Scientists capture the universe's cosmic hum

A new study might reveal the cosmic hum that fuelled the universe's early expansion.
By Tyler MacDonald | Apr 19, 2018
A team of researchers uncovered behavior that appears to resemble the universe in microcosm through the rapid expansion of a doughnut-shaped cloud of atoms, according to Phys.org.

"From the atomic physics perspective, the experiment is beautifully described by existing theory," says Stephen Eckel, an atomic physicist and the lead author of the new paper. "But even more striking is how that theory connects with cosmology."

Eckel and his team rapidly expanded the size of a cloud of atoms shaped like a doughnut, taking snapshots throughout the process. The rapid growth left the cloud in a state of humming, which might resemble a related hum that took place on cosmic scales during the Earth's early expansion.

The work represents a collaboration between experts in atomic physics and gravity and highlights the versatility of theBose-Einstein condensate (BEC), which is an ultracold cloud of atoms that is an ideal platform for testing ideas in various facets of physics.

"Maybe this will one day inform future models of cosmology," Eckel said. "Or vice versa. Maybe there will be a model of cosmology that's difficult to solve but that you could simulate using a cold atomic gas."

Ted Jacobson, a coauthor on the new paper, believes that his connection with atomic physicists led to benefits outside of the immediate results.

"What I learned from them, and from thinking so much about an experiment like that, are new ways to think about the cosmology problem," he said. "And they learned to think about aspects of the BEC that they would never have thought about before. Whether those are useful or important remains to be seen, but it was certainly stimulating."

"Ted got me to think about the processes in BECs differently and any time you approach a problem and you can see it from a different perspective, it gives you a better chance of actually solving that problem," added Eckel.

The findings were published in Physical Reviews X.

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