The study of the large-scale structure, history, and future of the universe. Cosmology is about asking and answering questions about the "big picture" - the extent, origin, and fate of everything we know.

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What was the major discovery on gravitational waves made March 17th, 2014, in the BICEP2 experiment?

The Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics held a press conference today to announce a major discovery relating to gravitational waves. What was their announcement, and what are the implications? ...
43
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5answers
4k views

Why does space expansion not expand matter?

REFORMULATED: I have looked at the other questions (ie "why does space expansion affect matter") but can't find the answer I am looking for. My question: There is always mention of space expanding ...
27
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8answers
3k views

Why is absolute zero considered to be asymptotical? Wouldn't regions such as massive gaps between galaxy clusters have temperatures of absolute zero?

Why is absolute zero considered to be asymptotical? Wouldn't regions such as massive gaps between galaxy clusters have temperatures of absolute zero? I just do not see why our model must work the way ...
27
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3answers
986 views

The Pioneer anomaly finally explained?

Pioneer 10 & 11 are robotic space probes launched by the NASA in the early 1970's. After leaving our solar system, an unusual deceleration of both spacecrafts has been measured to be approximately ...
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7answers
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Why is the observable universe so big?

The observable universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. But yet it is 80 billion light years across. Isn't this a contradiction?
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4answers
3k views

Why does a flat universe imply an infinite universe?

This article claims that because the universe appears to be flat, it must be infinite. I've heard this idea mentioned in a few other places, but they never explain the reasoning at all.
26
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4answers
866 views

Are modified theories of gravity credible?

I'm a statistician with a little training in physics and would just like to know the general consensus on a few things. I'm reading a book by John Moffat which basically tries to state how GR makes ...
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4answers
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How do we know Dark Matter isn't simply Neutrinos?

What evidence is there that dark matter isn't one of the known types of neutrinos? If it were, how would this be measurable?
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3answers
4k views

How can interstellar space have a temperature of 2-3K?

Several different sources online state that the average temperature of interstellar space (or the universe in general) is around 2-3K. I learned that temperature is basically the wiggling of matter, ...
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5answers
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What if the universe is rotating as a whole?

Suppose in the milliseconds after the big bang the cosmic egg had aquired some large angular momentum. As it expanded, keeping the momentum constant (not external forces) the rate of rotation would ...
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5answers
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Could gravity be an emergent property of nature?

Sorry if this question is naive. It is just a curiosity that I have. Are there theoretical or experimental reasons why gravity should not be an emergent property of nature? Assume a standard model ...
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2answers
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Did the Big Bang happen at a point?

TV documentaries invariably show the Big Bang as an exploding ball of fire expanding outwards. Did the Big Bang really explode outwards from a point like this? If not, what did happen?
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Does the universe have a center?

If the big bang was the birth of everything, and the big bang was an event in the sense that it had a location and a time (time 0), wouldn't that mean that our universe has a center? Where was the ...
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The age of the universe

Many times I have read statements like, "the age of the universe is 14 billion years" . For example this wikipedia page Big Bang. Now, my question is, which observers' are these time intervals? ...
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Total energy of the Universe

In popular science books and articles, I keep running into the claim that the total energy of the Universe is zero, "because the positive energy of matter is cancelled out by the negative energy of ...
20
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4answers
2k views

Is space “real”, or is it some sort of accepted postulate?

sorry for this very naive (layman) question. What is space? It seems to be every where in the equations of physics (as some sort of postulate or hidden hypothesis). We also have a direct experience ...
20
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3answers
919 views

How do people calculate proportions of dark matter, dark energy and baryonic matter of the universe?

The Wikipedia page on dark matter mentions that the Planck mission had revealed that in our universe ordinary baryonic matter, dark matter and dark energy are present in the ratio: 4.9%, 26.8% and ...
20
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7answers
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Are we inside a black hole?

I was surprised to only recently notice that An object of any density can be large enough to fall within its own Schwarzschild radius. Of course! It turns out that supermassive black holes at ...
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3answers
2k views

How would we tell antimatter galaxies apart?

Given that antimatter galaxies are theoretically possible, how would they be distinguishable from regular matter galaxies? That is, antimatter is equal in atomic weight and all properties, except for ...
19
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2answers
550 views

Why does dark energy produce positive space-time curvature?

My understanding is that dark energy, or equivalently a positive cosmological constant, is accelerating the expansion of the universe and I have read that this gives empty space-time positive ...
18
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6answers
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Why isn't dark matter just matter?

There's more gravitational force in our galaxy (and others) than can be explained by counting stars. So why not lots of dark planetery systems (ie without stars) ? Why must we assume some undiscovered ...
18
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2answers
397 views

Before inflation, what sets the initial value of the inflaton field?

[This is a version of the question that I've revised based on helpful comments from Dan.] I haven't studied inflation at a technical level. My picture of the process is that we have an inflaton field ...
17
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1answer
433 views

Sympletic structure of General Relativity

Inspired by physics.SE: http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/15571/does-the-dimensionality-of-phase-space-go-up-as-the-universe-expands/15613 It made me wonder about symplectic structures in ...
16
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3answers
1k views

Can space expand with unlimited speed?

At the beginning, right after the Big Bang, the universe was the size of a coin. One millionth of a second after the universe was the size of the Solar System (acording to ...
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2answers
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What is the theoretical limit for farthest we can see back in time and distance?

13.2 billion years ago the universe was rather small, having started only half a billion years ago. Today, with the help of Hubble Space Telescope, we are able to capture the light of galaxies emitted ...
16
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4answers
851 views

How would we see a near-lightspeed object emitting light?

Consider an object travelling near the speed of light relative to us (let it be a spaceship or a star), which is emitting light (consider it monochromatic resulting from a two level electronic ...
16
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5answers
574 views

What experiments, other than Hubble Expansion, support the Dark Energy theory?

Dark energy is introduced as a constant inside Einstein's equations. Its primary purpose, from what I understand, is to make Einstein's equations compatible with the accelerating expansion of the ...
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3answers
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Where's the missing helium in the Universe?

I'm confused: Big Bang nucleosynthesis is adamant about the 1 neutron to 7 proton ratio which yields 75% hydrogen to 25% helium (with a nominal amount of partially-reacted deuterium and heavier ...
15
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1answer
610 views

Why is the universe map shaped like an oval?

I understand that the Mollweide projection is used to show the map of the universe. Although I understand how this projection can be interesting for Earth where most populated (and of interest) ...
15
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3answers
1k views

Is topology of universe observable?

There is an idea that the geometry of physical space is not observable(i.e. it can't be fixed by mere observation). It was introduced by H. Poincare. In brief it says that we can formulate our ...
15
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6answers
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How can it be that the beginning universe had a high temperature and a low entropy at the same time?

The Big Bang theory assumes that our universe started from a very/infinitely dense and extremely/infinitely hot state. But on the other side, it is often claimed that our universe must have been ...
14
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8answers
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Reversing gravitational decoherence

[Update: Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful replies! I learned something extremely interesting and relevant (namely, the basic way decoherence works in QFT), even though it wasn't what I thought I ...
14
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3answers
252 views

What is meant when it is said that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic?

It is sometimes said that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic. What is meant by each of these descriptions? Are they mutually exclusive, or does one require the other? And what implications rise ...
14
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2answers
420 views

Limitations on how far one can travel in the universe

Someone once incorrectly told me that, given the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe, aliens would have to live for hundreds of years if they are to travel distances of hundreds of light ...
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5answers
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How many times has the “stuff” in our solar system been recycled from previous stars?

Is there a cosmologist in the house? I've got a basic understanding (with some degree of error) of some simple facts: The Universe is a little over 13 billion years old. Our galaxy is almost that ...
13
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10answers
233 views

In astronomy what phenomena have theory predicted before observations?

As far as I know, astronomy is generally an observational science. We see something and then try to explain why it is happening. The one exception that I know of is black holes: first it was thought ...
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3answers
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How long will the Universe's hydrogen reserves last for?

I recently became really interested in learning about physics and cosmology, but I still know very little. Hopefully someone with more knowledge will be able to shed some light on my questions. Here ...
12
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6answers
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What is the easiest way to stop a star?

On long enough cosmological time scales, hydrogen and helium nucleii will become scarce in the Universe. It seems to me that any advanced civilisations that might exist in that epoch would have the ...
12
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3answers
786 views

Is “now” or “the present moment” properly defined in GR?

My question is about the extent to which "now" is defined in GR. In Minkowski spacetime, it's possible to define a "now" for an inertial observer by finding a spacelike 3-plane such that, in the ...
12
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3answers
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If the universe were compressed into a super massive black hole, how big would it be?

I understand only a little of general relativity, but that's why I'm here! :) Consider the hypothetical situation of some extra-terrestrial intelligence pushing all the mass in the universe, every ...
12
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2answers
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What exactly is meant by the “Gaussianity” of CMBR?

What does it mean when we say that the CMBR is mostly gaussian? What are non-gaussianities in CMBR? How does evaluation of 3-point correlation functions of the inflaton field tells us that there is ...
12
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4answers
8k views

The meaning of imaginary time

What is imaginary (or complex) time? I was reading about Hawking's wave function of the universe and this topic came up. If imaginary mass and similar imaginary quantities do not make sense in ...
12
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4answers
58 views

Can we observe changes in the fine-structure constant?

The fine structure constant is a number of constants rolled into one equation. Brian Cox mentioned in the April edition of Focus magazine that it is possible that the speed of light was once faster, ...
12
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1answer
243 views

As the universe expands, the wavelengths of photons are stretched, and energy is lost. What about electrons?

Will electrons, and other particles, also loose energy as they travel through the cosmos? They have wavelengths. Do they get "stretched"? My guess is that the EM force, somehow, counteracts this ...
12
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1answer
115 views

Spectrum of CMB vs. duration of last scattering

The epoch of last scattering took over 100,000 years. The Visibility Function has maximum at about 370,000 years after the Big Bang when the temperature was about 5,600 K. 50,000 years earlier the ...
12
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1answer
108 views

Do primordial background neutrinos orbit in dark matter halos?

According to Wikipedia, neutrinos separated from other matter seconds after the Big Bang and formed a separate background radiation field which now fills space at a temperature ~2 K. Supposing ...
12
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0answers
658 views

Is the “Doctor Who” spacetime affected by Hawking's chronology protection mechanism?

Recently, there has been a paper1 (and an accompanying layman-ized white paper2) on "Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains In Spacetime", TARDIS for short. It proposes a spacetime geometry that ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Why can we see the cosmic microwave background (CMB)?

I understand that we can never see much farther than the farthest galaxies we have observed. This is because, before the first galaxies formed, the universe was opaque--it was a soup of subatomic ...
11
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6answers
291 views

How large is the universe?

We know that the age of the universe (or, at least the time since the Big Bang) is roughly 13.75 billion years. I have heard that the size of the universe is much larger than what we can see, in other ...
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9answers
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Is it possible all matter in the universe emerges from nothing?

If the Universe is flat and the total energy of the universe can be zero (we don't know if it is, but many theorists support the idea, i.e. at BB initial conditions: t = 0, V = 0, E = 0) then is it ...