Right now, we don’t know, and there are far more ideas for why this would happen than we have data to test for. If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker.By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. A few years ago, the WMAP spacecraft looked at the Universe much as Planck has, and for the time Planck has found that the Universe is nearly 100 million years older than that: At first glance you might think this is a really different number. The Cosmic Microwave Background (or “CMB” for short) is radiation from around 400,000 years after the start of the Universe.
That’s how we test models, and it helps us understand our ideas better.But I’m human, and a big part of my brain is still reeling from the fact that we can accurately measure the age of the Universe at all. It’s showing us that there is still more out there, things occurring on so vast a canvas that it both crushes utterly our sense of scale and expands ferociously our imagination.If that answer exists (if the question even makes sense), and we can understand it, then we are making our first steps toward it right now.I still hear some people say that science takes the wonder out of life. We can determine not only that it’s expanding, but how quickly.And best of all, we see that the Universe is doing things we still don’t understand. Those early fluctuations should be random, so when you look around at this ancient light, the pattern should be pretty random.And it is! Scientists spent years looking at the Planck data, analyzing it. Another idea, and one that is terribly exciting, is that we’re seeing some pattern imprinted on the Universe from before the Big Bang. The distribution of the fluctuations is quite random. The problem of determining the age of the universe is closely tied to the problem of determining the values of the cosmological parameters. That’s neat: there’s less dark energy than we thought, so the Universe is made up a little bit less of that weird stuff, if that makes you feel better. The mission substantially improved upon observations made by the NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe(WMAP). It may look to your eye to have patterns, but our brains are miserable at seeing true randomness; we impose order on it. Though the universe might in theory have a longer history, the Since the universe must be at least as old as the oldest things in it, there are a number of observations which put a lower limit on the age of the universe; these include the temperature of the coolest The problem of determining the age of the universe is closely tied to the problem of determining the values of the cosmological parameters. Those measurements revealed the universe to be around 13.8 billion years old. Today this is largely carried out in the context of the ΛCDM model, where the universe is assumed to contain normal (baryonic) matter, cold dark matter, radiation (including both photons and neutrinos), and a cosmological constant. Other measurements use light from objects that are closer, and scientists extrapolated backwards.Since the two numbers are different, this may mean the Hubble constant has changed over time, though that’s way too preliminary to tell. And not only This light was first emitted when the Universe was very young, What started out as quantum fluctuations when the Universe was smaller than a proton have now grown to be the largest structures in the cosmos, hundreds of millions of light years across. This shows the difference between a smooth mathematical fit to the background light of the cosmos versus what is actually seen - these leftover fluctuations are just a hair bigger than we expected, but that makes all the difference in the Universe. It will become the new benchmark for astronomers.The farther away you go, the faster the Universe expands, and what Planck found is that the Universe is getting bigger at a rate of This is called the Hubble constant. The age of the Universe is a little bit higher than we expected. The Hubble constant is notoriously difficult to measure, and I imagine astronomers will be arguing about it for some time yet to come.Normal matter is what we call protons, neutrons, electrons; basically everything you see when you look around.
We can figure out what’s in it, even when most of it is something we cannot see. Anything in that range is essentially indistinguishable in the WMAP data, and 13.73 is just in the middle of that range.And that range includes 13.82 billion years.
But look again. Not only that, but turns out the ingredients are a little bit different, too. You have to use computers, math, and statistics to measure the distribution to test for true randomness, and the Universe passes the test.A simple model of the Universe says that shouldn’t happen.
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