Scientists find first evidence to support the Big Bang Theory – Alice Billin
We can all probably agree that it’s easy to get lost in the ‘uni bubble’ and think that the world consists entirely of lectures, going to Ocean, and staying up until the early hours of the morning watching funny videos of various animals (search Youtube for ‘Slow loris loves getting tickled’ if you haven’t yet – absolute gold). We hang out with our friends, try to get on with that essay which is due next week, and occasionally call Mum and Dad to check-in. The uni world feels huge, especially at this busy time of the term when it seems like there are things going on every moment of the day. But the uni world suddenly feels so small when huge scientific discoveries are announced, such as the BICEP2 project which hit the news this week.
Most of us know the Big Bang Theory from the Channel 4 comedy show which follows four science nerds – it’s easy to forget that it is in fact one of the most significant scientific theories ever suggested. The theory suggests that the Universe was once unimaginably small before a sudden ‘Big Bang’ caused it to abruptly expand, creating the Universe which we are part of today. This theory has long been contested by religious groups as it goes against the Christian belief in Creation, and scientists have never succeeded in finding direct evidence to prove their hypothesis. But now, for the first time, scientists believe they have found evidence to support this huge scientific theory through the discovery of signals in space which they believe were created in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang.
A theory known as ‘inflation’, which was first proposed in 1980, suggests that the Universe experienced a massive growth spurt in the very beginning of its life – within its first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second … That’s so small that I can’t even imagine it! Inflation theorists believe that this would have made the Universe grow from something unimaginably small to something about the size of a marble which then expanded for the next 14 billion years (how many?!) and still continues to expand today.
A Universe the size of a marble doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but this marble would have contained everything that we know to exist. Every planet, every star, every galaxy. To put this into perspective, the average marble has a 16mm diameter. If you were to make a line of marbles around the whole circumference of the earth, you would need over 2 billion marbles! And if right now you’re thinking, ‘Wow! Earth is huge!’ then remember that our planet is part of just one little solar system; and that this solar system is part of a galaxy with roughly 300 billion stars which may each have their own solar systems. And that’s just in one galaxy – the most recent estimates suggest that the WHOLE universe is made up of about 100-200 billion additional galaxies, each with a few hundred billion stars and with more planets than we can possibly imagine … Well, that’s a lot of space squished into one little marble!
The Big Bang Theory aims to explain the origin of the Universe, and through which we can understand where we all come from. Scientists have spent decades searching for proof and this week’s scientific discovery provides evidence to support the theory for the first time. A team of American scientists, as part of a project known as BICEP2, have found a signal in the sky which may prove the sudden and incredibly fast expansion of the Universe (the trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second thing I was talking about). The scientists have managed to detect a ‘twist’ in the oldest light detectable with telescopes, light that is over 13 billion years old! This twist represents the first image of ripples in the universe, called gravitational waves, which were created in that tiny tiny tiny moment when the Universe began to expand.
Just when we think we’ve got to grips with our own little world, we realise how huge and extraordinary life is. This new evidence supports the theory that the Universe, once smaller than an atom, expanded suddenly to the size of a marble and has continued to grow to such a size that it would now take us billions of years to try to reach the end of the Universe (that’s if there is an end of the Universe, but that’s a question for another day).
The discovery of the gravitational waves marks a huge moment towards proving the Big Bang theory and paves the way for future developments in the field. Mark Kamionkowski, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at John Hopkins University, said of the discovery that, ‘It’s not every day that you wake up and find out something completely new about the early universe.’
Proof that the Universe grew from virtually nothing is, if you think about it, really rather amazing.
Edited by Harriet Dunlea