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July 04, 2007

Word for the Day: Ekpyrotic

Ekpyrotic comes from ekpyrosis, greek for conflagration. In Stoic philosphy it represented the all-engulfing cosmic fire, the contractive phase of eternally-recurring destruction and re-creation. These days it's an Austrian metal band.

Oh and the Ekpyrotic Universe is a alternative cosmology to Inflationary Theory, which has been the consensus since the early 90s when it was discovered to predict the fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation and the large scale structure of the universe. The idea is that quantum fluctuations near the beginning of time inflate and become seeds for galaxies.

The problem is that inflation is just patched on to the standard model of quantum+gravity that runs the world we see here and now. And then in the late 90s dark energy had to be thrown in to cover the accelerating expansion seen by measuring the redshift of supernovas.

So physicists have been searching for models that predict the fluctuations and the accelerated expansion rather than suffering them as patches. The Ekpyrotic Universe has been one such option, based on the idea from String Theory that the Big Bang is the collision between branes in a higher dimensional space. In the Cyclic version of this theory these intersections, and hence universes like ours, recur at trillion year intervals.

But these theories suffered from their own mathematical complications of too many dimensions and singularities. These problems have reportedly been solved in the past couple of months. How can these theories be distinguished? By measuring gravitational waves.

Fascinating. The implications are enourmous. Posted by spot at July 4, 2007 01:00 PM

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