64°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Nobel Prizes in Science: Physics

The Nobel Prizes in Science: Physics

You know that snow on the dead channels of your TV. Turns out it can trace evidence on the origins of the universe. The official line for what the prize was awarded for sounds scary: “for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.” The reason John Mather and George Smoot were granted the Nobel Prize is that it is one of the few discoveries that grants cosmology as hard science not mere speculation. It is quite difficult to talk of the origin of the universe using real measurements, since the equations have to compensate for infinities or the everincreasing size, or for multiple dimensions.

The origin of the universe has two major theories. One is the big bang that is continually expanding, and the other is that the universe has always existed in a steady state. In the Big-Bang scenario, the universe went through an untraceable condition followed by intense radiation that has cooled over the years. This radiation can be measured by spectrums that gage temperature. Minor variations in temeprature displays where matter started conglomerating. At that point gravitation would cause matter to attract to other matter and allowing start, galaxies, and people. By determining the cosmic background radiation (CMB, if you want to be all into the physics slang) that has cooled one can determine that the universe has had a beginning. The surprising part is that the background radioation calculations matched up with speculative data exactly, a rare phenomena in science.

Further applications of this background radiation reveals other information on the fabric of the cosomos as well. It can trace dark matter- matter that cannot be sensed but makes up a large percentage of the stuff out there. Thereby, one could incorporate the density of that stuff into their universe making cosmological equations more precise. The other interesting discovery that results form these experiments is that the universe actually fits in with our visually percievable geometry, which states items like two parallel lines will never intersect. It was speculated that the universe was an inconcievable (other than through mathematics) shape.

Future work on similar experiments will try to determine how something came from nothing, or how the entire universe came about from something so miniscule it has to be seen through a microscope.