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Inflaton, Mother of the Universe

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the mom-i-want-a-sandwich dept.

Science 163

quantalm writes "Forget the god particle, we're talking about the universe's particle mother. The theory of supersymmetry has rolled out two new ideas about the particle that puffed spacetime up from smaller than a proton to bigger than a soccer ball: it could be the 'unified particle' of Grand Unified Theories or a smaller-scale version that could be tested at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN."

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I love scientists. (0)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303420)

Particles, sparticles.

Re:I love scientists. (4, Funny)

boowax (229348) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303542)

I'm Sparticles!

Re:I love scientists. (1, Funny)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303616)

No, I'm Sparticles!

Re:I love scientists. (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304838)

No! I'm Sparticles!

Re:I love scientists. (2, Funny)

WestCoastBogeyMan (927316) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305164)

No! I'm Sparticles, and so's my wife.

Re:I love scientists. (1, Funny)

Sparticles (1882430) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303900)

Nope, that's me.

Re:I love scientists. (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304328)

Funny, I thought your name was Agador? Or are you insisting on being called by your full name again?

Re:I love scientists. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305046)

And so am I!
.
(Sparticles would have worked so much better in "Fires of Pompeii" -- so very much more Doctorish.)

Re:I love scientists. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303588)

I am Sparticles!

Re:I love scientists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303660)

Particles, sparticles.

it could be the 'unified particle' of Grand Unified Theories or a smaller-scale version that could be tested at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

They'll find Jack and shit and Jack left town. When that happens, let's act surprised!

Inflationary theory (4, Interesting)

Kepesk (1093871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303692)

I'm not saying that the inflationary phase of the universe is a false concept, but I've always thought that the way the theory came about is a bit sketchy.

Please correct me if I'm mistaken with any of this, but this is my understanding of its history. Earlier versions of the Big Bang theory did not include this rapid inflation in the earlier universe; the universe was said to expand at a more constant rate. However, when the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation was first observed, there was no way to explain its irregularity based on that model. So physicists decided to plunk down a mysterious inflationary phase into their models of the early universe, a concept with no known cause or explanation, but which made the CMBR fit with the Big Bang theory. However, it's a concept that to this day they're still trying to reconcile with the rest of observed physics, as this article shows.

Could the theory be true? Sure. But if it is, it's because those physicists got lucky with their educated guess on the matter. Other theories with much more solid backing have in the past been roundly disproven.

Re:Inflationary theory (3, Informative)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303902)

I hear what you're saying. But the problem is, if the inflationary theory is false then we need some other mechanism to explain the cosmic background. Inflation solves the problem without breaking the speed of light or special relativity -- both of which are kind of important to keep around.

Inflation *could*, ultimately, be proven false. But if that happens it will topple a lot of important theories along with it. So you can understand why most physicists are assuming it's the correct model, and trying to figure out exactly how it happened.

Re:Inflationary theory (4, Informative)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304556)

There are certainly alternatives to inflation that people do find attractive - ekpyrotic, cyclic or simply oscillatory universes for example can easily bring points into causal contact by extending the past of these points beyond where there would be a classical big bang. Various string models, and Loop Quantum Cosmology have methods for this (LQC has a really neat well understood bounce) and the idea goes back to Lemaitre's 'Phoenix Universe' ideas. However, inflation does more than just explain existing phenomena - it predicted a spectral index between 0.98 and 0.92, and COBE/WMAP bring it in at around 0.96. It also does a really good job of explaining structure formation. Now, that isn't to say that it's necessarily right, and that other theories couldn't do a similar thing, but inflation really does a good job. It's certainly far from perfect, numerous people have objections to it, but so far it fits the data we have.

Re:Inflationary theory (1)

Smauler (915644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304780)

Mod Parent up (we don't fucking know but this theory predicted data better)

Re:Inflationary theory (2, Interesting)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305276)

However, inflation does more than just explain existing phenomena - it predicted a spectral index between 0.98 and 0.92, and COBE/WMAP bring it in at around 0.96.

Where on Earth did you ever get that idea? Inflation makes no such prediction. For example, Linde's "Hybrid" inflation model predicts a spectral index greater than 1.0, and is pretty much ruled out by WMAP. Similarly, so-called "Natural" inflation models can easily accomodate a spectral index as low as 0.7 or so. See for example this paper [arxiv.org] for a nice general review, and this paper [arxiv.org] specifically for the Natural Inflation case. Inflation does robustly predict adiabatic, superhorizon perturbations, and this is borne out by the data. This is powerful enough evidence without having to overstate the predictivity of the theory.

Re:Inflationary theory (4, Informative)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305518)

I should be clear: My experience is with scalar field inflation with a quadratic potential - the simplest models that are most common. Hybrid inflation can do almost anything, it's true.

My references for that statement:

Tegmark: http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0410281 [arxiv.org]
Steinhardt: http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0507455 [arxiv.org]

I believe Mukhanov and Turok both talk about it too, though I can't find the references easily at the moment.

Re:Inflationary theory (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305742)

There isn't necessarily an unknown mechanism that resulted in the background radiation pattern.

If there is no such mechanism, it merely means that our guesses about the universe prior to the earliest pictures we have are wrong.

Re:Inflationary theory (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303908)

And that, it turns out, is how science works.

Nobody believes something until it fits the data.

As opposed to that other thing, whatchamacallit, "faith."

Re:Inflationary theory (4, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304460)

However, when the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation was first observed, there was no way to explain its irregularity based on that model.

Actually you have that backwards, without inflation, the CMBR should be extremely irregular. There should be huge blotches of stuff all over. Think of a balloon filled with paint splattering on the floor - it doesn't create a fine coating all over the floor, it creates huge splatters here and there with huge gaps of nothing in between.

The CMBR, however, is extremely uniform. When you look at a picture of the CMBR, the variations in color are artificial (similar to the way the color nebulae from infra-red data) and represent extremely minute changes in radiation (you'll note there are no areas with no radiation, but there should be). The CMBR effectively shows a nice, even "coating" of radiation that covers the universe from one end to the other. This is disturbing, and cannot be explained by any physics we know of.

The only way to explain this is if the big bang wasn't an explosion (huge release, starts fast but decelerates quickly), but actually a controlled inflation - it had to start slow, accelerate, and then decelerate in order to produce the nice, even radiation we see. They had to accelerate the time-line of the Big Bang for a microsecond and then decelerate it immediately after in order to reproduce the uniformity seen in the CMBR. It's completely arbitrary, and has absolutely no grounding in physics, yet it's the only way to fit the physics we do know with the observations we see.

If you think you are disturbed by this, talk to a cosmologist or a physicist sometime. They absolutely hate having to change a model to fit observations without having any idea what is missing in their model to cause that change. It's like Dark Energy and Dark Matter, or the singularity of a Black Hole - cosmologists hate all of them. They use them, because it works, but they hate them all the same. They screw with their nice, neat physics.

Same thing with inflation - there is no known physical property that should cause inflation, yet inflation is the only way to explain the universe as it is now. It means there is something fundamental to the universe that we don't know or understand.

PS: Fun fact: if you tune an analog TV to an unused channel, something like 10% of the fuzz you see is caused by the CMBR.

Re:Inflationary theory (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305082)

It's completely arbitrary, and has absolutely no grounding in physics, yet it's the only way to fit the physics we do know with the observations we see.

If you think you are disturbed by this, talk to a cosmologist or a physicist sometime. They absolutely hate having to change a model to fit observations without having any idea what is missing in their model to cause that change. It's like Dark Energy and Dark Matter, or the singularity of a Black Hole - cosmologists hate all of them. They use them, because it works, but they hate them all the same. They screw with their nice, neat physics.

Inflation is just the latest "cosmological constant". It doesn't make much sense, and I think those working in the field are fully aware of that. It tells us there's somthing fundamental lacking in our understanding, but offers no clue as to what that actually is. I guess every job has its frustrations.

Personally, I think inflation is a particularly silly idea, but then I don't have a better answer either, so I'll shut up now.

Re:Inflationary theory (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305454)

Not quite. The Inflationary phase was anything but controlled. The current model predicts that between the initial Big Bang and the start of the inflationary phase (roughly one planck time), the universe expanded at some unknown rate. We can't observe the pre-inflationary phase, so there is no useful model for it. When the conditions for inflation were met, the Universe suddenly expanded at a truly fantastic rate (effectively faster than light). This inflationary phase not only generated an enormous amount of space very quickly, but also generated an enormous amount of matter very quickly. This is a consequence of quantum foam having a zero sum over a non-zero amount of space and non-zero amount of time but a non-zero sum at any given instant in space and time. (Hawking Radiation, likewise, results in something from an average of nothing for the same reason.)

The inflationary phase is extremely hard to model because, as Professor Hawking has noted, not only does space vary non-linearly in the universe, so does time. At whatever point the density of the universe was greatest, the rate of time was slowest. In some models of the very early universe, time follows a parabolic path. As you approach T=0, the rate of change of time also approaches zero. If this is correct, then there was no moment of Big Bang (and therefore no singularity) because there wasn't any point in time for it to occur. (Since Black Hole theory stems from Big Bang theory, and since the argument over time revolves around the density of matter bending time as well as space, this raises questions about whether models of Black Holes can be correct. A singularity cannot accumulate mass if delta-T is zero, for there is no point in time for the accumulation to occur in. However, that is another debate.)

Because mass bends time as well as space, we cannot accurately model the effects of inflation on the universe without knowing how mass changed due to the properties of quantum foam, because we cannot know the effect on time otherwise. All we know is that mass/energy was not a constant during this phase and that at no point in this phase did it equal the mass/energy of the universe today. We think the latter part of inflation will have tended to this value, but frankly there is no evidence for that. The universe dropped out of the inflationary phase, and it is assumed that the transition was relatively non-turbulent - or can at least be modeled as such - but most transitions we do know of are extremely turbulent and disruptive.

Some of this can be solved experimentally. You need an extremely high energy density - about the same as the output of a hydrogen bomb packed into a cubic centimeter is how I've heard it described - but it's not an unachievable amount of energy (obviously) even if we're not sure quite how to get the density that high. It's perfectly safe, too. Well, so long as theory is correct, at least. It would form a universe attached to this one through a mini black hole. Essentially you'd form a blister on this universe, where the blister contained another universe. The black hole is a good thing - prevents this universe getting fried from the inflationary phase of the new one - but since the black hole exists in some form in both universes, its state must reveal something about that other universe.

Re:Inflationary theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33305930)

Why not just say the universe itself is a black hole? There are too many parallels regarding how they start from what is essentially a point and then expand via the bounds of its event horizon. Who's to say that a singularity isn't actually quite roomy when viewed from the inside?

That would give more than enough time for the universe to form, and not only that, since nobody can see outside of its event horizon, there could be plenty of outside material coming in to keep it growing as far as an observer on the inside is concerned. Any mass orbiting such black hole might also affect the stuff inside, while not being able to be observed inside. That could explain dark energy/dark matter. Also since stuff going into a black hole is pretty much reduced to particles and radiation, that would give it some fairly uniform distribution once inside. No?

Of course I'm just a layman with one of the more unusual perspectives based on casual observation (everything seems to be a fractal to some degree, so a universe within a universe etc. doesn't seem too upsetting.), so what details do physicists know that could break that concept?

Nah (0)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303434)

we all know that spacetime grew to the size of a football thanks to the Holy Meatballs.

inflaton? (5, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303438)

i don't know about unifying electromagnetism and gravity, but it seems like someone just unified economics and quantum mechanics

just tell us how to avoid the deflaton particle for the next few years

Re:inflaton? (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303526)

If those two particles meet, they don't cancel out - they actually cause a rift in the space-time continuum that is so catastrophic that it convinces people to take out sub-prime home equity loans.

Re:inflaton? (5, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303546)

So that's where the money went: Into subprime space.

Re:inflaton? (1)

Delarth799 (1839672) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304142)

Yes, and subprime space can become fairly unstable when you begin to mix bad space fabric with good space fabric during its creation.

Re:inflaton? (2, Funny)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304478)

Yeah, but property in subprime space is cheeeeeep!

Re:inflaton? (3, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304956)

In subprime space, nobody can hear you default.

you've just described the quantum mechanics behind (3, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303688)

the creation of the moron particle

Re:inflaton? (1)

jimmydigital (267697) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304558)

If those two particles meet, they don't cancel out - they actually cause a rift in the space-time continuum that is so catastrophic that it convinces people to take out sub-prime home equity loans.

I guess it must have been the satan particle that encouraged banks to offer sub-prime loans.. and for fannie/freddie to buy them from the banks and leave the tax payers holding the bag. Oh wait.. I'm so silly.. that wasn't the satan particle.. that was congress! Thank jebus someone is fixing this mess... oh wait.. that's congress again.

Re:inflaton? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303570)

You do realize that quantum economics is an actual field of study, right?

unfortunately i do (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303644)

it was those quant assholes who got us into this mess

they used formulas extrapolating from cherry picked models to suggest that the economic universe could just go on inflating forever. big bang indeed

http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704509704575019032416477138.html [wsj.com]

Re:unfortunately i do (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305118)

Quantum econ has nothing to do with quants, despite the lexical similarity.

Re:inflaton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303652)

You do realize it's a joke, right?

Re:inflaton? (5, Funny)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303654)

There might or might not be a $20 bill in my wallet; I won't know for certain until I look for it?

Re:inflaton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303786)

I was having this exact conversation with a friend. Even if at the smallest level things are probabilistic, these particles seem to add up in some way to have very deterministic behaviors at the human level. Or, they are deterministic but the cause is in another dimension and thus we see a non intuitive effect but in actuality there is a perfectly reasonable explanation but we can't see that explanation because its in another dimension.

Anyway just .02 cents.

Re:inflaton? (4, Insightful)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304056)

Anyway just .02 cents.

OR PERHAPS $20! You won't know until you look.

Wooh! A peanut! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33305134)

I should have looked sooner!

Re:inflaton? (1)

ilsaloving (1534307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305974)

But even if you do look, you still won't know if that money is being recieved, or being used to pay for something.

Re:inflaton? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304256)

Well, they still have an indeterminacy. However you don't usually care if an object is a millionth of a proton radius more left or more right. Especially given that normal thermodynamics already generates much larger classical uncertainty here.

Re:inflaton? (3, Funny)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305846)

"Anyway just .02 cents." Do you happen to work for Verizon?

Re:inflaton? (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303882)

Or, you know there's a bill in your wallet, but you won't know if it's a $20 or a $5 until you look at it.

Re:inflaton? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304388)

No, the theory is that that $20 may or may not buy you a loaf of bread, and the price of that loaf of bread doesn't exist until you look on the shelf for it.

Re:inflaton? (2, Insightful)

jimmydigital (267697) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304632)

There might or might not be a $20 bill in my wallet; I won't know for certain until I look for it?

The likelihood of there NOT being a $20 bill in your wallet approaches infinity for the cube of the number of women in your life.

Or something

Re:inflaton? (1)

kurzweilfreak (829276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305712)

Actually, it approaches infinity as long as $number_of_women_in_life >= 1, no cube necessary. :-\

Re:inflaton? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305310)

You stole that joke from Bob [angryflower.com] . Buy the guy a beer, he needs one after the double-slit experiment!

Re:inflaton? (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305354)

You got me thinking: Does Brett Favre read quantum physics books in his spare time?

Re:inflaton? (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305410)

There might or might not be a $20 bill in my wallet; I won't know for certain until I look for it?

No, cash behaves fairly classically. It's the rest of the economy that's quantum. For example, your house might or might not be worth $200,000. You won't know for certain until you try to sell it.

Re:inflaton? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305504)

There might or might not be a $20 bill in my wallet; I won't know for certain until I look for it?

From this information I can infer you are married.

Re:inflaton? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304638)

You do realize that quantum economics is an actual field of study, right?

Yep, I believe it. Money here one moment. Poof, gone the next. Gone into a Black Hole. Much Uncertainty. Confusing Boxes. Outcomes completely contrary to observation and common sense. Have to be an Einstein in statistics to grasp the concepts.

No doubt.

Re:inflaton? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304990)

Quantum Thermodynamics (another real theory) is much easier to understand and can be summed up as: "Eventually, everything is worthless."

Re:inflaton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33304126)

You don't want deflation?

You don't want the dollar to be 'worth' more?

I'm so confused!!!! Why would you want the dollar to only lose value?

This should be modded scary, not funny!

Re:inflaton? (1)

wastedlife (1319259) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304768)

Hopefully you are kidding, but just in case you are not:

Deflation is very very bad if you are in debt. It was also a huge issue during the Great Depression. A few bullet points from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

Effects of deflation

      1. Decreasing nominal prices for goods and services.
      2. Cash money and all monetary items increase in real value over time.
      3. Discourages bank savings and decreases investment.
      4. Enriches creditors at the expenses of debtors.
      5. Benefits fixed income earners.
      6. Associated with recessions and unemployment.

Re:inflayton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33304334)

Inflaytion! [youtube.com]

Re:inflaton? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33305130)

My Infaltron arrived in the mail in a plain brown wrapper. She's wonderful. I think I'm in love.

Re:inflaton? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305770)

You want to avoid deflation?
You're stupid.

While very rapid deflation is bad (as markets cannot react instantly), deflation as a whole is in fact a good thing for everyone but the top 1% of wealthy people.

Re:inflaton? (2, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 3 years ago | (#33306190)

Deflation is bad for anyone who has any debt, which is an awful lot of people. The amount you owe is specified in nominal dollars, so deflation means you have to pay back a greater real value than you would otherwise.

It's also bad for anyone who runs a business, or works for a business, which again is an awful lot of people. Deflation -- or rather, the expectation of more deflation to come -- makes people less willing to spend money. I don't want to buy ten widgets for $10 today if I think I can get eleven for the same price tomorrow. So the widgets don't sell, the widget vendor gets desperate and drops his prices, and now he has to cut wages or lay off employees, and the cycle continues.

someone has to say it, don't they? (-1, Offtopic)

mycologistica (1517357) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303516)

i, for one, ... ah forget it.

Particles for everything (0)

bmuon (1814306) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303522)

I don't get it. Is this the supersymmetry equivalent of the Hubble constant?

Inflaton? Like flatus? (-1)

hessian (467078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303550)

I thought those were gasses.

< FWEET! >

Prior to the expansion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303628)

There was no space. Therefore the "universe" could not have been "smaller than a proton". It was pure compressed energy that did not exist in spacetime, only time. Once space was created the universe expanded rapidly. The idea that there was a size to the universe prior to its birth is terribly wrong and as misleading as the centuries-ago belief that the earth was the center off all things.

Re:Prior to the expansion (2, Insightful)

alexborges (313924) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303664)

What is this time you speak of at those moments?

Oh wait...

Re:Prior to the expansion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33304128)

Or perhaps empty space has existed all the time even before the big bang and there are millions of big bangs happening on a scale so large we can't even comprehend it.

A smaller version could be tested at CERN (1)

joshdw4 (1083273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303630)

Maybe we're all part of an experiment in a larger "CERN" I say we muck with their experiment and lead to a bizarre physics model.

This just in from LHC.... (3, Funny)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303648)

"Oops. Sorry about those extra universes that just leaked out."

Re:This just in from LHC.... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304410)

I prefer that to the "Oops, we just discovered the needle particle"

No! Don't use "inflaton" as a particle name! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303662)

Every time I see it, my brain will scream "Typo!"

Freudian slip (2, Funny)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303676)

My initial reading of the subject:

Inflation of Mother, like a Universe.

Re:Freudian slip (4, Funny)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303866)

Your mom is so inflated, your dad had to roll her in flour and find the wet spot.

Re:Freudian slip (4, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304200)

Your mom is so inflated, your dad had to roll her in flour and find the wet spot.

Nah, you need to go full on physics here.

"You mom is so inflated, your dad had to roll her up like a Calabi-Yau manifold and look for the Casimir effect!"

Thank you! Am I right? Huh? Huh? Am I? Huh?

Oh, shut up.

Re:Freudian slip (3, Funny)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304268)

"Only a topologist could find her parts attractive".

Re:Freudian slip (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304476)

Yo momma so fat that the only attraction anyone feels towards her is gravitational.

Re:Freudian slip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33305532)

And the wet spot both existed and didn't, but your dad didn't know until he rolled her over.

Re:Freudian slip (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305554)

You momma so fat the escape velocity at her surface exceeds 3*10^8m/s.

Re:Freudian slip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33306042)

Looking for the Casimir effect would just find places where two faces of the manifold are close together, you want something that looks for cavities.

Re:Freudian slip (1)

t35t0r (751958) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303880)

yeah, except that the universe tends to go to a steady state (the opposite of inflation)

Re:Freudian slip (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304354)

Actually, according to current observations, the expansion of the universe currently is accelerating. So no steady state, sorry.

Re:Freudian slip (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304496)

Yeah, accept the universe is accelerating (the opposite of going to a steady state).

Re:Freudian slip (2, Funny)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304508)

Yeah, accept...

Oh shit!

*runs from the grammar nazis*

Re:Freudian slip (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304826)

You could have left it alone and then if somebody jumped on you could have claimed you were making an imperative like 'accept it!' However, now you have convicted yourself. Smooth move, Exlax.

Has anything to come out of string theory ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33303762)

... actually been proven?

For 30 years, string theorists have been promising The Next Great Idea in Physics, but they have little to show for their work beyond some, admittedly, dazzling mathematical insights ... into math.

It's all just smoke, mirrors, and PhDs until they come up with something that can be, you know, verified -- either by a collider or through observation.

Re:Has anything to come out of string theory ... (4, Funny)

sgt101 (120604) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304022)

I think that there are some really interesting predictions of how gravity should behave on a submicron scale which could rule out (or in) large number of potential string theories.

Of course, while I can imagine that gravity could be tested on a submicron scale when I start to try and imagine what kind of experiment could be constructed that actually did that I start to flail about and gape and make little clucking noises. I expect there are a fair number of physics fellas doing the same.

Re:Has anything to come out of string theory ... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304426)

I start to flail about and gape and make little clucking noises. I expect there are a fair number of physics fellas doing the same.

Yeah, but we gave Hawking a voice simulator years ago.

[sorry, I know I'm going to Slashdot Hell for that one]

Re:Has anything to come out of string theory ... (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304390)

... actually been proven?

Yes: We have conclusive proof that string theory leads to publications. :-)

Re:Has anything to come out of string theory ... (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#33306038)

String theory hoven proven worthless. However, not all physicists were suckered into it, and so there's been cool stuff going on in other areas. The CMBR stuff that less to TFA, for example, I find exciting. It's cosmology, except wit 2 significant digits - I never expected to see that.

Few comments? (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 3 years ago | (#33303998)

Sounds like the number of comments is inversely proportional to the number of words from the article that have to be deciphered with a dictionary.

Why "mother"? (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304124)

Why do they say "mother" particle? Is it because mothers have a tendency to inflate after giving birth and getting married? ;-)

Re:Why "mother"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33304296)

I think it's more closely related to the fetish of the same name and the scientists repressed childhoods.

Re:Why "mother"? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304544)

During this period in the big bang, particles had not formed yet. If you view the universe at this stage as a single particle (which you could, since it contains all energy and mass in the universe in a single entity), it creates all the other particles, but more than that it is the beginning of our current universe.

AKA, the mother of the universe, mother of all particles, mother of all matter, etc.

Matter = mother, at least etymologically (1)

jenik (1030872) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305734)

Did you know that "matter" is (likely) derived from "mater", Latin for "mother"? http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=matter [etymonline.com] That makes your last sentence deliciously tautological :-)

Re:Why "mother"? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305860)

It's the particle that gave birth to the universe. From the very first sentence of TFA: "The inflaton particle is credited with generating the universe and fuelling its inflation."

Brief(!) Explanation of Inflation (5, Informative)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304304)

The "inflation" we're talking about here is the accelerated expansion of the early universe. So, first off why do we need it?

It turns out that parts of the observable cosmic microwave background are 'causally disconnected'. This means that you take two patches of sky as observed at the time the CMB formed (300k years after the big bang, we now think - approximately 15 billion years ago) and track their behavior back to the big bang. In the normal models where the universe is full of dust or radiation they never were in contact in the past: Light from one area could never reach another. Why is this a problem? Because they are remarkably similar. They appear to have come into thermal equilibrium (same temperature) yet this shouldn't be possible if they were never in contact. So we need to have a method by which the universe expanded faster before this period.

There are a few ways to do this - one is a cosmological constant. But the problem with a constant is that it's constant - we should still see it today, and we don't. The universe is not expanding that fast anymore - the bounds we can place on the cosmological constant today put it well below the effect we want from inflation. What we need is something that acts like a cosmological constant for a while and then drops away. This is what inflationary models are all about. The inflaton is a theoretical particle that starts off behaving like the comsmological constant, but eventually decays into the matter we see today. We model this by a particle moving in a potential - think of a ball rolling on the side of a hill. How the inflaton behaves is all about the ratio of its kinetic to potential energy - high potential energy looks like a cosmological constant, high kinetic energy looks more like normal matter. (I can explain this in more detail if anyone's interested). So the ball rolls down the hill, losing potential, gaining kinetic (there's also friction from the expansion of the universe so it loses 'energy' overall) and hence our inflaton does exactly what we need - slowly changing from looking like a cosmological constant to normal matter. In theory too, it decays once it reaches the bottom of the hill, but no-one provides much of a model for this.

This is old (20-30 years old is old in theory standards) stuff from Linde, Mukhanov etc. No-one would take it seriously, except that when you calculate things from it, it works incredibly well - it's the source of http://xkcd.com/54/ [xkcd.com] - it's still controversial. Some people love it, others think it's a fudge and doesn't do much for you. The new stuff here is that there is a method being proposed by which a multiplet of supersymmetric particles (again, I can say a bit more but it's not my field) is shown to be able to act like the inflaton. Ie a stable state of multiple particles bound together could act this way, and could be found at the LHC. Now, that's a lot of 'could' - the usual inflaton mass is set to around 10^12 GeV - way above what the LHC can reach, and this is the same across most inflationary models. But if the LHC can see evidence of supersymmetry (again, another discussion, but it is thought to be likely that if supersymmetry is real then the LHC will see it) it might be able to at least give some credibility to some of these models of inflation.

Re:Brief(!) Explanation of Inflation (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304536)

However, if there are things causally connected which wouldn't be with normal expansion, my intuitive reaction would be that the early universe was expanding slower than the normal models predict, so that the distant regions had enough time to interact. Indeed, faster expansion seems quite counterproductive in this regard.

Re:Brief(!) Explanation of Inflation (2, Informative)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 3 years ago | (#33304554)

No-one would take [inflation] seriously, except that when you calculate things from it, it works incredibly well - it's the source of http://xkcd.com/54/ [xkcd.com]

Not quite. You don't need inflation to get the blackbody spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) observed by the COBE satellite, which is what the xkcd comic depcits. That's a prediction of plain vanilla Big Bang cosmology, with or without an early inflationary phase.

However, inflation does predict details in the CMBR angular power spectrum, the "acoustic peaks", which were observed by the later WMAP satellite. And it solves other "paradoxes", like the horizon problem you mention.

Re:Brief(!) Explanation of Inflation (1)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305226)

You're right - it's a blackbody spectrum not the angular power spectrum. My mistake.

Re:Brief(!) Explanation of Inflation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33306162)

black hole hits critical mass
black hole explodes
expanding galaxy created
stars coalesce along with planets from gas and matter in the expanding galaxy
galaxy expands until gravity slows it down
gradually stars in the center of galaxy attract to each other and collide forming bigger stars
these collide into a super star
super star pulls stars around it in
super star collapses under it's own mass and gravity into a black hole
more and more stars get pulled into black hole
it becomes a super massive black hole
expansion slows until it stops
contraction begins
eventually entire galaxy gets pulled into SMBH, or enough of galaxy for it to hit critical mass
big bang

rinse, wash, repeat.

Gravity, though seemingly weak, eventually slows the galaxy down enough to where it begins contracting again.

Translation (1)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33305352)

CERN's gonna blow this shit up!

And they say you can't make science interesting for kids....

Between a football and a football field? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33305714)

Was that regular American football or that Metric Football they have elsewheres?

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