"Our Universe Continually Cycles through a Series of 'Aeons'"
- URL to an interesting article from Daily Galaxy..
This makes the future seem something like Groundhog Day - endlessly
repeating something until we get it right.
First few paragraphs
"The circular patterns within the cosmic microwave background suggest that
space and time did not come into being at the Big Bang but that our
universe in fact continually cycles through a series of "aeons," according to
University of Oxford theoretical physicist Roger Penrose, who says that data
collected by NASA's WMAP satellite supports his idea of "conformal cyclic
Penrose's finding runs directly counter to the widely accepted
inflationary model of cosmology which states that the universe started from a point of
infinite density known as the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago,
expanded extremely rapidly for a fraction of a second and has continued to
expand much more slowly ever since, during which time stars, planets and
ultimately humans have emerged. That expansion is now believed to be accelerating
due to a scientific X factor called dark energy and is expected to result
in a cold, uniform, featureless universe.
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Penrose, however, said Physics World, takes issue with the inflationary
picture "and in particular believes it cannot account for the very low
entropy state in which the universe was believed to have been born – an extremely
high degree of order that made complex matter possible. He does not
believe that space and time came into existence at the moment of the Big Bang but
that the Big Bang was in fact just one in a series of many, with each big
bang marking the start of a new "aeon" in the history of the universe."
The core concept in Penrose's theory is the idea that in the very distant
future the universe will in one sense become very similar to how it was at
the Big Bang. Penrose says that "at these points the shape, or geometry, of
the universe was and will be very smooth, in contrast to its current very
jagged form. This continuity of shape, he maintains, will allow a
transition from the end of the current aeon, when the universe will have expanded to
become infinitely large, to the start of the next, when it once again
becomes infinitesimally small and explodes outwards from the next big bang.
Crucially, he says, the entropy at this transition stage will be extremely
low, because black holes, which destroy all information that they suck in,
evaporate as the universe expands and in so doing remove entropy from the
The foundation for Penrose's theory is found in the cosmic microwave
background, the all-pervasive microwave radiation that was believed to have been
created when the universe was just 300,000 years old and which tells us
what conditions were like at that time.
The evidence was obtained by Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan Physics
Institute in Armenia, who analysed seven years' worth of microwave data from WMAP,
as well as data from the BOOMERanG balloon experiment in Antarctica.
Penrose and Gurzadyan say they have clearly identified concentric circles within
the data – regions in the microwave sky in which the range of the
radiation's temperature is markedly smaller than elsewhere.
The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation is the remnant heat from
the Big Bang. This radiation pervades the universe and, if we could see in
microwaves, it would appear as a nearly uniform glow across the entire sky.
However, when we measure this radiation very carefully we can discern
extremely faint variations in the brightness from point to point across the sky,
called "anisotropy". These variations encode a great deal of information
about the properties of our universe, such as its age and content.
The "Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe" (WMAP) mission has measured
these variations and found that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and it
consists of 4.6% atoms, 23% dark matter, and 72% dark energy.
According to Penrose and Gurzadyan, as described in arXiv: 1011.3706,
these circles allow us to "see through" the Big Bang into the aeon that would
have existed beforehand. They are the visible signature left in our aeon by
the spherical ripples of gravitational waves that were generated when black
holes collided in the previous aeon.
The "Penrose circles" pose a huge challenge to inflationary theory because
this theory says that the distribution of temperature variations across
the sky should be Gaussian, or random, rather than having discernable
structures within it.
Julian Barbour, a visiting professor of physics at the University of
Oxford in an interview with Physics World, says that these circles would be
"remarkable if real and sensational if they confirm Penrose's theory". They
would "overthrow the standard inflationary picture", which, he adds, has
become widely accepted as scientific fact by many cosmologists. But he believes
that the result will be "very controversial" and that other researchers
will look at the data very critically. He says there are many disputable
aspects to the theory, including the abrupt shift of scale between aeons and the
assumption, central to the theory, that all particles will become massless
in the very distant future. He points out, for example, that there is no
evidence that electrons decay.
The image below shows the CMB fluctuations from the 5-year WMAP survey. The
average brightness corresponds to a temperature of 2.725 Kelvins (degrees
above absolute zero; equivalent to -270 C or -455 F). The colors represent
temperature variations, as in a weather map: red regions are warmer and
blue regions are colder than average by 0.0002 degrees. This map was formed
from the five frequency bands shown below in such a way as to suppress the
signal from our own Milky Way Galaxy.
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