Science

Other universes detected in oldest light in the Cosmos?

By James Maynard , May 28, 2013 04:07 PM EDT
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Other universes may have been detected for the first time ever by studying the oldest light in the Cosmos. Anomalies found in a new map of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) can not, so far, be explained by conventional astrophysics, but may be the result of the influence of other universes on our own.

Serious scientific theories about other universes have been floating around for decades, but cosmologists may finally have their first physical evidence that such places exist.

The Planck Spacecraft recently captured the most detailed map ever taken of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the oldest light in the Universe. Over 370,000 years after the Big Bang, electromagnetic energy in the form of gamma waves filled the Universe for the first time. As the Universe expanded, the frequency of this early radiation downshifted until it became the microwave background that we see today. The pattern of unevenness in the map could have been created by the influence of other universes on our own, according to some cosmologists who have studied the new evidence.

On the small scale, the microwave background should show a spotty pattern, representing the energy densities that led to the formation of groups of galaxies. These were likely caused by quantum fluctuation in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Looking at larger scales, however, should yield a much smoother pattern if our Universe were alone. What the researchers found, however, was quite different. Not only is the microwave background much stronger in one half of the Universe than the other, but there is also a "cold spot," where such radiation is sparse.

"These anomalies were caused by other universes pulling on our universe as it formed during the Big Bang. They are the first hard evidence for the existence of other universes that we have seen," Laura Mersini-Houghton, a theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said. Starting in 2005, Mersini-Houghton published a series of papers in conjunction with Richard Holman at Carnegie Mellon University predicting what the Planck observatory would see when the new map of the CMB was examined. Among their predictions, the pair said that other universes would pull on our own, creating the exact sort of anomalies that were actually spotted in the latest image.

The CMB was first detected in 1964, and the Planck Spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency, launched in 2009 to study the features present in this radiation that permeates the Cosmos.

"The extraordinary quality of Planck's portrait of the infant universe allows us to peel back its layers to the very foundations, revealing that our blueprint of the Cosmos is far from complete," Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency, said.

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