In layman terms, this is robust evidence of an “echo” from the big bang which brought the Universe into existence 14bn years ago, and it allows scientists to witness how the Universe came into existence. In other words, it is the very encouraging physical evidence for the theory of inflation. Think of it as ripples spreading outwards in water or waves crossing an ocean. These primordial gravitational waves will tell us about the first, infinitesimal moment of the universe’s history and its obvious expansion. Of course, these waves are not exclusive to the Big Bang, but are ripples in the curvature of spacetime which exist throughout space emanating from different sources (e.g. black holes, cosmic explosions).
Needless to say this is fascinating stuff that promises to expand our understanding and reverence of the cosmos in brand new ways. Old questions will be answered, and new ones will be born. Old technologies will be improved, and new ones will be dreamt of. Einstein predicted all this way back in 1916 in his Theory of General Relativity and remained its sole untested prediction. It took scientists only 98 years to prove it. What a bunch of slackers!
Here is the beautiful moment Andrei Linde, one of the authors of inflationary theory and who in 1983 first described chaotic inflation, is told that his theory was correct 🙂
Since the world is still reeling from the return of Cosmos hosted by the ineffable Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I figured it would be a good idea to a space related post (mainly because I’m shameless want more hits). If you haven’t seen Cosmos, then go watch it…after you finish reading and telling your friends about my post.
The almost always awesome BBC has put together a fantastic interactive that allows you pilot a tiny rocket to the edge of our Solar System. That’s over 20 BILLION KM away! That would take you 20 hours to complete if you were on the Starship Enterprise travelling at Warp 1.
Suit up and buckle in for your journey here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc.com/future/bespoke/20140304-how-big-is-space-interactive/index.html
Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). The image has been processed to remove effects of cosmic rays.
The distance between the two cosmic neighbors was a mere 99 million miles (160 million km). I have to admit that it’s an incredibly beautiful photo. Here is a larger image.
Someone, anthropomorphically speaking, is sitting on another planet looking back at us and communicating with us. That’s a mindblowing thought. Before too long, I expect that it will actually be humans transcending stellar and physiological boundaries to send messages back to Earth from another planet.
Eddie Izzard might have you believe that it all comes down to a cunning use of flags. In truth, the USA only owns the junk they left up there. The Moon falls under the protection of international law as the “common heritage of mankind”.In other words:
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means’.
It is an equitable agreement. The good news is that if you have the money, power and connections, then are pretty much free to start homesteading the Moon for your own benefit. Private organizations can also lay claim to the Moon, more likely if they have revenues that can dwarf GDPs. What if in their hubris they end up mining the Moon and awaken an army of space Nazis!?!?!?! It’s not a far fetched thought. Check this out.
In any case, the complexity and logistics involved will drive you slightly bonkers. For now, take Vsauce’s word and don’t start buying orbits and lunar parking spaces. Watch the video to learn all about international space treaties, defending the Moon and getting away with extra-terrestrial murder. Don’t be discouraged if all of this seems like an impossible fantasy. There is nothing keeping you from picking your nose clean for that precious Moon dust 😉
Human timelines are a blink of an eye. Until scientists figure out how to keep us alive and youthful forever, we will all perish when our time comes. It is inevitable.
Here’s an even more depressing thought
Think of all the advancements the human race will make after you’re gone. If you’re reading this, then you’re not going to be around to witness the colonization of space. Don’t you want to know what iPhone #20 looks like? What about flying cars and human controlled evolution?
Personally, I want all that and more. I want to know how everything ends. If it doesn’t end, then I want to know how it endures. I hate living with the knowledge that I will not be around to see humanity conquer the wonders of the cosmos. It’s like reading a beautiful work of fiction and having the author die before his vision could perdure through the simple act of putting pen to paper.
Alas, I have to accept my finite existence. However, here is a video that demonstrates on an appropriately cosmic scale what will happen in the far future. Granted it appears a little depressing, but not if you choose to direct your imagination towards the wondrous possibilities that will arise for humans and our place in the cosmos from our actions across the timeline.
It only took the little spacecraft that could 36 years to cover the 12 billion mile- long journey. It’s sibling, Voyager 2, is 2 billion miles behind it. Moreover, the entire mission in 1977 cost $250 million. If we account for inflation, that is approximately $965 million today. If you ask me, that’s some seriously good value for money. It’s certainly better than the millions we spend on bombs that don’t provide any discernible value to humanity. These are the kinds of milestones which are truly inspirational and worth celebrating.
Here is how scientists, after much back and forth, figured out that Voyager 1 had boldly gone where no man-made object had gone before:
Here’s an image depicting the general path of Voyager 1:
Here is something even more exciting. This is what interstellar space sounds like:
I don’t know about you, but I was expecting a lot more “pew pew pew!”. Still, it is fascinating. Just know that after you are long dead, Voyager 1 will continue to explore the cosmos as our emissary. It is currently headed for another star, which will take it 40,000 years. Of course, by then Voyager 1 will have perished and will be a floating beacon for other galactic civilizations.
I imagine that it’s message will be simple: We are here, and you are not alone.