In case you woke up with your mind relatively intact on this spring morning, some of the world’s leading astrophysicists are here to blow it to pieces.
Scientists announced Thursday the exciting results of the European Space Agency’s Planck space probe experiment, which observed conditions about the universe in the milliseconds after the Big Bang by looking at background radiation in the sky. They found that scientists’ theory of inflation—that the universe expanded in a sudden rush in a fraction of a second after the Big Bang—was actually correct. Which is pretty incredible, because the theory had been based sheerly on abstract math. Lo and behold, the first observable data about the moments directly after the Big Bang show the inflation model is exactly what actually happened.
“We’ve uncovered a fundamental truth of the universe,” said George Efstathiou of Cambridge University, who announced the results. They also uncovered some additional little details, like the universe is about 80 million years older than scientists had thought, and filled with slightly more regular matter and less dark matter than they’d thought.
So you’d think all the scientists would be psyched, right? Pats on the back, champagne all around. Especially the guys who camee up with the inflation theory in the first place—it’s widely thought they could win a Nobel Prize.
Except those guys are troubled. Associated Press reports:
Efstathiou said the pioneers of inflation theory should start thinking about their own Nobel prizes. Two of those theorists – Paul Steinhardt of Princeton and Andreas Albrecht of University of California Davis – said before the announcement that they were sort of hoping that their inflation theory would not be bolstered.
That’s because taking inflation a step further leads to a sticky situation: An infinite number of universes.
In order for inflation theory to work—and it was confirmed as being a reality yesterday—”that split-second of expansion may not stop elsewhere like it does in the observable universe,” the scientists say. “That means,” notes AP, “there are places where expansion is zooming fast, with an infinite number of universes that stretch to infinity.”
So the idea of an infinite number of universes existing in parallel to our own universe is now no longer the stuff of sci-fi, but the most likely reality as interpreted by our most advanced science.
“You can get very, very strange answers to problems when you start thinking about what different observers might see in different universes,” Efstathiou said.
Thanks a lot, science. Our brains have now officially imploded.