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After Big Bang, shock waves rocked newborn universe

Simulations of early cosmos could help explain birth of magnetic fields, antimatter mystery

7:00am, September 30, 2016
shockwave simulation

IT’S SHOCKING  Studies of the early universe indicate that shock waves formed less than one ten-thousandth of a second after the Big Bang. In the simulation shown above, brighter regions are denser parts of the universe, and lines where the density changes abruptly indicate shocks.

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Shock waves may have jolted the infant cosmos. Clumpiness in the density of the early universe piled up into traveling waves of abrupt density spikes, or shocks, like those that create a sonic boom, scientists say.

Although a subtle effect, the shock waves could help scientists explain how matter came to dominate antimatter in the universe. They also could reveal the origins of the magnetic fields that pervade the cosmos. One day, traces of these shocks, in the form of gravitational waves, may even be detectable.

Scientists believe that the early universe was lumpy — with some parts denser than others. These density ripples, known as perturbations, serve as the seeds of stars and galaxies. Now, scientists have added a new wrinkle to this picture. As the ripples rapidly evolved they became steeper, like waves swelling near the shore, until eventually creating shocks analogous to a breaking wave. As a shock passes through a

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