Lab version of early universe fails to solve lithium problem | Science News

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Lab version of early universe fails to solve lithium problem

Discrepancy remains between amounts of element predicted and observed in ancient stars

12:25pm, July 11, 2014

An underground experiment has imitated conditions from just after the Big Bang to produce the universe’s most confounding element, lithium. The experiment’s result reinforces what scientists call the lithium problem, a discrepancy between the amounts of the element thought to have been produced 13.8 billion years ago and the amounts observed in ancient stars. This discrepancy challenges theories about the universe’s earliest moments.

Carbon, oxygen and nearly all other naturally occurring elements were forged in the cores of stars. That’s not the case for lithium.

Scientists are confident that all of the universe’s lithium, as well as most of its helium and deuterium (heavy hydrogen), formed just minutes after the Big Bang, when the expanding cosmos cooled enough for protons and neutrons to bind into lightweight atomic nuclei. The theory that describes this primordial element production, called Big Bang nucleosynthesis, successfully predicts

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