Scientists Recreate the Big Bang

Posted September 14th, 2012 at 7:08 pm (UTC-4)

Taken from stills of a simulation of the universe's evolution, this is a visualization of large-scale structures in the universe over time. (Photo: Habib et al./Argonne National Lab)

Taken from stills of a simulation of the universe’s evolution, this is a visualization of large-scale structures in the universe over time. (Photo: Habib et al./Argonne National Lab)

Since they can’t turn back time to witness the creation of the universe almost 14 billion years ago, scientists are working on the next best thing: creating a virtual universe, starting at the beginning with the Big Bang.

With the help of the world’s thirdfastest computer, physicists from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are developing  simulations that will take them on a trip from the origins of the universe until today.

This is a mosaic of the images covering the entire sky as observed by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Sky surveys such as this will be used to create simulations of the universe. (Imaget: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

This is a mosaic of the images covering the entire sky as observed by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).  Sky surveys such as this will be used to create simulations of the universe. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

Over the years, scientists have scanned the night skies with telescopes which produced maps of the universe.  With the advances in astronomical technology, more details about the cosmos have emerged from these surveys.

Taking data from the best sky surveys and running it through Argonne’s Mira Supercomputer, the team plans to produce some of the largest high-resolution simulations of the distribution of matter in the universe.

Given the improvements in technology, Salman Habib, one of the project leaders, says it makes sense to try to understand  the universe  on the biggest possible scale.

“In effect, all of science, as you know it, can be studied by looking at the evolution of the universe,” says Habib.

The planned simulation, according to Katrin Heitmann, a co-leader on the project, will include  images and movies of the universe at different times.  Scientists who use the team’s recreation of the universe for their own cosmological research will be able to gather information taken and measured from the statistics produced by the simulation.

Scientists hope the project will help shed greater light on Dark Matter, a theoretical form of matter scientists believe accounts for much of the total mass in the universe.

Habib points out that we’re used to thinking of space as something static or fixed, but as time progresses new space continues to be created. The expansion of the universe is predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, but that same theory, according to Habib, also states that that expansion should slow down with time.

Albert Einstein (circa 1921) theorized that the universe expands, but such expansion slows over time.  Recent observations indicate that the opposite may be true that the universe if expanding at an faster rate. (Photo: Creative Commons/Wikipedia)

Albert Einstein (circa 1921) theorized  the expansion of the universe slows over time.  However, recent observations suggest the opposite might be true and that the universe is continuing to expand.  (Photo: Creative Commons/Wikipedia)

However, observations made over recent years, including work by winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011,  show the opposite is true, that in fact, the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate.

The cause of this expansion remains a mystery, according to Habib, but a number of scientists think  Dark Energy is the force behind the universe’s rapid growth.

The team also hopes to learn more about Dark Energy, the hypothetical form of energy thought to compose about 70 percent of the universe .

According to Habib, scientists are unsure exactly what Dark Energy is.

To help solve this mystery,  different models of what Dark Energy could be will be put through the simulation to allow scientists to compare the observational results of each model.

Habib and his colleagues hope their simulations will not only help scientists check various models of Dark Energy, and the properties of Dark Matter, but will also provide a kind of grand picture of the evolution of the universe.

Project leaders Habib and Heitmann join us this weekend on the radio edition of Science World to talk about creating a virtual universe.

Check out the right column for scheduled air-times or listen now to the interview below.

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Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

9 responses to “Scientists Recreate the Big Bang”

  1. Larry says:

    This is exactly what I imagined it would look like when I was 15 yrs old. The universe and we are what makes up god’s brain (his imagination)!

  2. The changing function of everything in the universe is going on always. The present scenery was not similar with past and also will not resemble with the future, the present and past space-time energy absolute zero of absolute time. As per formula of evolution; going to the last border/boundary of everything of creation, it would be felt nothing except touch of nature power. In the finalization of matter there is nothing but energy or ray, so we can take the decision that “Everything of the present universe is the result of evolution of single energy of Power”. See into- Digital Universe- at found a- Multimedia DEMO “Brief History of the Universe”

  3. itumeleng says:

    most people say there is no way to prove that God exist and am okay with that. but since Evolution is science is it possible to recreate it, I mean something tangible even on a small scale because I don”t know what to believe since god is not tangible

    • Larry says:

      It’s all a matter of fate. What I find strange is the imperfection of humans. We have so many illnesses but then again I should never question the why our creator made things the way he did.

  4. It’s great to understand who we are, where we come from & where we should go to.

  5. […] The Lonely Lives of Scientists  “Scientists Recreate the Big Bang”–headline, Voice of America website, Sept. 14 […]

  6. Huss D says:

    So… what if we currently are in one such simulation right now?

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