny amount of time on this planet, and in this solar system, and in this galaxy, and in this universe, it really sets me to think that maybe the only “durable” change, and the most impact I’ll ever have is on my life and the people around me so I have to really make the change count, don’t I?

So in my on small, peculiar “universe life” I’ll try to make good things inflate and dwell on a bigger space, try to accommodate the potential “black holes”(for the purpose of accommodating psychology I’ll call them irrational belief), maybe revert them into “white holes”(rational coping mechanisms), and hope that I will have more “matter”(realistic optimism and confidence in setting goals) than “antimatter”(things to annihilate my optimism).

I still hope to see some new news on the universe and the cosmos, because now, after finishing high school, when I gave a last shoot into understanding physics, I’m ready to understand more about everything, and know that my quest to knowledge will take me further.

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