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A DIY take on the early universe may reveal cosmic secrets

A rapidly expanding ring of ultracold atoms mimics the physics just after the Big Bang

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4:45pm, April 27, 2018
illusration of ultracold atoms

COSMIC LOOP  A rapidly expanding ring of ultracold atoms imitates the physics of the universe just after the Big Bang.

A DIY universe mimics the physics of the infant cosmos, a team of physicists reports. The researchers hope to use their homemade cosmic analog to help explain the first instants of the universe’s 13.8-billion-year life.

For their stand-in, the scientists created a Bose-Einstein condensate — a state of matter in which atoms are chilled until they all take on the same quantum state. Shaped into a tiny, rapidly expanding ring, the condensate grew from about 23 micrometers in diameter to about four times that size in just 15 milliseconds.  The behavior of that widening condensate re-created some of the physics of inflation, a brief period just after the Big Bang during which the universe rapidly ballooned in size (SN Online: 12/11/13) before settling into a more moderate expansion rate.

In physics, seemingly unrelated systems can have similarities

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