Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Giant Lens May Be Distorting Echo of the Big Bang

The pattern imprinted on the cosmic microwave background may have its origins in the Solar System.

The photons left over from the Big Bang fill space in all directions. And so they should. Any variations ought to be entirely random since the universe must be the same everywhere. There can’t have been favoured regions of space in the Big Bang, at least not as far as our current theories are concerned.

So when cosmologists found that the variations in the background radiation were not distributed randomly but seemed to be imprinted with a pattern, more than a few of them scratched their heads in bewilderment.

Now H N Sharpe, an independent researcher in Bognor, Ontario, Canada, suggests that this pattern–called the quadropole moment–may not be a property of the background radiation at all. Instead, the cause may be much closer to home.

Sharpe says the culprit is the Solar System’s termination shock where the outflowing supersonic wind from th Sun is slowed to subsonic speeds by interstellar winds.

The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft crossed this boundary in 2003 and 2007 respectively. Last year, scientists studying the data the spacecraft returned noticed that, far from being spherical as had been expected, the termination shock is asymmetric, distorted by some unknown forces.

The termination shock is a thin region of space in which there is a sharp change in the pressure, temperature, density, magnetic and electric field properties of space. That sound like anything familiar? It should. In effect, the termination shock is a giant lens that ought to refract electromagnetic radiation passing through it. Any distortion of this lens could then be seen by observing isotropic radiation passing through it. Sharpe calls it a dirty lens.

Interesting idea and one that Sharpe says can be tested. The shape of the termination shock depends on the solar wind. Any changes in this wind should cause the termination shock to change shape, causing an equivalent change in the pattern imprinted on the microwave background.

And sure enough, Sharpe says astronomers have reported just such a change between two sets of images taken by the WMAP spacecraft, called the WMAP3 and WMAP5 maps.

That could set the cat among the pigeons.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0905.2978: A Heliosheath Model for the Origin of the CMB Quadrupole Moment

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

The way forward: Merging IT and operations

Digital transformation in any industry begins with bridging the gap between two traditionally separate teams.

Investing in people is key to successful transformation

People-related factors like talent attraction and retention and clear top-down communication will determine whether your transformation progresses or stalls.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.